California Labor Laws

Morgan & Morgan’s labor and employment lawyers file lawsuits based on both federal and California state laws. We represent workers beset by unpaid wages, workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, and wrongful termination. In addition, we handle cases involving family and emergency leave, defamation of character, employer retaliation, and the employment rights of veterans returning from active duty.

If you believe your employer has wrongfully denied you wages or benefits, retaliated against you, fostered a hostile work environment, or violated any of your other employee rights, we may be able to help you recover compensation. Fill out our case review form to receive a free, no-risk consultation. It costs nothing upfront to hire us, and we get paid only if you win.

Wage & Hour Violations

Both the state of California and the U.S. government have laws on the books to ensure that employees are paid sufficiently for their work. The bulk of these laws fall under the following categories:

  • Minimum Wage: As of January 1, 2020, the minimum wage in California is $13 per hour for employers with 26+ employees and $12 per hour for those with 25 or fewer employees. In 2021, these numbers will rise to $14 and $13 per hour, and in 2022 they will go up to $15 and $14 per hour.
  • Breaks: In California, any employee who works five hours or more at a time is entitled to a 30-minute meal break. If they work ten hours or more, they are entitled to two 30-minute breaks. If the employee has to remain onsite for this break, or if they continue to do even some of their work during this time, these are paid hours.
  • Overtime: The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) entitles many employees to 1.5x their normal pay (“time and a half”) for hours exceeding 40 per week.
  • Emergency Leave: The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires most employers to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave to workers who have had or adopted a child, who have a severe medical condition, or who are caring for a family member who is seriously ill. In addition, under California law, victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking may take time off to protect themselves and their families, even if they don’t have any available paid time off.
  • Unpaid Wages: In California and across America, many employers falsely classify their employees as independent contractors, deny them overtime wages, force them to pool tips, and cut other corners to avoid paying people the money they’re owed. These employees may be able to pursue legal action to recover these damages.

Wrongful Termination

California is an at-will state, which means an employer can dismiss an employee for any reason. That said, the state’s labor laws do allow for a few exceptions to this rule:

  • If there is an implied or stated agreement that the employee will not be terminated without cause (e.g., they’re told their job is safe as long as they don’t do X)
  • The employee can’t be fired for refusing to participate in unlawful activities, or for reporting these alleged activities (this is known as whistleblower retaliation)

Moreover, there are federal laws in place that protect California workers from being laid off for the following reasons:

  • Because of any of their age, sex religion, or any of the other protected traits outlined in the Workplace Discrimination section of this page
  • For reporting or objecting to workplace discrimination, or for refusing to participate in it
  • For filing a workers’ compensation claim
  • For objecting to unpaid wages.
  • For taking leave that they are owed under the FMLA
  • For becoming or being pregnant

Workplace Discrimination

Federal law prohibits workplace discimination based on these characteristics:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Race
  • Color
  • Country of origin
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Genetic information
  • Parental status

Discrimination can take many forms, including the following:

  • Refusing to hire or promote an employee
  • Passing them over for a raise
  • Denying them equal pay or benefits
  • Denying them needed aid
  • Giving them a different job title than someone else in their position would have
  • Excluding them from serving on boards or committees
  • Terminating their employment

For more information on workplace discrimination, see our Discrimination & Harassment page.

Workplace Harassment/Hostile Work Environment

When workers are subjected to unwelcome actions or remarks based on the protected traits listed above, it may constitute workplace harassment. For example:

  • Unwanted or unnecessary physical contact
  • Telling sexual or lewd jokes or stories
  • Commenting on an employee’s or coworker’s appearance
  • Using racial, ethnic, religious, or sexual slurs
  • Disparaging an employee or coworker’s religious beliefs
  • Commenting on a coworker’s sexual orientation (even if the comments are not necessarily disparaging)

Workplace harassment can also take the form of quid pro quo (“this for that”) harassment, in which an employee must satisfy a sexual demand in order to receive a promotion, raise, bonus, or other benefit. Quid pro quo harassment also occurs when someone’s employment status hinges on complying with a similar demand.

Veterans Rights

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) safeguards the employment rights of current and former members of the Armed Forces. Under USERRA, employers may not discriminate against military personnel with regard to hiring, firing, re-employment, promotion, or benefits. USERRA also protects disabled veterans by requiring employers to make reasonable efforts to accommodate veterans’ disabilities.

How Morgan & Morgan Can Help

Our attorneys fight tooth and nail to protect victims of workplace rights violations. We file more of these lawsuits than any other firm in the country, and our track record of success speaks for itself. Over the past 30+ years, we’ve recovered $7 billion for clients across our many practice areas. That’s why our motto is For The People, not the powerful.

If you think your workplace rights have been violated, you can complete our case review form for a free, no-obligation evaluation. Our battle-tested California employment attorneys stand ready to help you. Don’t wait; contact us today.


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