Labor and employment law is currently at the forefront of litigation, especially in the State of California. Employment law covers such subjects as workplace harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination and retaliation.
Employment is typically “at will,” meaning that the employee may be terminated at any time and for any or no reason. However, employment termination is wrongful and will give the employee a right to sue the employer if it is based on the employer’s wrongful conduct. Examples are discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, religion, race, ethnicity, disability, pregnancy, age or sexual orientation. Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against employees not only by terminating their employment, but by demoting them or taking other adverse employment actions against them. Retaliation against an employee for engaging in activity protected by law is unlawful. Such activity includes reporting the employer’s unlawful practices or unsafe working conditions of employment, or filing a complaint of harassment or discrimination.
California’s “wage and hour” laws are quite favorable for employees and very restrictive for employers. Employers must pay all employees specified minimum wages and overtime, including time and a half and double time, depending on how many hours and over how many days a week the employee works. Employers must also provide specified meal and rest breaks for employees, and may not mischaracterize employees as independent contractors.
The penalties for violation of the wage and hour laws are quite stiff, and employees’ remedies for violation of the Labor Code are substantial.
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