Meal and Rest Breaks in California

Under California law, which is more generous to employees than federal law, employees are entitled to specific meal and rest breaks. Indeed, California is one of the few states that require employers to give their workers both meal and rest breaks. In one of our recent landmark cases, heard by the Supreme Court of California, it was affirmed that “on-duty” rest breaks are in violation of California wage and hour laws (more on this precedent-setting decision here).

Meal Breaks in California

Workplace Discrimination in California

Sometimes it’s good to get back to the basics. And since we’ve been fielding questions from eager entrepreneurs about the ins and outs of California employment law lately, let’s touch on a few of the basic employment laws in California.

There are certain things you need to know if you’re considering starting a business in California. California is a very employee-friendly state, and the myriad of state employment laws supports this. And if you intend to hire five or more employees, things can get even trickier. Remember to speak with experienced legal counsel to ensure that your employment practices are in line with both state and federal laws.

Do I Have a Wrongful Termination Claim?

In California, most employment is at-will. This means that employees may be fired or quit their job for almost any reason. Yet, there are times when a worker may be let go in California and be eligible to file a wrongful termination claim. Here are a few of the most common reasons for a wrongful termination claim under California law.

Contractual Employment

If a worker is employed with a company through an employment contract, it’s likely that the contract includes a clause about how the employer can only fire the worker for “good cause” or for specific reasons (such as use of illegal drugs or stealing from the company). If a worker is fired in violation of the terms of the contract, they may have a wrongful termination claim.

California Employment Law Basics

Running a business in California can be, for lack of a better term, tricky business. With a seemingly infinite number of employment-related laws, many of which oftentimes appear to contradict each other, many small, medium, and large sized business owners are often left with more questions than answers. Here, we break down some of the basic employment laws in California. For an in-depth discussion, reach out to experienced legal counsel.

Employees vs Independent Contractors

Perhaps one of the biggest employment issues in the state, the issue of whether a worker is an employee or is not, continues to plague employers – to the point of litigation.

Smartphones and Class Actions

As we have discussed in previous posts, smartphones are making life a bit more challenging for business owners, especially in terms of overtime pay. It’s a modern reality that today’s workplace is anywhere within range of a wireless signal.  With many employees habitually checking their smartphones at all hours for emails, text messages, voicemails, tweets, and other electronic transmissions, more and more employers are finding themselves with a potential wage and hour class action on their hands.

One Work Week is Six Days and a Day of Rest

California’s “Day of Rest” statute continues to plague employers, but a recent case brings with it some good news. Under California Labor Code section 550-558.1, an employer is prohibited “from ‘caus[ing] his employees to work more than six days in seven” unless “the total hours of employment do not exceed 30 hours in any week.”[1]

According to a California Supreme Court ruling that just came down the pipe, employees must average no less than one day of rest for every seven over the course of a calendar month, giving even more work-scheduling flexibility to employers.

An Amendment to Increasing Protection for the Transgender Population

Employers, beware: New regulations expand existing transgender protections under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). FEHA protects individuals who identify as transgender and provides protections on the basis of both gender identity and gender expression — regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth. California law also specifically protects an employee’s right to appear or dress consistently with his/her gender identity or gender expression.

The amendments to FEHA became effective July 1, 2017 and specifically address transitioning, dress standard, name preference, identity, and documentation as they relate to the workplace and housing.[1]

Expanded Protections to Victims of Sexual Assault

Prior to AB 2337, a law that expands the rights of certain employees, victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking were protected if:

  • their employers retaliated against them,
  • they took time off,
  • they requested reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits, or
  • sought equitable relief from the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement as it related to their abuse, assault, or stalking.[1]

Things are changing, however, and, with the approval of AB 2337, victims now receive more extensive protection and information.

EEOC Focuses on Age Discrimination

With the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) on the horizon, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is focusing on the issue of age discrimination in the workplace. Age discrimination involves treating an applicant or employee less favorably because of his or her age and the ADEA “forbids age discrimination against people who are age 40 or older. It does not protect workers under the age of 40”. Side note: It is not unlawful for an employer or other covered entity to favor an older worker over a younger one, even if both workers are age 40 or older.