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Part two: Are California employers complying with employment laws?

California employees have important rights that should be protected in the workplace, but businesses do make mistakes that could result in the violation of these rights.

Earlier this week on our San Diego employment law blog, we began discussing some common mistakes employers may make without realizing that they are breaking state and federal employment and labor laws. However, employees can learn more about their rights in order to ensure that their employers are in compliance with these laws.

We already discussed the importance of making sure that workers are properly classified as employees or contract workers for tax, withholding and overtime pay purposes. Today we will discuss four other mistakes that commonly lead to the violation of an employee's rights in the workplace.

In California, employers can end up causing great legal problems for the company if they do not understand laws regarding overtime pay. Although most states only require companies to pay hourly employees overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week, in California, businesses must pay employees overtime if they work more than eight hours a day and more than 40 hours a week.

Although it may be common for employees to work through their lunch breaks, employers must also make sure than employees are taking their proper breaks. In order to make sure that employees are not working through their breaks, employers can designate break rooms or lunch rooms for workers.

When it comes to firing an employee, some companies may fail to follow their own procedures. When companies do not follow their own policies, or if they do not follow a uniform procedure when terminating employees, they could be sued for wrongful termination.

Employees are also protected from discrimination and harassment in the workplace, but many companies are not as prepared as they should be when issues of discrimination or harassment arise. Failing to follow procedures when an employee makes a complaint or ignoring these issues could lead to a hostile work environment and serous legal problems.

State and federal employment and labor laws are complex and continue to change, but employees in California should understand that they are protected under these laws, even when employers do not realize that they may not be in compliance with these laws.

Source: The Washington Post, "Common HR nightmares employers can avoid," J.D. Harrison, Jan. 12, 2012