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9 Employee Rights in California You Should Know About in 2024

In California, employees have various rights protected by state and federal laws, including the right to a minimum wage, overtime pay, meal and rest breaks, paid sick leave, family and medical leave, whistleblower protections, privacy rights, and workers’ compensation.
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California Employee Rights Explained

Here are some of the key employee rights in California:

  • Privacy: Employees have a right to privacy in the workplace, which includes personal phone conversations and certain personal possessions.
  • Workplace Safety: Employees are entitled to a safe workspace free from dangerous conditions.
  • Fair Wages: Employees must be paid fairly, including receiving minimum wage, overtime pay, and protection against wage and hour law violations.
  • Harassment and Discrimination Protection: Employees have the right to work in an environment free from harassment and discrimination based on factors such as sex, race, religion, nationality, age, and disability.
  • Workplace Retaliation: Employees have the right not to be retaliated against for filing a complaint against an employer.
  • Meal Breaks: Non-exempt employees working more than five hours in a workday are entitled to a 30-minute lunch break.
  • Family and Medical Leave: Employees have rights under the FMLA, including leave for certain family and medical reasons.
  • Sick Leave: Full-time employees in California are entitled to 24 hours of paid sick leave each year.
  • Wrongful Termination Protection: Employees cannot be fired in violation of an employment contract, for discriminatory reasons, or as retaliation for exercising their legal rights.

In addition to employees, those who apply for jobs also have rights, even though they are not technically employees. They have the right not to be discriminated on the basis of characteristics such as race, national origin, religion, age, or gender during the hiring process.

California Employee Rights in the Workplace

While the U.S. Constitution does not explicitly grant Americans the right to privacy, many still believe they should have some level of privacy. Recent concerns over perceived privacy violations, such as Facebook and Instagram monitoring personal chats and Apple collecting personal data, have heightened this concern both at home and in the workplace.

Your Right to Privacy at Work
California upholds the right to privacy, as guaranteed in the state’s labor code and under Article 1, Section 1 of the California Constitution. These laws outline what employers can and cannot do regarding an employee’s personal information and activities.

Emails, Phone Calls, and Computer Data

Employers have the right to access and monitor data on company-issued equipment, such as cell phones and computers. This means they can monitor your phone calls, voicemails, emails, and texts. Your employer can also track your computer use, such as your internet searches and what websites you visit.

Employers can also install tracking software that provides data on how much time you are actively working on your devices, which has become an increasingly popular monitoring method with the drastic increase in remote working.

They do not, however, have the right to monitor your personal equipment. So, be sure to conduct all private communication and internet use on your personal cell phone or computer.

Social Media
Employers in California can monitor your social media accounts but cannot compel you to provide login information. Anything you post publicly can be viewed by your employer.

Medical Records
Employers can access limited details of your medical history only if it relates to job functions. They can also require drug tests for certain jobs.

Background Checks
Employers can perform background checks, access sensitive information like criminal records, credit reports, and driving records, but only for lawful purposes.

Employers can use cameras for security if you are notified. However, they cannot install cameras in private areas like restrooms, changing rooms, or locker rooms.

Audio Recordings
Recording audio requires all parties’ consent in California. If your employer records you without consent, they violate your rights and can face legal action under California Penal Code 632.

California Employee Pay Data for 2021

  • In the workforce data, women accounted for fewer workers (48%) but constituted a larger proportion (54%) of employees in the lowest pay bracket, earning $32,239 or less. Conversely, men made up the majority of workers (65%) in the highest pay bracket, earning $144,560 or more.
  • In various occupations, women dominated the workforce, comprising the majority in administrative (71%), service (56%), and sales (55%) positions. On the other hand, men were more prevalent among craft workers (92%), operatives (75%), and senior executives (64%).
  • Approximately half of Latino (49%), Black (48%), and Native American (47%) workers fell into the lowest pay bracket, earning $32,239 or less. In contrast, less than one-third of white workers (29%) and one-quarter of Asian workers (22%) were in the lowest pay bracket.
  • A small percentage of Latino workers (fewer than 1 in 20), Black workers (1 in 10), and Native American workers (1 in 10) were in the top-earning positions, compared to nearly 1 in 4 white workers and 1 in 3 Asian workers.
  • White workers comprised a larger share of senior executives (61%) and managers (50%), while Latinos made up the largest share of laborers (69%) and operatives (58%).

Source: California Civil Rights Department [1].

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