The Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act seek to protect workers in California from discrimination. Although the acts obligate employers to treat people fairly regardless of their gender, race, religion or national origin, reality often falls short of the law, and mistreated employees must pursue legal complaints against their employers. The rights granted by these acts sometimes overlap, and a victim of discrimination might choose to file complaints based on one or both acts.
The Family Medical Leave Act requires certain employers in California to accommodate requests for time off when workers have bad health problems, need to care for ailing family members, give birth or adopt a child. Employees who use leave for legitimate reasons have a right to return to their jobs and not be subject to discipline or poor job reviews because they took time off.
California is one of several states where employers are no longer allowed to ask potential employees what they made at their last job. There is evidence that doing so could perpetuate wage inequity over the long term. Women are often paid less than men even just out of college, so they might be unable to shake the low salary as they move from job to job.
Unpaid overtime is an issue that plagues many workers in California. A lawsuit filed by Donald Trump's personal driver has brought national attention to this problem. Before the Secret Service took over transporting the new president, the driver chauffeured Trump for over 25 years. The lawsuit from the 59-year-old man claims that his employer, the Trump Organization LLC, owes him for 3,300 hours of overtime.
The California Supreme Court made a ruling in a case in which workers for Dynamex sued after they were converted from employees to independent contractors. The conversion took place in 2004, but workers say that the company exerted control over their work, what they wore at work and their pay rates. In making its decision, the court used the "ABC test" to determine if a worker is an employee or independent contractor.
Employers in California and around the country are required to pay their workers overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours during a workweek, but certain employees, such as executives, managers and salespeople are not covered by the landmark federal law. However, these distinctions can become blurred when workers perform jobs that involve selling as well as other duties. Decisions about whether or not an employee is covered by the FLSA have generally been left to the courts, and a case dealing with these issues was recently argued before the Supreme Court of the United States.
The 2017 fiscal year for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ended on Sept. 30. According to the EEOC, retaliation charges were the most common filings with 41,097 received during that time period. There were a total of 28,528 charges related to race and another 26,838 were related to disability. Altogether, the EEOC received 84,254 workplace discrimination charges in California and elsewhere for fiscal year 2017, and the agency was able to resolve 99,109 charges in that same time period.
Most California companies must follow the Fair Labor Standards Act when designating employees as exempt or nonexempt. Labeling a worker as a manager is not sufficient to meet the laws that govern whether a person receives overtime pay. Rules guiding these designations vary by industry, but the duties of the employee actually determine job classification instead of an employer's arbitrary decision or belief.
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers in California and around the country to pay their workers overtime when they work more than 40 hours during a workweek, but employees who perform bona fide administrative, executive or professional duties are not covered by the landmark 1938 federal law. The statute does not clearly define what makes a position a white-collar job, and the courts have generally ruled that workers are covered by the FLSA unless their duties plainly and unmistakably fall within the exemption.
Employees of Dave & Buster's successfully sued the chain for intentionally cutting hours to avoid the Affordable Care Act health insurance mandate. In the lawsuit, they used an unusual approach to advance their argument. Because it may be the first successful suit of its kind, its effect could be felt in California and elsewhere around the country.