How California Labor Law Protects Employees
California Labor Law Protects Employees
California law protects employees against wages and hours violations by their employers. Employees must receive compensation for overtime hours worked and employers must allow employees to take regular meal breaks and rest periods at set intervals in accordance with the California Labor Code. When an employer discharges an employee, the employer must pay all wages immediately in most cases.
Civil Penalties Apply
California Labor Code Sec. 2698 and 2699.5 allows civil penalties to be imposed against employers found to be in violation of wages and hours laws. The law also states that employees who prevail in civil suits against their employers may collect reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
California Labor Code Sec. 510 (a) defines the workday as eight hours in a single day. Employees who work more than eight hours in a day or more than forty hours in a week should receive one and a half times the regular hourly rate of pay for overtime hours worked. Employees who work more than twelve hours in a day should receive double the regular hourly rate for time worked in excess of twelve hours. For employees who work seven consecutive days the rate of compensation should be double for hours in excess of eight on the seventh day.
California Labor Code 512 (a) states that after five consecutive hours of work, employees are entitled to a thirty-minute meal break. If an employee works a ten-hour day, s/he is entitled to two thirty minute meal breaks. In cases where the employee’s workday does not exceed six hours, s/he may waive the meal break if the employee and employer are in mutual agreement. In cases where the workday is twelve hours, the second meal break may be waived as long as both the employer and the employee are in mutual agreement.
An employer may not compel an employee to work during a meal break according to California Labor Code Sec.226.7. If the employer violates the law, the employee is entitled to one hour’s wage at the regular rate for each day that the meal break was not allowed.
Wages Due upon Discharge from Employment
In most cases, an employer is required to pay employees all wages due, including unused paid sick leave, vacation and holiday pay, immediately upon discharge from employment. Some exceptions apply when work is seasonal but the law still requires that the employer pay within seventy-two hours. The employer must also provide itemized wage statements in accordance with California Labor Code Sec. 226 (a) .
What to Do and What to Expect
If an employee believes her employer has violated her rights as defined in the California Labor Code, she should send written notification by certified mail regarding the specific violations including a detailed description of the alleged incidents and violations to both the Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) and her employer.
The LWDA may notify the employee within thirty days that it does not intend to respond to the complaints. If after thirty-three days the employee does not receive a notice that the LWDA intends to respond to the complaints, the employee may file a civil action against the employer.
Under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA), the employee may sue on behalf of herself as well as current and former employees who have suffered the same violations.