California labor law covers a wide range of legal issues involving employment, wages, pensions and retirement, independent contractors, union, labor disputes, safety issues, any many more. In California, all workers have legal rights and protections under the law. Workers who feel that their employer may have acted unlawfully or may have violated their workplace rights have several remedies available to them. In any labor dispute, the first step is to file a complaint with the appropriate agency. The process for filing a complaint is generally the same for most disputes and violations that occur between employers and employees. However, there are significant differences in which claims may be filed and where.
Employers must prevent harassment, discrimination, and retaliation, while upholding their duties to comply with state and federal wage and hour laws. Employers are not permitted to harass—or allow other employees to harass—on the basis of sex or any other protected categories under state and federal law. Furthermore, employers—including managers and supervisors—are prohibited from retaliating against employees who complain and report incidents of harassment or discrimination. Rather, employers are obligated to prevent, investigate, and rectify harassment and discrimination in their workplace.
Where Do I File a Complaint?
There are multiple labor and employment agencies at the state and federal level that handle various employment-related issues. The most common are the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), the Equal Employment Opportunity and Housing Commission (EEOC), the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), California Department of Industrial Relations.
Workers in California who feel that they have experiences violations of labor laws may have multiple complaints that cross the various agencies. For example, the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) addresses the unlawful practice of age discrimination against older workers. Both the EEOC and the DFEH are able to investigate alleged violations of the ADEA, however, one agency will generally take the lead.
However, a worker who feels they are the victim of age discrimination may also have a wage claim against their employer for violation minimum wage and overtime laws. Wage claims are generally handled through the DLSE and the Department of Industrial Relations. These claims also have different filing requirements. The wage complaint may also be filed with the DFEH, allowing the aggrieved party to streamline the complaint process. However, the employee may expect long delays in investigation due to budgetary issues with the Department.
The DFEH may be an appealing agency, however, for employees who seek to bypass the administrative avenue and proceed to formal litigation. Under California Government Code section 12965(b), individuals—whether or not represented by attorneys—must exhaust all of their administrative remedies with the DFEH by filing a complaint and obtaining a “right-to-sue notice” from the Department before filing a lawsuit.
Due to the complexities of the multiple state and federal agencies, differing filing requirements, and various remedies available, it is important that workers first consult with an experienced employment law attorney. There are significant deadlines and time restrictions that may affect a worker’s ability to enforce their legal rights and protections under the law.
What is the Process for Filing a Discrimination Claim Against an Employer?
Claims for discrimination or retaliation filed with the Department of Industrial Relations follow a simplified process. Employees are only required to print and mail a complaint form available at the Department of Industrial Relations. On the form, the employee will be asked to explain, in detail, the reasoning for the complaint, their employer’s information, contact information for any potential witnesses, and what outcome the employee desires.
Complaints filed with the DLSE of the Department of Industrial Relations must be filed within six months of the alleged violation(s), known as “adverse action(s).” Adverse actions may include unlawful termination, demotion, suspension, reduction in pay or work hours, unlawful refusals to hire or promote, among many others.
Complaints filed to the EEOC are subject to a 180 day time limit from the date of the alleged incident. However, under the California Fair Employment and Housing law, this period is extended to 300 days if the employee also files a complaint with the DFEH. The time period may be reduced to as little as 30 days if the complaining party receives notice that a state agency has ended its processing of a charge. Additionally, the employee may be required to contact an Equal Employment Opportunity counselor within 45 days of the alleged discriminatory action. There may be exceptions allowing for an extension of this period, however, the employee will not want to be in a position of needing to argue those grounds due to the fact that they may be considered too late for their complaint to be accepted.
What are the Differences Between the EEOC and the DFEH?
California’s employment laws offer the same minimal protections as federal employment laws. In many respects, California law provides greater protections for employees. For these reasons, the selection of California law is a more attractive choice for aggrieved employees. For example, California law provides wider classifications of disabled persons than under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Additionally, California employment law extends to more employers than under the EEOC; extending to employers with as few as five (5) employees, unlike the minimum 15 employees under federal law.
While both agencies may investigate employment complaints and prosecute themselves, they are severely under-budgeted and limited to tight resources. As a result, the complaint process is generally delayed and creates significant frustration for the employee. In most circumstances, the process can take over a year to resolve. The DFEH, however, allows for an aggrieved party to automatically file a complaint and receive a “right to sue notice,” which provides for independent litigation with or without an attorney. It should be noted that it is highly unadvisable to pursue an independent action without first consulting with an experienced employment law attorney.
What is the Process for Filing an Unfair Wage Claim?
Wage claims are generally filed through the Department of Industrial Relations. Unlike discrimination and retaliation claims, unfair wage claims require additional paperwork and preparation. Unfair wage claims extend to:
- Unpaid wages, overtime, commissions and/or bonuses
- Wages paid by check with insufficient funds
- Not receiving a final paycheck
- Non-payment of vacation hours upon termination of the employment relationship, regardless of nature (e.g., resignation, discharge, or layoff)
- Unauthorized deductions from paychecks
- Unpaid or unreimbursed business expenses
- Failure to provide meal or rest breaks in accordance with California law
- Failure to pay an employee the minimum wage for each hour worked
- Waiting time penalties for failure to receive final wages timely upon separation of employment
- Unpaid Sick Leave Pay for time accrued and used
Unfair wage claims require the following supporting documentation:
- Time records
- Pay stubs and past checks
- Copies of any dishonored or bounced checks
- A copy of any collective bargaining agreements (if applicable)
- An overall summary of job description, rate of pay, title, duties, working conditions, and pay schedule.
The aggrieved party must first fill out a Form 1 labor board complaint and will generally need to attach a Form 55 that explains each amount owed for each pay period worked for the employer. If the complaint includes a retaliation claim, a Form RCI-1 will also need to be filed. These forms can be complicated and failure to accurately complete the forms may result in unnecessary delay or even rejection of the claim.
The complaint will then need to be filed with the correct DLSE office. There are 19 regional offices and the complaint must be filed with the one associated with the city of employment. This can create complications and confusion, however, because the correct office may not be the one closest to the city of employment. Filing the complaint with the wrong office can create significant delays and may require a re-filing of the complaint with the correct office.
After the complaint is received and filed, notice of conference will be issued by the labor board; approximately within 1 to 2 months. The conference is an opportunity for the employee, the employer, and/or both parties’ attorneys to attend and answer questions before a commissioner. The commissioner will then finalize the labor board complaint.
Following the conference, a final hearing will take place, within a month up to one year, depending on the time restraints of the board. The employee will be required to issue subpoenas from the labor board and conduct proper service on the employer and any witnesses in order to preserve the right to present crucial evidence at the hearing. The hearing is conducted before a hearing officer who will review all evidence and testimonies and issue an ODA, “order, decision, or adjudication.” The parties have 10 to 15 days to appeal the ODA, which will restart the entire process. However, the appeal transfers the complaint to an actual court and takes the decision making out of the hands of the labor board.
Due to the complexities associated with the complaint and appeals processes, it is highly recommended that employees who have DSLE complaints seek the advice and counsel of an experienced employment law attorney before proceeding.
How to file a complaint with the labor Board in California? ›
Call the LETF Public hotline anytime: 855 297 5322. Complete the Online Form / Spanish Form. Email us at email@example.com.How do I complain about the labor department? ›
If you are being mistreated at your workplace, do know that the Human Resources (HR) Ministry is there to help you. Launched in 2021 by the HR Ministry, the Working For Workers (WFW) application is a platform for local and foreign workers to file complaints related to labour matters.What can you sue an employer for in California? ›
- Disability discrimination.
- Pregnancy discrimination.
- Retaliation against employees.
- Marital status discrimination.
- Sexual harassment in the workplace.
- FMLA discrimination.
- LGTBQ discrimination.
- Religious beliefs discrimination.
California Labor Code § 203 LC imposes a waiting time penalty on employers who willfully withhold the final paychecks from employees who are terminated or quit. The penalty is equal to the employee's daily wage for each day the final paycheck goes unpaid, up to 30 days.How do I make a professional complaint? ›
- Be clear and concise. ...
- State exactly what you want done and how long you're willing to wait for a response. ...
- Don't write an angry, sarcastic, or threatening letter. ...
- Include copies of relevant documents, like receipts, work orders, and warranties.
Starting January 1, 2023 employers with 25 or fewer employees must pay agriculture workers overtime after 9 hours per day or 50 hours per week. For large employers with 26 or more employees since January 1, 2022, must pay agriculture workers overtime after 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week.What is Section 69 employment Act 1955? ›
Section 69 of the Employment Act 1955 allows the Director General of Labour to settle disputes regarding wages for employees with monthly pay of up to RM5000. Also, if you're a manual labourer, it doesn't matter what your salary is.How do I report my boss? ›
Go to HR.
You may ask them to keep the matter confidential, but often, they'll have to address the issue with your boss in order for anything to change. If you're part of a union, you should talk to your union representative, too, and they'll likely be present in the meeting with HR.
Time for payment of salaries
As per Section 19 of the Employment Act, 1955, every employer must complete payment of their employees' wages by the 7th day after the last day of the wage period. While the wage period is typically one month, it may vary with employment contracts.
In California, the answer is yes. You can file a negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress lawsuit to recover for the harm caused by someone else's actions, even if you've suffered no physical injuries. Emotional distress counts as a personal injury under California law.
How do you prove emotional distress at work? ›
Generally, you must prove that your employer acted intentionally or recklessly; your employer's conduct was extreme and outrageous; your employer's actions directly caused your emotional distress and your emotional stress was severe.How much does it cost to sue a company in California? ›
You will pay between $30 to $75 to file the lawsuit.What does Article 284 of the Labor Code is all about? ›
Under Article 284 of the Labor Code, among the grounds for termination of employment are when an employee is found to be suffering form any disease and whose continued employment is prohibited by law or is prejudicial to his health as well as the health of his co-employees.What is Article 297 of the Labor Code? ›
Article 297 of the Labor Code allows the termination of an employee for willful breach of the trust reposed in him by the employer. Trust is a very important word that takes years to build but only seconds to destroy.What is Article 215 of the Labor Code? ›
The Chairman, aided by the Executive Clerk of the Commission, shall have administrative supervision over the Commission and its regional branches and all its personnel, including the Executive Labor Arbiters and Labor Arbiters. Art. 215. Appointment and Qualifications.What are the 4 types of complaints? ›
When customers are dissatisfied with the service you're providing, they will be one of four kinds of complainers: aggressive, expressive, passive or constructive.How do you start a strong complaint letter? ›
Formal complaint about [name of service provider]
say when this was [give the date or dates when the problem occurred]. My complaint is that [list what you think went wrong or wasn't done properly. Be as clear as you can. It can help to make it short and to the point].
- The Meek Customer.
- The Aggressive Customer.
- The High Roller Customer.
- The Rip-Off Customer.
- The Chronic Complainer Customer.
An unfair labor practice is an action by an employer or a union that violates the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has created an extensive listing of employer actions that it considers would unduly interfere with an individual employee's labor rights.What are the labor law changes for 2023 in California? ›
Minimum Wage Increases
On Jan. 1, 2023, the California state minimum wage increased to $15.50 per hour for all employers, regardless of size. Some cities and counties have even higher local minimum wage requirements.
What is CA Labor Law 2023? ›
Minimum Wage Increases: As of Jan. 1, 2023, the California state minimum wage will increase to $15.50 for all employers, regardless of employee headcount. This also means that as of Jan. 1, 2023, exempt employees in California must be paid a minimum annual salary of $64,480.What is illegal dismissal of employee? ›
Illegal dismissal is the termination of employment or separation from employment without complying with due process of law. ▪ Illegal dismissal may result in reinstatement, full backwages, moral damages, exemplary damages, nominal damages, and attorney's fees.Under which one of the following circumstances would section 189a of the Labour Relations Act apply? ›
The related section in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act is section 189(A) which is specifically applicable to employers who retrench more than 50 staff members out of a total of 500 or more employees.On what grounds employee will be terminated? ›
India's labor laws cite the following reasons that justify termination for cause—willful insubordination or disobedience; theft, fraud, or dishonesty; willful damage to or loss of employer's goods; partaking of bribes or any illegal gratification; absence without leave for more than 10 days; habitual late attendance; ...What are some examples of unfair labor practices? ›
- Refusing to process a grievance because an employee is not a union member.
- Threatening an employee for filing a ULP charge.
- Refusing to negotiate in good faith with an agency.
- Calling, participating in, or supporting a strike, work stoppage, or slowdown.
Here are just a few examples of unfair treatment at work:
Creating offensive comments, emails or social media posts about an employee. Demoting, transferring, or dismissing an employee without a fair, disciplinary process. Paying women lower wages for doing the same job, because of their sex.
Not pay you overtime or minimum wage. Promise a job to an unpaid intern. Discriminate against workers. Allow you to work off the clock.What is Section 25 Labour law? ›
--Whenever a workman (other than a badli workman or a casual workman) whose name is borne on the muster rolls of an industrial establishment and who has completed not less than one year of continuous service under an employer is laid-off, whether continuously or intermittently, he shall be paid by the employer for all ...What is Section 99 employment Rights Act? ›
Under section 99 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (“ERA”) a woman who is dismissed by reason of her pregnancy, childbirth or maternity leave or other pregnancy related reason is treated as having been unfairly dismissed. That is straightforward - if the reason for your dismissal is pregnancy etc.What is Section 14 of employment Act 1955? ›
According to Employment Act 1955 Section 14 (Termination of contract for special reasons), employer may imply punishment such as dismissal without notice the employee, downgrade the employee or impose any lesser punishment as he deems just and fit after due inquiry.
Can I sue my employer for stress and anxiety in California? ›
California and federal laws protect workers from excessive stress, unsafe working conditions, harassment, and negligence. Therefore, it is possible to sue your employer in some instances. Worker compensation claims may be appropriate if the stressor is work-related, such as an overbearing boss or excessive overtime.How do you prove emotional distress in California? ›
- The defendant's conduct was outrageous,
- The conduct was either reckless or intended to cause emotional distress; and.
- As a result of the defendant's conduct you suffered severe emotional distress.
What counts as emotional distress? Emotional distress, legally speaking, is mental anguish or emotional pain and suffering that — usually — must be accompanied by some physical manifestation.How do you prove a hostile work environment? ›
The crux of proving a hostile work environment case is evidence of the harassment. You should preserve any e-mails or voicemails that demonstrate harassing language. These communications do not have to take place at home, as any harassing treatment that extends from the workplace to your home qualifies as evidence.What are signs of a hostile work environment? ›
- Repeated comments or jokes about a protected characteristic (e.g., race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity)
- Displaying offensive symbols or pictures.
- Threatening or intimidating behavior.
- Physical assaults or unwanted touching.
- Sexual harassment.
Gaslighting is illegal assuming a victim can prove to the court that such behavior is harassment and/or discrimination. There can and should be legal repercussions for someone who gaslights an employee or colleague.Can I sue my employer for not paying me correctly California? ›
IF YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED WAGE THEFT, FILE A WAGE CLAIM WITH THE LABOR COMMISSIONER. You must file claims for violations of minimum wage, overtime, illegal deductions from pay or unpaid reimbursements within three years. You must file claims based on an oral promise to pay more than minimum wage within two years.What is the maximum amount you can sue for in California? ›
You can sue for up to $10,000, if you are an individual or a sole proprietor. Corporations and other entities are limited to $5,000. In addition, a party (individuals or corporations) can file no more than two claims exceeding $2,500 in any court throughout the State of California during a calendar year.How do I legally sue a company? ›
You can also lodge a formal complaint directly with the department and should give it adequate time to evaluate your situation and suggest a solution. If you are not satisfied with the response, you can file a court case. In case of a violation of your contract, you can file a case in a civil court.What is Article 82 of the Labor Code? ›
Article 82 of the Labor Code states that employees under all establishments and undertakings need to complete a certain set of working hours, except: Government employees. Managerial employees. Field personnel.
What is the 2 notice rule? ›
First written notice: specifying the ground(s) for termination and giving the employee the reasonable opportunity within which to explain his side. Second written notice: indicating that upon due consideration of all circumstances, grounds have been established to justify his termination.What is Article 285 of the Labor Code? ›
285. Termination by employee. a. An employee may terminate without just cause the employee-employer relationship by serving a written notice on the employer at least one (1) month in advance.What is Article 211 of the Labor Code? ›
211. Declaration of Policy. g. To ensure the participation of workers in decision and policy-making processes affecting their rights, duties and welfare.What is Article 165 of the Labor Code about? ›
The Department of Labor and Employment shall develop and implement training programs to increase the number and competence of personnel in the field of occupational safety and industrial health. Art. 165.What is Article 248 of the Labor Code? ›
442, also known as the Labor Code, Article 248, makes it an unfair labor practice for employees "to contract out services or functions being performed by union members...". Clearly, the provision does not cover situations where employers merely threaten to contract out services being performed by the latter.What are the 4 codes of Labour law? ›
The Government has formulated four Labour Codes, namely, the Code on Wages, 2019, the Industrial Relations Code, 2020, the Code on Social Security, 2020 and the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 and published these Codes in the Official Gazette for general information.What is Article 259 of the Labor Code? ›
Pertinent is Article 259 (formerly 248), paragraph (e) of the Labor Code, which states that "[n]othing in this Code or in any other law shall stop the parties from requiring membership in a recognized collective bargaining agent as a condition for employment, except those employees who are already members of another ...How do I contact labor Board CA? ›
File a wage claim and learn about labor rights. Report labor law violations. File a retaliation or discrimination complaint. Contact the Labor Commissioner's Office at 1-844-522-6734 or EmploymentStatus@dir.ca.gov.What does the California labor Board do? ›
The mission of the California Labor Commissioner's Office is to ensure a just day's pay in every workplace in the State and to promote economic justice through robust enforcement of labor laws.What is the most common complaint filed with CRD? ›
While the California Labor Commissioner's Office hears mostly disputes involving wage and hour claims, the CRD's most common complaints involve employment discrimination and harassment.