California Employment Laws – Part 2
Employers in large cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles sometimes violate employment laws through failure to pay the minimum wage, due to intentional employee misclassification, or because of sexual harassment, wrongful termination, or unfair employment practices that discriminate against protected classes. These issues can occur due to the complexity of employment laws with the federal government setting minimum standards for employment protections, yet states having the right to pass stricter laws that are more favorable to employees. Three areas in which California employers must pay close attention to the state's ever-changing laws include minimum wage, overtime and discrimination.
California's Overtime Laws
Most employees are entitled to overtime compensation for working more than 40 hours a week, or more than eight hours in a day. However, California's overtime laws contain numerous exceptions and exemptions from the basic understanding of these daily or weekly rules.
California Overtime Pay Rates
In California, the state overtime law requires a nonexempt employee to be paid 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for:
- Hours worked in excess of 8 up to and including 12 hours in any workday
- First 8 hours worked on the seventh consecutive day in a workweek
- All hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek
A nonexempt employee should be paid double the employee's regular rate of pay when:
- Hours worked over 12 hours in any workday
- Hours worked over 8 on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek.
Employers must follow both state and federal overtime rules. Federal overtime requirements are contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). When differences exist between California and federal overtime rules, an employer must follow the rule that gives the most benefits to the worker. Typically, California law provides more benefits to workers.
If your employer wrongfully withheld overtime pay, you may have the right to:
- Back pay
- Attorney's fees
- State civil penalties
- FLSA violation penalty up to $10,000
Overtime is based on the regular rate of pay, which is the compensation you normally earn for the work you perform. The regular rate of pay can include several different types of payments, such as hourly earnings, salary, piecework earnings, and commissions. In no case may the regular rate of pay be less than the applicable minimum wage.
Key statutes governing overtime pay in California include:
Employment discrimination refers to more than just hiring and firing and encompasses nearly every employment decision, from applications and interviews to assignments and transfers, promotions, pay, and benefits. The major laws and classes they protect include:
- Title VII – race, color, national origin, sex, or religion
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)
- Genetic Information Discrimination
In California, a discrimination claim can be filed either with the state administrative agency, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the federal administrative agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The two agencies have what is called a “work-sharing agreement,” which means that the agencies cooperate with each other to process claims.
The California anti-discrimination statute covers some smaller employers not covered by federal law. Therefore, if your workplace has between 5 and 14 employees (or one or more employees for harassment claims), you should file with the DFEH, as the EEOC enforces federal law, which only covers employers with 15 or more employees (20 or more employees for age discrimination claims). Employers with 15 or more employees (20 or more for age claims), you may file with either agency.
California law does not limit compensatory (emotional pain and suffering) damages or punitive damages (damages which punish the employer), but they are capped under federal law. Since California state law is more favorable than federal law in many areas, including recoverable damages, attorney's fee, burdens of proof, and special employer defenses, many California attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in state court under state law only.
Effective January 1, 2018, California minimum wage rates increased to $11.00 per hour (from $10.50) for employers with 26 or more employees and $10.50 per hour (from $10.00) for employers with 25 or fewer employees. However, depending on where you work, your employer might be required to pay you more than the state minimum wage. The chart below outlines the change in minimum wage for each California locality in which an increase takes place in 2018.
Experienced Employment Law Guidance in California
California employers must maintain compliance with both federal and California wage and hour laws year-round. This means understanding when those laws are similar and when differences exist. This also means knowing which legal provisions are most favorable to employees. Should you have questions about federal or California's wage and hour laws don't hesitate to contact Kingsley & Kingsley to speak with one of our experienced labor lawyers if you have questions about any of California's existing employment laws.
Kingsley & Kingsley
16133 Ventura Boulevard, Suite 1200
Encino, California 91436
Local: 818-990-8300 (Los Angeles Co.)