LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT LAW
Employment law governs the relationships between individual employees and their employers, while labor law governs the relationship between groups of employees and their employers.
We represent employers or employees in disputes or litigations involving discrimination, harassment, wrongful discharge, wage-hours violations.
We also draft and review employment policies and employee handbooks for our employer clients.
The following are the summary of California Labor and employment laws:
• California law prohibits an employer from discriminating and retaliating against employees in a variety of protected classes. Employers must also provide pregnancy accommodations, provide equal pay, allow wage discussions, allow employees to access their personnel files and protect whistleblowers. a permits pre-employment drug testing and background checks, but limits salary history inquiries.
• In California, there are requirements relating to the minimum wage, overtime, meal and rest breaks, breastfeeding breaks and child labor.
• California has laws that relate to employee pay and benefits, including temporary disability insurance, health care continuation, pay statements, wage deductions and wage notice requirements.
• Under California law, employees are entitled to certain leaves or time off, including family and medical leave, paid family leave, paid sick leave, domestic violence leave and emergency responder leave.
• California law requires employers to provide a safe working environment for their employees, including the development of a written Injury and Illness Prevention Program. California also prohibits smoking in the workplace and using a hand-held cell phone while driving.
• When employment ends, California employers must comply with applicable final pay, job reference and mass layoff notification requirements.
Introduction to Employment Law in California
Many consider California the state with the most proscriptive variances from federal law, including broader antidiscrimination protections, a higher minimum wage, paid family leave insurance and paid sick leave. Select California employment requirements are summarized below to help an employer understand the range of employment laws affecting the employer-employee relationship in the state. An employer must comply with both federal and state law. An employer must also comply with applicable municipal law obligations affecting the employment relationship, in addition to complying with state and federal requirements.
EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations
Key California requirements impacting EEO, diversity and employee relations are:
Fair Employment Practices
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits employers with five or more employees from discriminating in the terms and conditions of employment. Protected characteristics include:
• National origin and ancestry;
• Physical or mental disability;
• Medical condition;
• Genetic information;
• Marital status;
• Sex (including breastfeeding and related conditions);
• Sexual orientation;
• Gender identity/gender expression;
• Pregnancy (including childbirth and related medical conditions);
• Age; and
• Military and veteran status.
Harassment is a form of illegal discrimination that is prohibited under the FEHA.
The FEHA also prohibits retaliation against a person who opposes, reports or assists another person in opposing unlawful discrimination.
The FEHA requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations to an employee because of pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition. Examples of reasonable accommodations include modified duties, schedules or equipment.
The FEHA explicitly provides for religious accommodation in employment. The FEHA requires an employer to show significant difficulty or expense to prove undue hardship, versus the de minimus standard under federal law.
An employer is obligated to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities. The FEHA makes it a separate violation for an employer to fail to engage in the interactive process.
California prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race and ethnicity in the payment of wages for substantially similar work. As a defense against a wage discrimination claim, an employer must show that the pay differential is based on a bona fide factor other than sex, such as seniority, merit, quality or quantity of production, education, training or experience. Prior salary, on its own, does not justify a wage differential.
Discussion of Wages
An employer may not prohibit employees from disclosing, discussing or inquiring about their own wages or the wages of another employee and may not discriminate or retaliate against employees for engaging in such conduct.
Access to Personnel Files
California employers must provide current and former employees with access to their personnel files. The employer must make the records available for inspection by the requester at reasonable times and intervals, but generally no later than 30 calendar days after receiving a written request. The employer may charge a fee that equals the actual cost of copying the materials.
A California employer may not make, adopt or enforce any rule, regulation or policy preventing an employee from being a whistleblower. Also, an employer may not retaliate because an employee:
• Is a whistleblower;
• Refuses to participate in an activity that would result in a violation of a state or federal statute or a violation of or noncompliance with a state or federal rule or regulation; or
• Exercises his or her rights as a whistleblower in any former employment.
A whistleblower is an employee who discloses information to a government or law enforcement agency where the employee has reasonable cause to believe that the information discloses:
• A violation of a state or federal statute;
• A violation of or noncompliance with a state or federal rule or regulation; or
• Unsafe working conditions or work practices in the employee's employment or place of employment.