An Overview of California’s Prevailing Wage Laws for Public Works Projects

prevailing wage

Public works projects in California are governed by prevailing wage laws. Even so, employees often don’t realize they are getting shortchanged until they find out another worker on the same site working for a different contractor is getting paid significantly more.

These laws were established to prevent contractors and subcontractors from reducing employee wages to compete for projects. The central purpose of the prevailing wage law, which is a minimum wage law, is to protect and benefit workers on public works projects by ensuring these employees receive wages common to their trade, craft, or classification.

What is California’s Prevailing Wage Law?

The California Prevailing Wage Law is a comprehensive statutory scheme designed to enforce minimum wage standards on construction projects funded in whole or in part with public funds.

Under this law, ALL workers employed on public works projects costing more than $1,000 must be paid not less than the general prevailing rate as determined by the Director of the Department of Industrial Relations.

The duty to pay prevailing wages extends to both the prime contractor and all subcontractors. The central purpose of this law, which is a minimum wage law, is to protect and benefit employees on public works projects.

Which Employers Are Covered?

The duty to pay California prevailing wages extends to both the prime contractor and all subcontractors on public works projects. A subcontractor is any person or company that has agreed to provide services for a primary or prime contractor, whether it is a purchase order or contract or oral agreement.

If you are working at a job site, your employer is either a contractor or a subcontractor.

What is a Public Works Project? 

Under these laws, a public works project is any project costing more than $1,000 that is funded in whole or in part with public funds. So even if your work site appears to be a private sector project, if part of the funds comes from public sources it may be considered a public works project.

What Rate Should be Paid?

The Director of the Department of Industrial Relations determines and publishes the wage rates for specific trades, crafts, or classifications.

The applicable rate depends on your duties, NOT the title your employer gives you. For example, your employer may hire you as a roofer, but you are doing work as a mechanic.

Courts will look at your actual job duties and determine that you should have been paid the prevailing wage for a mechanic even though your title is “roofer.”

A qualified attorney can help evaluate the job duties and determine the correct wages.


Holidays in the Workplace


Many workers believe that they are automatically entitled to take paid time off work on holidays. This, however, is an incorrect assumption. Most employees in California are given time off work on holidays, but employers do not legally have to give you this time off.


If your employer does agree to give you this time off, they do not have to pay you. Though in reality, many employees are paid for time taken off for public holidays, and indeed many businesses shut down completely on these days.


This article looks at how to find out whether you are entitled to take time off holidays and, if so whether you will be paid for this time off and whether there is a maximum amount of statutory holiday time that you, as an employee, are entitled to.

California does not have to provide Thanksgiving off

All the employers should have to provide holidays that are religious to their employees who may include: Christmas, Independence Day, and also New Year day. It is major for the employers to observe their religious beliefs. However, it is not the duty of the employer to give some extra payment as thanks for the work you are doing on regular unobserved holidays.

No extra payment for work done on federal holidays

Under the laws of California, it is not the duty of your employer to pay you anything extra for the work that you do on federal holidays. What you are entitled to is the payment for working your eight hours, any overtime after 8 hours in a day and also over forty hours in a work week. You may be lucky if your employer has an agreement with employees that they should be paid extra in such situations.

Your contract of employment will stipulate what your holiday entitlement is and whether you are, as part of your terms and conditions of employment, permitted to take time off on holidays.
Employers should give accommodations for religious reasons

In some situations, employees may not be able to work on special federal holidays for religious reasons. In such cases, the employer must give the necessary accommodations for their employees for their individual religious observances. Such accommodations should be critically analyzed for specific cases by the type of the business and the accommodation itself

In some, situations, the government occasionally grants an additional bank or public holiday to celebrate a special occasion (such as the Royal Wedding for UK workers.) If your employment contract is not providing you with the information you need with regards to your right to take time off on holidays, you should speak to your human resources manager for clarification.


FAQ’s About Piece-Rate Compensation Law in California

piece-rate compensation

In order to underpay their workers, some employers in certain industries in California pay their workers piece-rate compensation instead of an hourly basis. Moreover, until the recent changes in Californian law, the employees were not aware of the fact that they are paid their due wages. Brief information about piece-rate compensation law of California is provided here under to know whether your employer owes you some wages.

Who is a piece-rate employee?

An employee who is paid on the basis of his/her measurable completed work instead of the time spent at the workplace is a piece-rate employee. It can be tricky to determine a piece-rate employee as piece-rate compensation is applicable in many situations like:

Nurses paid on the number of performed procedures, auto mechanic on a rate based on the Chilton manual, technicians paid on the number of installed units, carpenters paid by footage of framing job or yards of carpet laid, and factory workers paid on the number of completed items are all good examples.

What is AB 1513?

On January 1st, 2016 a new section, AB 1513, has been effectively included in the piece-rate compensation law of California Labor Code. According to this section, it is necessary to submit wage and compensation statement by the piece-rate employees for their defense if their employer fails to pay compensation for nonproductive time or for the recovery or rest time which they deserve as per Californian law. The rate of compensation should be higher than the average hourly rate or minimum applicable wage rate.

Employees exempted from AB 1513

Under AB 1513, some employees are exempted to get additional compensation for non-productive time. These employees may include the workers working on a commission basis and paid on the basis of certain percentage of the sale.

Types of piece-rate compensations that come under AB 1513

Every claim under piece-rate compensation law is unique. You can file a claim against your employer to determine whether you are eligible for it or not. There are certain other eligibility conditions for the employees to file a claim under this law like:

  • If your employers has classified you as commission based employee.
  • If you are not compensated for valid non-productive time.
  • If your employer neither allows you to take rest time even after working for more than 3.5 hours in a day nor pays for non-productive time
  • If your employer does not compensate you for nonproductive time, excluding recovery and rest periods.
  • If your employer retaliates against you for filing a claim for unpaid wages for nonproductive time

    So, according to AB 1513, the employees have legal right to contact an employment attorney if they are paid on piece-rate and not for non-productive time.

FAQs on Tips and Gratuities

tips and gratuities

Tips and gratuities are an area of wages in that can become confusing for employers, employees, and the legal assistance who settle their disputes. We have put together a few frequently asked questions that we hear about restaurant tips and gratuities on a daily basis that will be helpful in deciding if a situation is legitimate or illegal.

Q: Does my employer have any rights to my tips? 

A: No, any money you get in the form of a tip is entirely yours and your employer has no say over it.

Q: Can I be required to share my tips with my fellow employees by my employer? For example, the bartender or the busboy. 

A: Yes. As long as they took part in the same service as you did, then your employer has a right to ask you to share your tip since the law allows for involuntary tip pooling.

Q: How soon can I receive my tip from my employer if it is included in a credit card? 

A: Your employer is required to add all your credited tips on to your pay check on the next immediate pay day, or in cash that evening or the next day.

Q: What qualifies as a tip?

A: Any money that has been left to the employee by a customer apart from the amount which is due for the goods or services that have been rendered. Tips only belong to the employee to the exclusion of the employer.

Q: Is it legal for my employer to deduct credit card processing fees from my tips? 

A: No. if the credit card company charges the employer any credit card processing fees, the gratuities paid to the employee cannot be deducted to cater for those costs. The full amount shown on the credit card should be paid to the employee.

Q: What should I do if my employer does not comply with the law in matters concerning the tips I receive? 

A: There are two options. You can either take it up with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement by filing a claim against your employer or file a law suit in court.

Q: What should I do when my employer retaliates for going against his abuse of my tips? 

A: If your employer discriminates against you in any way for objecting to his abuse of your tips, you should either file a lawsuit in court or file a complaint about retaliation/discrimination against your employer with the labor commissioner’s office.


Wage Theft Protection

wage theft

Lawsuits involving employees that have been the victims of wage theft by their employers have increased in the last few years. Many of these lawsuits have been a class action and have involved large companies. Many companies that have engaged in wage theft argue that they had no other choice because they were hit so hard financially.

However, no matter how serious a company’s financial loss has been, there is never an excuse for stealing from employees.

What is Wage Theft Protection?

Wage theft protection makes it compulsory for employers to pay the workers they victimized double the amount that was due plus other fines and legal costs.

The recent crackdown on these employment law violations has been spurred in part by a recent study that shows that California workers lose $18.4 million in unpaid overtime pay and minimum wages per week.

Added up, that means a loss of approximately a billion dollars annually. What’s more, the average low wage worker loses around 15% of his annual income. Lastly, three-quarters of those who work overtime do not receive the mandatory overtime pay premium and 69 percent of workers are not given meal breaks.

The Wage Theft Protection Act

Although California’s new Wage Theft Protection Act seems like the answer to the abused worker’s prayers, it is worthless if not coupled with strict enforcement. Improvements on existing laws have to be made with the welfare of the workers in mind.

Ideally, the unpaid overtime must be immediately taken from the offending employer and held in trust for the victim till the case is resolved. Companies need to know that the law means business and that the punishment for employment law violations can seriously damage them.

As of right now, California employment law violation cases crawl at a snail’s pace while the accused company keeps the unpaid wages as the complaining workers struggle for justice.

What’s worse, the amount due is normally negotiated to favor the employer. The Wage Theft Protection Act and other laws protecting the legal rights of workers are a great help to workers and employment lawyers in the fight for justice.

The Most Common Types of Wage Theft Include:

  • Violating minimum wage laws–this has become an issue with illegal immigrants who fear that if they retaliate or seek legal ramification for their losses that they will be deported.
  • Refusal to pay overtime for work exceeding 40 hours in one week.
  • Forcing employees to work off the clock so that there is no record of the work that they performed.
  • Misclassifying employees as independent contractors to get around minimum wage and overtime laws.
  • Refusing to pay workers in general for jobs that they finished.


Employees can try to protect themselves from illegal payment practices by:

  • Refusing to work off the clock.
  • Making sure that there are records of time worked.
  • Reporting any infraction regarding wages that occur.

California Meal and Rest Break Laws

break laws

Under California break laws, non-exempt employees have a right to rest and meal breaks. The former refers to a 30-minute unpaid, off-duty break if your work entails working for over five hours per day while the latter is a 10-minute break after working continuously for four hours. If your employer doesn’t follow this law, they must pay one additional hour of regular pay for every day that you work without taking the breaks.

Below are more details about the break laws in California.

  1. Meal Breaks

Your employer is under obligation to give you a 10-minute meal break after the end of your fifth hour of work.

Your employer is considered to have fulfilled their part if they:

  • Relieve you of all your duties
  • Surrender control over your activities
  • Give you a reasonable opportunity to have an uninterrupted 30-minute break
  • Desist from discouraging you from taking your break

Note, though that if your typical day at work lasts six hours, your employer can do away with the break on condition that there is a mutual consent between both of you (Employer and employee.) If on the other hand, your workday lasts more ten hours, he or she must provide a second meal break lasting no less than 30 minutes, at the end of your tenth hour of work.

  1. Rest Break

If your workday lasts for a minimum of 3.5 hours, your boss must provide you with uninterrupted rest periods at the rate of 10 minutes for every 4 hours you work, or a Major Fraction thereof. According to the law, a Major Fraction is any duration that exceeds two hours.

Unlike meal breaks, rest breaks should include the following:

  • Rest breaks are paid
  • Your employer can request you to remain within the premises
  • Your boss should relieve you of your duties during rest breaks; However, under Cal. Lab. C. 226.7, you have the freedom to continue working provided your employer isn’t compelling you to do so.

Circumstances Necessitating On-Duty Meal Breaks

For your on-duty meal period to be legal, the nature of your job should be such that it is impossible to relieve you of all duty, both you and your boss must make a written agreement stating the same, and you have to be paid for the duration. You can revoke the agreement at any given time, except for under Wage Order 14 (which refers to Agricultural jobs).

When to File a Claim

If your boss is in any way infringing on your rights as stipulated in the break laws above, contact an attorney immediately because the filing deadline for rest and meal break violations varies. In some cases, the filing deadline is three years, while in others a one-year period is applicable.

Non-Compete Agreement Laws

non-compete agreement

A non-compete agreement is an agreement between an employer and employee stating that the employee will not compete with the employer after the employment is over. This agreement mainly aims at protecting the employer from the competition that the employee might bring after the end of the employment.

The employers use this agreement to protect their trade secrets and goodwill. An employee might learn the trade secrets of an employer and then decide to start a business using the acquired trade secrets or use the acquired good will to compete with the employer. This agreement becomes active after the end of employment because this is the time the employee ceases to be the employee of the particular employer.

When Are They Used?

For a non-compete agreement to be valid it must be supported by consideration. This means that the employee must get something in return for signing the agreement. When it is signed before employment, the employer is required to provide the employee with employment that will sustain him or her without having to engage in other things. In case the agreement is signed after being employed, the employer is required to promote the employee or add something else that was not included in the original employment agreement.

Why Use One?

Another condition of this agreement is that it must protect a legitimate business interest of the employer. This means that the agreement should be legal only if when the employee starts competing with the employer or working for the competition the employer will lose something of value. The court is responsible for determining whether the employer legitimate business interests will be affected by the employer starts competing with the employer.

Does It Apply Worldwide?

The non-compete agreement should also be reasonable in scope, time and geography. Every agreement is unique depending on the services provided by the employer. The agreement should state the scope it covers and also the geographical area. If the employer provides services in a certain geographical area the agreement can bar the employee from operating within that particular area but be free to operate in other areas beyond the stated area. The time scope states the period of time when the employee should not engage in the stated business. All these factors need to be reasonable and court plays a big role in determining these factors.

The non-compete agreement can be signed by almost any employee.

Foreign Employees

While hiring foreign employees one might require that they sign this kind of agreement. This is helpful because some of the foreign employees might learn trade secrets and gain goodwill from working for a certain employer.

When hiring foreign employees especially the one with special skills one needs to decide whether to make the employees sign the agreement. Therefore, a non-compete agreement is an important instrument for protecting employers from the challenges that they might face when the employees stop working for them.

When hiring foreign employees especially the one with special skills one needs to decide whether to make the employees sign the agreement. Therefore, a non-compete agreement is an important instrument for protecting employers from the challenges that they might face when the employees stop working for them.

Remember These Things While Applying for Sick Leave in California

sick leave

Sometime back the state of California introduced a new law to promote healthy workplaces by increasing sick leave time. According to this law, the employer needs to give at least 1 hour of paid leave in sickness against 30 hours of work.


That means if an employee works 8 hours a day, five days in a week, then he is entitled to get minimum 11 days of sick leave with pay. Although it is a simple calculation, people have various doubts in their mind about sick leave in California, and this article may give you the better understanding of it.

Qualification for the Program
Many people work as temporary or part-time employees at various business places, and they wonder if they qualify for this new leave policy or not. It does not matter if you work part time, or you are a temporary employee, if you work 30 days or more in a year, then you are entitled to this leave. However, few some specific cases are there, when this rule does not work as it is.
Paid Leave Uses Criteria 
When we talk about paid sick leaves, then mostly it covers only the sickness of employees. However, that’s not the situation with the amendment in the sick leave policy. With the new addition, the employee can take sick leave for taking care of a family member such as their child, partner, or elderly in the family.


Also, if you have someone in the military and that person is at home due to sickness, then you can also take sick leave to take care of them.
Process of Applying for Sick Leave 
If you want to take a paid sick leave, then you don’t have to submit a doctor’s note. You can ask for the leave on a verbal or written application, and you should get the time off from the employer.


However, you must need to give notice for it as soon as you know about it. Also in some cases, you may need to submit some certifications I case your employer asks for it, so be sure to comply with the law.

Here you must understand that your employer needs to maintain the record of all the leaves that you take under sick leave policy. So, when you apply for sick leave in California, make sure you do not try to misuse these law for your own benefit as it can create complications for you in the future.


So, if you are confused about new sick leave rules, then remember these details, and you will have a better understanding in the future.

Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation, Discrimination and the Laws On Them

gender identity

Gender identity is a hot topic in the United States right now. A personal injury attorney can play a key role in the bringing of claims against an employer who actively or passively discriminates against an employee who is perceived to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender to court.


The law prohibits this type of discrimination, even though it happens with frequency. Often it is not the official policy of the company, but rather the actions of middle managers and peers that aren’t prevented or corrected by the employer.

California law also protects individuals against discrimination in housing, based on perceived sexual identity and gender identity.

To successfully pursue any type of discrimination based on sexual orientation, a gathering of pertinent facts is necessary. All communication and incidents should be recorded and saved along with any other evidence that proves the discrimination.


Your own communication with the offending parties is key as well. By engaging a personal injury lawyer who specializes in sexual orientation discrimination cases, you are more likely to have a successful case.

What is Sexual Orientation Discrimination?

The California Unruh Civil Rights Act amendment to the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits discrimination in “all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.” Discrimination is defined by the state as being treated differently or harassed because of real or perceived sexual orientation.


In other words, it’s possible a heterosexual would receive this same level of discrimination if he or she is perceived to be gay or in a reverse situation where harassed by gay or lesbian colleagues.

This type of discrimination in employment can take several forms:


  • Assault
  • Battery (involving physical contact)
  • Defamation
  • Harassment
  • Infliction of emotional distress (intentional or negligent)
  • Interference with an employment contract
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Unequal treatment in recruitment, hiring, job assignments, promotion, compensation and termination
  • Wrongful termination


In housing, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation may include:


  • Different terms, conditions, or privileges
  • Falsely denying availability of a property
  • Lenders refusing to provide credit on equal terms


Because the law clearly ensures employment and housing rights to all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation, infractions are grounds for a civil suit. Contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.

Even though federal law does not now include sexual orientation or gender identity as a secluded class, a lot of state laws do offer that sexual compass reading, gender identity or both are protected classes. Until now, there are almost 13 states and Washington, D.C. that defend against both sexual orientation and gender identity.


All employees may get advantages psychologically if discrimination based on sexual orientation were eliminated in the workplace.


What to Do If There Is Intoxication in The Workplace

Intoxication in The Workplace

There are many reasons why employees may exhibit intoxication in the workplace. Some of them are drug addicts as a result of taking prescription drugs for a long period of time. Other are just fed up.

Some of the commonly abused drugs include alcohol, marijuana, and prescription pills. Most of them find it hard to work when they are sober. This lead to intoxication in the workplace. This can be detrimental.

What Should You Do If You Suspect Intoxication in The Workplace?

There are several things that you should do if you find out that an employee is intoxicated at the workplace.

Most public employees enjoy some protection from drug and alcohol testing. You are not allowed to conduct unreasonable searches and seizures. In addition, you are not allowed to invade their privacy.

Your response will be partly determined by whether the employee appears to be under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.

In this case, the employee is required to meet with a supervisor to determine whether the employee is under the influence of a certain drug or not. You should ensure that you document the facts before doing this.

These documents will form the basis for your suspicion. Anyone can easily spot an employee who is drunk. However, if the employee is under the influence of a controlled substance, a trained observer is needed to conduct a visual examination to establish reasonable suspicion.

As an employer, you should not tolerate employees who are under the influence of drugs. You should have a drug and alcohol policy that governs you on how to deal with such an employee. There are several tips that can help you deal with such an intoxicated employee at the workplace. These are:

  1. Schedule a face to face meeting with the employee.

The supervisor should notify the employee of the time and place where they can meet and discuss the employee performance. The supervisor should plan to hold a meeting in a private place.

  1. Do not address the problem directly.

It is advisable that you avoid dealing with the problem directly. You should instead focus on the employee’s job performance.

  1. Be ready for denial

Most employees are likely to deny that they are not under the influence of any drug. You should be ready for this.

  1. Consider intervention

In the event where the employee has been intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at work, you should consider an intervention. In this case, you can involve his/her close friends to confront them. You should contact a professional counselor to help you.

  1. Offer support

You can readily encourage this employee to go for counseling in order to mitigate this problem. You can even educate the employee on the dangers of abusing drugs and alcohol.

Follow these steps and you will both benefit from the results.


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**CA Overtime is Over 8 Hours worked in a DAY, Federal overtime is over 40 hours in a week.

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