Social Security Disability and the Americans With Disabilities Act

social security disabilitySocial Security disability and the Americans With Disabilities Act. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires many employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. It also prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities. Many people are familiar with the basic provisions of the ADA, without actually understanding how it defines the term “disability.”

One likely source of confusion is the Social Security Disability program, which has a very different standard for determining who is disabled. Social Security Disability provides benefits for individuals who have worked in the past, but are no longer able to work because of disabilities. Anyone who has applied for Social Security Disability benefits can tell you that the Social Security Administration has extremely strict standards for qualification.

What many people don’t realize is that not all government agencies use the same standard for what constitutes a disability – and the ADA’s standards for a disability are far less strict than those of the Social Security Administration. In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, an applicant must demonstrate that their disability is so severe that it prevents them from working altogether. The ADA, on the other hand, applies to people who are capable of working, so its definition is far broader.

The Language of the Americans With Disabilities Act

Under Section 12102 the ADA, the term “disability” means, with respect to an individual:

  • A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of an individual’s “major life activities”;
  • A record of such an impairment; or
  • Being regarded as having such an impairment.

The expression “major life activities” includes a wide variety of activities, such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, thinking and working.

It can also refer to what the ADA calls “the operation of a major bodily function.” Section 12102 includes the following examples: “Functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.”

It is important to note that, as stated in the third bullet above, an individual can be protected by the ADA even if he or she does not have a disability that meets these requirements. The ADA prohibits discrimination based on the belief that an individual has a disability. This means that, for example, if an employer incorrectly assumes that an applicant for a typist position is HIV-positive, and refuses to hire him or her on that basis, this would violate the ADA, regardless of whether the employee actually is HIV-positive. If the applicant was regarded as having a disability, and was denied the job on that basis, then it does not matter whether the employer’s assumption was correct.

Violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act

If an employer has discriminated against you on the basis of a disability (or perceived disability), or is refusing to provide you with reasonable accommodations, you may have a valid ADA claim.

You may also have recourse at the state level. California has its own laws prohibiting discrimination, which are some of the strictest in the country. If you live or work in the Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Ukiah or Lakeport area, contact our experienced labor law attorneys at Beck Law P.C.,  to schedule a consultation and learn more about your legal options.

Mental Health Related Disabilities and the Americans with Disabilities Act

mental health related disabilitiesMental health related disabilities. There are employers who will gladly provide accommodations for an employee who uses crutches or a wheelchair – but are unwilling to consider the needs of an employee with a mental illness. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to mental conditions as well as physical ones.

In fact, mental health-related disabilities are mentioned in the first line of the ADA. It states, “The Congress finds that physical or mental disabilities in no way diminish a person’s right to fully participate in all aspects of society, yet many people with physical and mental disabilities have been precluded from doing so because of discrimination.”

What Mental Illnesses are Considered Disabilities Under the ADA?

There is no definitive list of which conditions (mental or otherwise) are covered by the ADA. The ADA defines a disability as “a) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of (an) individual, b) a record of such an impairment, or c) being regarded as having such an impairment.” There are a variety of mental health conditions that meet those requirements.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has provided examples of mental conditions that can be considered mental impairments under the ADA. These include:

  • Major depression;
  • Bipolar disorder;
  • Anxiety disorders (which include panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder);
  • Schizophrenia; and
  • Personality disorders.

To qualify as a disability under the ADA, the mental impairment must substantially limit a major life activity. And just as there is no definitive list of disabilities, there is also no definitive list of major life activities. However, the EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance on the Americans with Disabilities Act and Psychiatric Disabilities states that all of following activities are considered major life activities:

  • Learning;
  • Thinking;
  • Concentrating;
  • Interacting with others;
  • Caring for oneself;
  • Speaking;
  • Performing manual tasks;
  • Working; and
  • Sleeping.

California Disability Law

The state of California has its own legislation that requires accommodations for employees with mental disabilities. The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) states that a mental disability includes, but is not limited to, all of the following:

  • Having any mental or psychological disorder or condition, such as an intellectual disability, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, or specific learning disabilities, that limits a major life activity.
  • Any other mental or psychological disorder or condition not described in paragraph 1 that requires special education or related services.
  • Having a record or history of a mental or psychological disorder or condition described in paragraph 1 or 2 that is known to their employer.
  • Being regarded or treated by the employer as having, or having had any mental condition that makes achievement of a major life activity difficult.
  • Being regarded or treated by the employer as having, or having had, a mental or psychological disorder or condition that has no present disabling effect, but that may become a mental disability as described in paragraph 1 or 2.

Note that unlike the ADA, FEHA does not require that the condition “substantially” limit a major life activity. It only requires that the condition limit a major life activity.

Mental Health Disability Legal Questions

If you believe that your employer has discriminated against you on the basis of a mental disability – or if you are an employer, and a claim has been filed against you– it is important that you seek the advice of an attorney. You can call or email the employment and labor law attorneys at Beck Law P.C. in Santa Rosa, who have many years of experience in workplace discrimination cases.

Employment Discrimination Based on Genetic Information

employment discrimination based on genetic informationEmployment discrimination based on genetic information. When you think of employment discrimination cases, you probably think about issues like race, gender and age discrimination. What you may not be aware of, though, is that employment discrimination based on genetics is illegal under both federal law, and California law.

In 2008, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), a federal statute, was signed into law. GINA makes it illegal for both employers and health insurance providers to discriminate on the basis of genetic information. Three years later, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the California Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (CalGINA), which amended the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. CalGINA is significantly broader than GINA, as it applies not only to employment and insurance coverage, but also to the realms of housing, public accommodations, and education.

Many California employers paid little attention to CalGINA, because they were aware that federal law already prohibited the use of genetic information as a factor in employment decisions. What many of these employers did not realize, however, is that CalGINA made a substantial change to the employment law landscape in California. Unlike GINA, CalGINA places no limits on the amount of damages that an employee can receive, if he or she has been the victim of genetic discrimination. This makes it significantly more important for employers to ensure that they are not using genetic information improperly.

What is Genetic Employment Discrimination?

If your employer (or a potential employer) obtains information about you, or a member of your family, that is related to genetic tests – and uses that information as a factor in any kind of an employment decision – then you have been the victim of genetic discrimination. The same applies if the employer obtains information about your family’s medical history, and uses it as a factor in an employment decision.

It is generally illegal under federal law for employers to even request genetic information. However, the EEOC acknowledges six exceptions to this rule:

  1. When an employer inadvertently acquires an employee’s genetic information.
  2. When an employer offers genetic services, and is offered the genetic information voluntarily (although this is only permissible in some situations).
  3. When an employee seeks FMLA leave in order to care for a family member.
  4. When an employer obtains genetic information through commercially and publicly available documents, such as newspapers. (However, it is impermissible for an employer to use these sources for the purpose of finding genetic information about employees. )
  5. When an employer obtains genetic information through certain voluntary genetic monitoring programs, if the programs are monitoring the effects of toxic workplace substances.
  6. When employers that conduct genetic testing for law enforcement purposes use employees’ DNA for quality control.

Legal Counsel for Employers and Employees

Now that California employers can face substantial damages in genetic discrimination lawsuits, it is well worth their effort to ensure that they have policies on the use of genetic information that are in compliance with both GINA and CalGINA. A skilled employment lawyer can help determine if a company’s policies need revision.

Employees, too, are advised to look into their employers’ practices regarding genetic information. If you believe your rights have been violated, you may wish to speak to an attorney.

Whether you are an employer or an employee, you can schedule a consultation today with the Sonoma County employment and labor law attorneys at Beck Law P.C., in Santa Rosa.

Workers Compensation and OSHA Whistleblower Protection Laws

whistleblower protection lawsWorkers Compensation and OSHA whistleblower protection laws. A previous blog post detailed the Security and Exchange Commission’s efforts to assist workplace whistleblowers. It’s not just the federal government, however, that protects whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers. California has its own whistleblower laws – including a statute protecting employees who testify in workers’ compensation cases, and another statute protecting whistleblowers in cases involving Occupational Safety and Health.

Workers Compensation

Section 132a of the California Labor Code states it is the declared policy of California that there should not be discrimination against workers who are injured in the course and scope of their employment. It provides protection to employees against any employer who “discharges, threatens to discharge, or in any manner discriminates against any employee because he or she has filed or made known his or her intention to file a claim for compensation with his or her employer.”

Many California employers are aware of this prohibition on discriminating against employees who file claims, but are unaware that the law also protects employees who testify in workers’ compensation cases. The statute goes on to say:

“Any employer who discharges, or threatens to discharge, or in any manner discriminates against an employee because the employee testified or made known his or her intentions to testify in another employee’s case before the appeals board, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and the employee shall be entitled to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits caused by the acts of the employer.”

The statute also prohibits insurers from encouraging employers to fire, or otherwise discriminate against, employees who are willing to testify in cases before the appeals board.

Occupational Safety and Health

Section 6310 of the California Labor Code states, “No person shall discharge or in any manner discriminate against any employee because the employee has done any of the following:

1)    Made any oral or written complaint to the division, other governmental agencies having statutory responsibility for or assisting the division with reference to employee safety or health, his or her employer, or his or her representative.

2)    Instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or relating to his or her rights or has testified or is about to testify in the proceeding or because the exercise by the employee on behalf of himself, herself, or others of any rights afforded him or her.

3)    Participated in an occupational health and safety committee established pursuant to Section 6401.7.”

Under Section 6310, employees who have been subjected to this type of discrimination are entitled to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits caused by the acts of their employers.

Whistleblower Protection Laws and Legal Representation for Employers and Employees

If you believe that you have been subjected to discrimination based on your willingness to testify in a workers’ compensation case, or your willingness to make complaints about Occupational Safety and Health, you may wish to speak to a Santa Rosa whistleblower attorney about your rights. If you are an employer, and you want to ensure that you are in compliance with the above laws, you may also need legal advice. The labor attorneys at Beck Law P.C.  employment and labor law attorneys at Beck Law P.C. in Santa Rosa can give you the counsel you need. You can call or email our office today.

Is It Discriminatory to Fire an Employee for Substance Abuse?

fire and employee for substance abuseIs it discriminatory to fire an employee for substance abuse? Most employers and employees would probably agree that it’s reasonable to fire an employee for getting drunk on the job. But what about firing an employee because you learned that she belongs to Alcoholics Anonymous?

Under both the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), the latter would be considered a form of employment discrimination. It is discriminatory to fire an employee (or subject an employee to any adverse employment action) because of the employee’s alcoholism and/or drug addiction. However – and this is a very important “however” – these statutes only apply if the employee is in recovery. They do not apply if the employee is currently abusing drugs and/or alcohol.

Past Substance Abuse vs. Current Substance Abuse

Generally speaking, these statutes prohibit employment discrimination that is based on an employee’s past substance abuse. This may sound simple and straightforward – but like so many aspects of the law, it can get rather complicated.

For example, can an employee be fired for legally using medical marijuana? What if an employee fails an employer’s drug test, and then applies for a position later? What if an employer finds out that an employee used drugs a few weeks ago – does that count as current substance abuse? Or could the employee argue that he’s now in recovery, and he was fired for his past substance abuse? These are the kinds of issues that federal courts, and California courts, have been trying to resolve for years.

Medical Marijuana: While California allows the use of medical marijuana, the language of the FEHA makes it clear that it does not prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of medical marijuana use. The ADA does not protect the use of medical marijuana, either.

Discrimination Based on Previous Failure of an Employer’s Drug Test: The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (which includes California) ruled on this issue in the case of Lopez vs. Pacific Maritime Association. The case involved a man who applied for a job in 1997, and was given a drug test. He failed the test, and wasn’t hired. In 2004, after becoming sober, the man applied for a job with the same employer, and was rejected because of the drug test he failed in 1997. The employer had a “one strike” rule, meaning that it refused to hire anyone who had ever failed a company drug test.

The Court ruled that the employer was within its rights to reject the applicant. The ruling held that the discrimination was based on his failure of the drug test, not his drug addiction itself.

How recent “current” drug use can be: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has clarified that the ADA has no specific rule regarding how much time must elapse before an employee’s substance abuse can be considered “past” substance abuse. These matters must be decided on a case by case basis. However, substance abuse that has taken place less than a month ago is generally considered to be current.

Ensuring Compliance

If you are an employer, and you ask your employees if they have ever been treated for substance abuse, you may be violating both state and federal law. If you have any concerns that you may not be in full compliance with the ADA and the FEHA, you may wish to speak to an attorney. The employment and labor law attorneys at Beck Law P.C., in Santa Rosa, will be able to answer your questions. You can call or email our office today.

Department of Labor Policies on Same-Sex Spouses and the FMLA

same-sex spousesSanta Rosa labor and employment law attorney blog. Department of Labor policies on same-sex spouses and the FMLA. On February 25, 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a final rule regarding the recognition of legally married same-sex couples under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). It allows an eligible employee who has been legally married to a same-sex partner to use FMLA leave to care for their spouse – regardless of whether they live or work in a state that recognizes same-sex marriages. If you run a business that operates in any states that do not currently recognize same-sex marriages, it is important that you take note of this change in policy.

The final rule, which went into effect on March 27, 2015, is based on the Supreme Court’s decision in United States vs. Windsor. The Windsor ruling held that it was a violation of the Fifth Amendment to restrict the federal definition of marriage to include only heterosexual couples.

Prior to the Windsor ruling, employees who were covered by the FMLA were only able to take leave to care for their spouses if their marriage was recognized by the state in which they resided. As a result of the Final Rule, the current policy of the Department of Labor is based on the laws of the state in which the marriage was performed.

For example, let’s say a man was legally married to another man in California in 2014, and then he and his husband moved to Texas, where they both currently live and work. Under the old policy, if the man’s husband became ill, the man would be unable to take FMLA leave to care for him, because Texas does not currently recognize same-sex marriages. Under the new policy, the man would be eligible to take leave under the FMLA, because the laws of California (where same-sex marriages are currently recognized) would determine his eligibility, rather than the laws of Texas.

FMLA and the Rights of Same-Sex Spouses

The FMLA allows eligible employees to take 12 workweeks worth of leave during a 12-month period under the following circumstances:

  • The birth of a child, and caring for a child within one year of the child’s birth;
  • The placement of a child with the employee via adoption or foster care, and caring for a child within one year of the child’s placement;
  • Caring for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition;
  • The employee having a serious health condition; or
  • Any qualifying exigency arising from an employee’s spouse, child or parent being a covered military member on active duty.

The FMLA also allows 26 workweeks worth of leave in a 12-month period if an employee’s spouse, parent or child is a servicemember with a serious injury or illness.

As a result of this final rule, eligible employees who are legally married to same-sex spouses will be allowed to take FMLA leave for any of the reasons above, regardless of which state they live in. These employees are also entitled to take FMLA leave to care for their spouses’ children.

Another result of the rule is that an employee will be able to take FMLA leave to care for a same-sex spouse of their parent.

Questions About Same-Sex Spouses and Employee Leave

If you have any questions about your company’s policies on same-sex spouses and family leave, you should seek the advice of an attorney. The Beck Law P.C. Santa Rosa labor and employment law attorneys can address your concerns. You can call or email us today.

Workers’ Compensation Fraud for Employees Who Caused Their Accidents

workers' compensation fraudWorkers’ Compensation fraud. A memorable scene from the television series Shameless featured William H. Macy’s character – who was desperate for money, but too lazy to work for a living – taking a job just so that he could intentionally injure himself with a staple gun, and collect workers’ compensation benefits. The scene reflects a fear held by many employers about employees taking advantage of the workers’ compensation system. It also reflects a fear held by some employees who are injured on the job – a fear that they’ll be accused of abusing the system in such a manner.

A No-Fault System

In California, workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. This means that an employee can be compensated for an injury resulting from a work accident, even if the accident was the fault of the employee.

For example, let’s say a factory worker is carrying a heavy object improperly, and as a result, the employee accidentally drops the object on his or her foot. If the worker’s employer has workers’ compensation insurance, the injury will be covered. It will be considered irrelevant that the employee was at fault for the accident.

But what if the injury wasn’t an accident at all? If the employee intentionally caused the injury, then the situation will be treated quite differently. In this case, the employee would not only be considered ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits – he or she would be guilty of workers’ compensation fraud.

California Laws Prohibiting Workers’ Compensation Fraud

Under Section 1871.4 of the California Insurance Code, it is unlawful to “make or cause to be made a knowingly false or fraudulent material statement or material misrepresentation for the purpose of obtaining or denying any compensation.” This means that it is not only illegal for an employee to make a false statement in order to collect workers’ compensation – it is also illegal for an employer (or anyone else) to make a false statement in order to prevent someone from collecting workers’ compensation.

The California Penal Code also prohibits workers’ compensation fraud. Under Section 550, it is illegal to:

  • Knowingly make or cause to be made any false or fraudulent claims for payment of a health care benefit.
  • Knowingly submit a claim for a health care benefit that was not used by, or on behalf of, the client.
  • Knowingly present multiple claims for payment of the same health care benefit with the intent to defraud.
  • Knowingly present for payment any undercharges for health care benefits on behalf of a specific claimant – unless overcharges for the same client are present for reconciliation at the same time.

The Code specifically states that for the offenses described above, the term “health care benefit” includes workers’ compensation benefits.

If You Have Questions

As you can see, both employees and employers can face legal penalties if they are found to have committed workers’ compensation fraud. If you have any concerns about whether you are handling a workers’ compensation claim properly, you may wish to consult an attorney. If you are located in the Santa Rosa area, you can call or email the employment and labor law attorneys at Beck Law P.C., who can answer your legal questions.

California Job Retaliation and Wrongful Termination Laws

job retaliation, wrongful terminationCalifornia job retaliation and wrongful termination laws. Under California state law, it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against any employee who has provided information to law enforcement or government agencies, or engages in other protected activities. Employment retaliation can take a variety of forms including an employer’s decision to demote, terminate, fire or conduct some other negative act against an employee because that employee has exercised an activity protected by federal or state law. Most often employment retaliation occurs when an employee becomes a whistleblower by reporting an employer’s activities that are in violation or public policy or law, or is otherwise considered illegal. Under the California Labor Code, an employer is prohibited from taking any adverse, negative action, or any other form of discrimination in response to an employee:

  • Reporting discriminatory acts and other illegal activity that have occurred in a workplace controlled by the employer;
  • Participating in a labor union and other activities related to collective bargaining and/or an employee’s right to freedom of association and expression;
  • Complaining about the state of the workplace facilities and/or working conditions;
  • Participating in investigations and/or filing suit against an employer;
  • Filing a complaint against an employer with California’s Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement (DLSE).

CA Law Regarding Job Retaliation and Wrongful Termination

The most common form of employer retaliation is the wrongful termination of an employee who has engaged in activities protected by the federal and state government. Here in California, employment relationships are presumed to be at will, which means that the employment relationship can be terminated by both the employer and employee at any time without the consent of the other party. However, there does exist an exception to the at-will employment presumption, which provides that employers can be found guilty of wrongfully terminating an employee when that employee has been discharged for “performing an act that public policy would encourage or for refusing to do something that public policy would condemn.” Under this exception, a California employee who is discharged because of these reasons can bring suit against the employer in order to receive damages and compensation for the wrongful discharge. However, this exception does not apply when the parties have a pre-existing employment contract that allows employment termination based on cause or because of specific reasons previously outlined in the employment contract.

An employee can bring a wrongful termination claim by asserting that the employment discharge violated federal law, public policy or California state law. Typically, wrongful termination suits are brought under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which allows employees to bring suits against employers. However, the FEHA cannot be used to bring suit against an organization’s managers, supervisors and other employees. A complaint alleging discrimination or retaliation in the workplace must be filed within six months following the occurrence of the alleged activities. However, complaints filed under California Labor Code section 230.1 and 230 (c) can be filed within one year following the alleged retaliation or discrimination. Complaints of employment retaliation and discrimination are filed with the DLSE.

If you believe you have been the victim of employment retaliation or discrimination you should contact one of the labor and employment attorneys here at Beck Law P.C. here in Santa Rosa, California today.

Big Win for California On-site On-call Employees

california on-site on-call employees, santa rosa employment lawyer, petaluma employment lawyer, ukiah employment lawyerBig win for California on-site on-call employees. CPS Security Solutions, Inc., a California employer was delivered a crushing blow when the California Supreme Court ruled that the company’s compliance with a federal employment law that permitted the exclusion of compensation for sleep time was irrelevant in determining CPS compliance with California employment law. In Mendiola v. CPS Security Solutions Inc. the dispute was whether California’s Wage Order 4 was being adhered to by CPS. In determining that CPS’s wage policy violated the Wage Order 4, CPS and other California employer’s will now have to determine what retroactive effect if any the ruling will have on their compensation policy for employees.

The California On-site On-call Employees of CPS

The ruling in Mendiola requires that on-call security guards employed by CPS at different construction worksites are entitled to retroactive pay for 24 hours of work, despite the fact that their same employees only actively worked 8 hours per day. Originally, the on-call security guards employed by CPS had a written agreement with the company to reside in trailers provided by CPS. While residing at these trailers, the on-call/site security guards were allowed to rest and enjoy other leisure activities, though with some limitations. The guards were compensated at an hourly rate for all time spent patrolling their construction worksite. However, no compensation was received for time spent on-call at the worksite trailers unless an alarm went off or other circumstances required the attention outside of the trailer, or during the time spent waiting to be relieved from work by another guard. Ultimately guards were only paid for their time spent patrolling sites, and time spent in the investigation of disturbances occurring at the site.

The difficulty in this case is the fact that CPS did not intend to violate California state law when developing its compensation plan for on-site, on-call employees. In fact throughout the 1990s CPS worked with the California Labor Commissioner in order to ensure that the compensation policy in place, which excluded sleep time at the trailers, was in compliance with relevant federal and state law. The basis for this suit was a request by CPS for a declaratory relief action, requesting assistance from the California courts to review the compensation plan, and to also rule on its viability. Ultimately it was determined that though the federal law provided an express provision allowing the exclusion of sleep time in compensation, this fact was irrelevant in the determination of whether CPS was in compliance with state law because, as the court put it, California “is free to offer greater protection.” As a result, subject to Wage Order 4, CPS will be required to retroactively pay its employees for their rest time while on-site and on-call.

The ruling in the CPS case is interesting in that it does not involve an employer attempting to thwart labor employment law. In fact the unfavorable ruling was the result of CPS attempting to ensure their compliance with California state law. However, the holding means that other employers in California who do not pay compensation for rest time at on-site locations for on-call employees could be required to provide retroactive compensation to these employees. If you have any legal questions regarding California’s wage and compensation laws, and live in Sonoma County, Mendocino County or Lake County California contact the attorneys at Beck Law P.C. in Santa Rosa today.

A Guide to Some of California’s Most Frustrating Employee Protection Laws

Frustrating Employee Protection LawsA guide to some of California’s most frustrating employee protection laws. While California is typically considered one of the most worker-friendly states in the U.S., the flip-side is that many employers operating within the state believe that California’s employee-protection laws are onerous and complicated to understand. In fact, employers who operate in California as well as other states have noted how the laws within this state are frustrating to comply with, especially when compared to more business-friendly jurisdictions. What employers have been confounded by is the administrative burdens, the lack of flexibility with regards to compliance and enforcement, and also the enhanced degree of litigation possibilities. The California Chamber of Commerce decision to enact 24 additional new state employment laws and amendments will go into effect starting in 2015, which will provide additional procedures and regulations that employers must adhere to. The following includes the four most difficult and frustrating employment laws that both California employers and employees should be aware of in order to avoid violations and to be fully informed about employee rights.

The Four Most Confusing California Employee Protection Laws

  • Overtime: While in many states overtime cannot be paid until after over 40 hours have been worked by the employee, in California employees are entitled to overtime pay when they work more than 8 hours in one single day. This law has confused many new employees and employers because its effects reach beyond just overtime pay. Under the law, employees are prevented from having the flexibility to work late or leave early and subsequently make up the hours later during that same workweek without their employer being required to pay overtime wages.
  • Employee Breaks: California has extremely strict requirements for employee breaks. In fact, employers are required to provide employees with both a 30-minute meal break per every five hours of work, plus a 10-minute rest break for every four hours of work. This law has resulted in a great deal of class actions against employers, especially the section about the 10-minute rest break, which is a requirement not provided by many other states. A 2012 decision clarified the 10-minute rest break requirement, holding that employers did not have to relieve their workers of all of the work duties during the break. However, this rule has been difficult for employees who would simply like the flexibility to skip their rest break in order to take a longer lunch. While employers would like to provide their employees with the flexibility to do so, fear of litigation prevents such employers from providing this leniency.
  • Layoffs: California state law requirements for layoff reporting are some of the most stringent in the country. While federal law requires 60-day notices before any layoffs for those employers with over 100 full-time workers, California law requires the same notice from employers that have 75 or more part-time and full-time employees.
  • Employment Contract Non-Compete Agreements: Non-compete agreements provide employers with protections and prohibit employees from soliciting their employer’s clients after the employment relationship is terminated, or taking other actions that place the employees in direct competition with the employer. While in many states non-compete agreements in employment contracts are enforceable, in California non-compete agreements are not valid.

The above is not a completely exhaustive lists of all of the California laws that are difficult to understand and comply with. However, understanding the basics of these laws will keep employers out of trouble and allow employees to understand their basic rights. When you need labor and employment law legal assistance, make sure to contact the labor and employment attorneys at Beck Law, P.C. in Santa Rosa, California.


The information on this website should not be considered to be legal advice, nor construed to be the formation of any manner of attorney client relationship. Prior to taking any form of legal action, please consult with an attorney experienced in the appropriate area of law germane to your situation. Case results and testimonials presented on or any of its related websites are germane to the facts present for each individual case and is not a promise of similar outcomes for any other cases. This website is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the State of California.