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What to know about your employee rights

If you are an employee or are looking for work in California, you have the benefits of some of the most protective employment laws in the United States. While federal law sets some minimum standards that employers must follow, state law sets additional guidelines and gives employees additional rights.

Here are just a few of the most important protections that you have when looking for a job and actively working in California.

Interview and hiring rights

When you interview for a job, there are certain things that a potential employer can't ask you about by law. Interview questions should be limited to the background and skills required to do the job. Potential employers generally aren't permitted to ask about such things as religious affiliation, sexual orientation, disability, or age.

There are also certain restrictions on obtaining information regarding criminal records. All job applicants can be asked to take a drug test, and some current employees can be drug tested if there is a legitimate reason for doing so.

Discrimination and harassment

Under both Federal and State law, employers cannot discriminate against employees due to personal characteristics such as age, race, sex, religion, disability, national origin, medical status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

You also can't be discriminated against for being pregnant and some local laws will provide protections for employees who face discrimination for being overweight. If you have a disability, are able to perform your job functions, and your employer meets certain size requirements, you must be accommodated in the workplace.

Harassment is a different form of discrimination that could involve unwelcome sexual conduct or other undue behavior at work. The harassment could come from another coworker or a supervisor. Even if the conduct is not targeted at you, if it is pervasive enough to change your work environment, it may be considered harassment.

Fair wages

In California, workers should be paid the same pay for the same work regardless of differences in age, race, or gender. The California Equal Pay Act (EPA), which was passed in 1949 and updated in 1985, provides some protections for equal pay but also has a few loopholes that employers have exploited. In 2015, the state passed the California Fair Pay Act, which closed many of those loopholes and made it easier for employees to pursue equal pay throughout the state.

The violation of employee rights on any level can be very serious and often isn't an isolated incident. If you feel that your rights may have been violated, seek the advice of a qualified employment lawyer.

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