Seven Obscure California Labor Laws

California has some of the strictest labor laws in the country and employers are expected to comply with nearly every aspect of the employee relationship. The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) is charged with investigating wages, hours, and working conditions of employees. Most employers are familiar with meal and rest breaks, but there are some lesser-known laws that could create employer liability if ignored.

Temperature

Want to save money by cutting the air conditioner? Not so fast. In California, the temperature maintained at work “shall provide reasonable comfort consistent with industry-wide standards for the nature of the process and the work performed.” Wage Order 7, Section 15.

Employers must even control the temperature in toilet rooms, resting rooms and changing rooms, which must have “a temperature of not less than 68 degrees.” Because no one wants to sit on a cold toilet seat.

Suitable Seating

Speaking of seating, California requires that “All working employees shall be provided with suitable seats when the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats. When employees are not engaged in the active duties of their employment and the nature of the work requires standing, an adequate number of suitable seats shall be placed in reasonable proximity to the work area and employees shall be permitted to use such seats when it does not interfere with the performance of their duties.” Wage Order 7, Section 14.

Elevators

Stairs are the one the best forms of exercise. However, California requires that elevators be provided to any employee working “four floors or more above or below ground level.”

Uniforms

“When uniforms are required by the employer to be worn by the employee as a condition of employment, such uniforms shall be provided and maintained by the employer.” Wage Order 7, Section 9. In the past few years, there have been many class action lawsuits filed against employers who require employees to launder their own uniforms.

Literacy

Under Labor Code section 1041, “Every private employer regularly employing 25 or more employees shall reasonably accommodate and assist any employee who reveals a problem of illiteracy and requests employer assistance in enrolling in an adult literacy education program.”

Drinking Water

Pursuant to Labor Code § 2441, “Every employer of labor in this state shall, without making a charge therefor, provide fresh and pure drinking water to his or her employees during working hours.”

Now, this does not mean that an employer needs to supply a fridge of Fiji Water, but it does mean that the water has to be stored in a matter that is free from the elements. In other words, it cannot be a bucket and ladle. Parkhurst v. Indus. Acc. Comm’n, 20 Cal. 2d 826, 129 P.2d 113 (1942)

Cash Shortages

“No employer shall make any deduction from the wage or require any reimbursement from an employee for any cash shortage, breakage, or loss of equipment, unless it can be shown that the shortage, breakage, or loss is caused by a dishonest or willful act, or by the gross negligence of the employee.” Wage Order 7, Section 8.

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Daniel Thompson is an employment lawyer with Davis & Wojcik APLC, a Southern California based law firm with offices located in Temecula and Hemet. He is also the author of Land of Liability: A Guide for California Employers. He can be reached at (951) 652-9000.

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