Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5), a new bill in California awaiting full vote, is set to end a major loophole in the US labor law: employee misclassification. This loophole allows companies like Uber, Lyft, and Doordash to classify workers as independent contractors or gig workers instead of employees. Gig workers in recent years have been mobilizing against companies that use this loophole to pay incredibly low wages and avoid paying benefits. If the bill is enacted into law (which is likely), it will fundamentally change the way the gig economy functions and affect all industries that rely on workers classified as contractors such as daycares, nail salons, and construction companies with some exemptions.
California has always been quick to set precedents when it comes to labor policies. It has also been listed as the most employee-friendly state. Below are some of the many protections implemented in the Golden State that workers enjoy:
Paid Family Leave
Employees who are also caregivers (or new mothers, in particular) used to have only one option: to leave the workforce and stay at home to fulfill familial obligations. A majority of these women plan to return to work but end up not doing so due to difficulties in continuing a career after a long break. But workers in California now have better options thanks to new policies and technologies that allow people to work more flexibly regarding their familial responsibilities and employee obligations. Only California and five other states have passed paid family leave laws to date. The law provides up to six weeks of partial pay to employees who take time off from work to care for a seriously ill family member, or to bond with a new child joining the family through birth, adoption, or foster care placement.
Unions are working people standing together, and their collective activities range from bargaining with employers for better pay and benefits to demanding safer working conditions. California and federal laws protect employees who form and join unions. The law prohibits employers from discriminating against or firing employees who are either establishing or joining a union.
If your employer is putting you in hot water because of you reporting suspected violations of the law related to your employer or the company to the authorities, you can lodge a whistleblower retaliation claim against him or her. There are several statutes that provide government and private employees with whistleblower protection, including the California Labor Code and the 1102.5, 98.6, and 6310, as well as the federal Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012. These laws classify the following actions as forms of unlawful retaliation:
- Threats to turn in an employee to the ICE if he or she makes a labor complaint;
- Denial of access to resources necessary for the worker to do his/her job properly;
- Denial of access to training or professional development opportunities; or
- Failure to promote an employee to a higher position when warranted by merit.
Fair Chance Hiring
California has a long list of protections against discrimination in the workplace, including cases related to a person’s conviction history. The Fair Chance Act, also known as the “Ban the Box” law that went into effect on January 1, 2018, forbids California employers of more than five employees from asking about a job applicant’s conviction history before making a job offer. Under the law, it is also unlawful to consider information about arrests that were not followed by conviction, participation in pretrial or post-trial diversion programs, or convictions that have been sealed, expunged, dismissed, or statutorily eradicated. Although employers are allowed to check your criminal history after offering you a job, they are required to assess and consider the following:
- The nature and gravity of the criminal history,
- the time that has passed since the conviction, and
- the nature of the job that the applicant is seeking.
Employers are also required to give you notice and give you five business days to respond to their offer. Should they decide to revoke the job offer, they should notify you in writing.
Hiring Based on Salary History
The state prohibits employers from relying on the salary history of a job applicant as a basis for offering employment and determining what salary to offer. The law also bans employers from asking applicants about their salary and benefits history orally and in writing. The employer may consider salary history only if the applicant discloses it voluntarily and without prompting, but it should not be used to justify any disparity in compensation.
California has a strict overtime pay policy. All state employers are required to pay employees overtime for all hours rendered in excess of 40 hours in a workweek and eight hours in a workday. Employers must also pay overtime to employees who work a seventh consecutive day in a workweek. They must pay double the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 12 in any workday and for all hours worked in excess of eight on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek. Failing to provide or denying proper overtime pay puts employers at risk of facing a lawsuit as wronged employees can file wage claims with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.
Mesriani Law Champions Employee Rights in California
While California has a long labor tradition and a well-established Labor Code, many employers still violate it and would use loopholes in the law to take advantage of the working class. If you suspect that your employee rights have been violated or are planning to file a complaint against your employer, consult with a seasoned employment attorney from Mesriani Law. Never pursue your claims on your own as doing so will put you in a distinct disadvantage. With our legal support, experience, and representation, you are assured of the best outcome possible.
Schedule a free consultation today and take advantage of our No Win, No Fee basis.