Several new measures took effect in California Jan. 1 that will benefit millions of workers. At the same time, there is also the question of whether employers will follow these new wage and labor laws.
Understanding the New Laws
Here are some of the new laws that will have an impact on California workers:
Minimum wage: More than 1.2 million workers in California earn between $9 and $10 an hour. Starting Jan. 1, the minimum wage in California has been set at $10 per hour. That $10 rate, also adopted by Massachusetts, is the highest minimum in the nation. The federal minimum is $7.25 an hour.
Fair Pay Act: SB 358 requires equal pay regardless of gender. Under this law, employees who are performing “substantially similar” work should get equal pay. The law also protects employees from retaliation if they seek information on wages or discuss them with colleagues. The new statute is broader than the federal Equal Pay Act.
Wage theft: New laws also protect workers from wage theft. SB 588 and AB 970 expand the power of the California labor commissioner to collect back wages and penalties from bosses who fail to pay minimum wage and overtime, and force employees to work off the clock, refuse to offer meal and rest breaks or make illegal paycheck deductions. Wage theft is a growing problem nationwide.
Childcare leave: SB579 allows workers to take as many as eight hours a month or up to 40 hours a year in unpaid time off for childcare. It could range from a school-related emergency to time off to find a childcare provider.
Retaliation: AB 987 prohibits and employer from discriminating or retaliating against a worker who requests accommodation because of a disability or religious belief of observance whether or not a request is granted.
Protecting Your Rights
It is important that all workers know and understand their rights under these new laws. When workers are not up to date on new laws, they are at a heightened risk of being exploited by their employers.
If you believe your employer has not paid you for work done, it is important that you contact an experienced California employment law attorney who will fight for your rights and help you receive the compensation you rightfully deserve and hold your employer accountable.