Skip to main content

It is unfortunate that many big corporations will try to take advantage of their workers in order to support their bottom line. Because of this, labor and employment laws exist on state and federal levels to protect the rights of employees in the workplace. 

Yet, even with these protections in place, it is not uncommon for businesses to violate these laws and protections. When this happens, a worker can take legal action and win damages not only for the violations but additional fees like reasonable attorney fees and more.

There are many common labor disputes in California. In this blog, San Diego’s Consumer and Employment Law Group explores them so that you what to do if your employer tries to take advantage of you.

Workers’ rights in California

California is known for providing even more workers’ protections than most U.S. states. 

For example, California’s minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage, and they have broader anti-discrimination protections.

California law also protects workers from both workplace discrimination and harassment. Discrimination and harassment usually violate a worker’s protected class.

Some of these classes include:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Age
  • National origin
  • Ancestry
  • Mental or physical disability
  • Sexual orientation

Employers are also required to provide accommodations or protections to employees based on certain conditions.

These could include:

  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Pregnancy
  • Whistleblower status

Additionally, California law outlines requirements for workplace safety and conditions. For example, there are requirements for employees’ meal and rest breaks, wages, classification and more.

Most common labor disputes in California

Many companies try to take advantage of their employees in order to increase profits. Luckily, laws exist that prioritize people over dollars, and employees can take legal action if their rights are violated.

Some of the most common labor disputes in California include:

  • Unpaid wages
  • Unpaid overtime or double time wages
  • Meal and rest break violations
  • Unreimbursed expenses
  • Misclassification
  • Harassment and discrimination
  • Wrongful termination

1. Unpaid wages

U.S. and California law requires that all workers receive adequate compensation for the work they perform. In other words, workers must be paid for all hours worked. This includes workers in all industries, and of all work and immigration statuses. Unpaid wages and labor disputes arise when employers withhold wages, shorten and/or round the time worked or edit workers’ time sheets to reduce the hours actually worked.

Workers’ wages are protected by minimum wage requirements; some cities in California even have minimum wage requirements that exceed the state level. Workers are also entitled to payment for all overtime and off-the-clock work.

2. Meal and rest break violations

All workers are entitled to meal and rest breaks. During these breaks, workers must be relieved of all work-related duties, and during meal breaks, they should be free to leave the premises.

  • Meal break requirements: Employees are entitled to a 30-minute unpaid meal break after working five hours, and an additional one after working 10 hours. If an employer fails to provide an employee with a required meal break, they are entitled to an additional hour of pay. Each day without a required meal break is a separate violation of the law.
  • Rest break requirements: Employees are entitled to a 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked, and these are paid at an employee’s regular rate of pay. However, like meal breaks, employees are entitled to an additional hour of pay for every day a rest break is denied.

3. Unreimbursed expenses

Businesses face so many operating expenses that it isn’t uncommon for employers to try to pass some on to their employees. However, this is an illegal practice, and employers must reimburse their workers for all necessary expenses or losses incurred during their work duties.

Workers should be reimbursed for:

  • Using personal cell phones job duties
  • Required uniforms
  • Safety equipment
  • Tools
  • Mileage
  • Other equipment
  • Home office expenses

In a successful labor dispute, an employee who sues for unreimbursed expenses may also be entitled to interest, reasonable attorney fees, and other costs to obtain their entitled reimbursement.

4. Misclassification

Employers often incorrectly classify their workers in order to deprive them of wages and workplace benefits.

Employers may attempt to classify their employees as independent contractors, or nonexempt employees as exempt employees, who are exempt from protections and rights outlined in wage and hour laws. This practice is illegal.

5. Harassment and discrimination

Harassment and discrimination based on employees’ protected classes are illegal in the workplace.

Discrimination entails unfair treatment of workers, such as disparate training, disciplines, or promotions. It is committed by a manager or supervisor. 

Harassment, including sexual harassment, can be committed by any manager, co-worker, or even a non-employee. Victims can also include anyone affected by the conduct – not just the individual to whom the offensive conduct is directed.

6. Wrongful termination

Wrongful termination is a type of discrimination. It occurs when an employee is terminated based on a protected class like race, religion, age, etc. It also includes termination based on retaliation.

Contact San Diego Labor Lawyers Consumer and Employment Law Group

The skilled and experienced team at California’s own Consumer and Employment Law Group is here to fight for the people. We know big corporations can’t always be trusted to protect their employees, and we will fight to obtain your justice when they don’t. If your workplace rights have been violated, contact us today for your initial consultation.