Steve Smith, a spokesman for the California Labor Federation, called 2013 "a banner year for workers" in the state and said the benefits of the legislation would be felt immediately.
"California has really established itself as a national leader in terms of protecting the rights of workers, and that's exactly where we should be, in our view," he said.
In the most far-reaching move, minimum-wage earners will be paid $9 an hour starting July 1, the first of two dollar-an-hour boosts that will push the base wage to $10 by 2016, giving the state one of the nation's highest rates.
Other benefits and protections take effect Jan. 1.
Domestic workers now must be paid time-and-a-half if they work more than nine hours in a day or more than 45 hours in a week, although baby sitters are exempt from the mandate. California follows Hawaii and New York in offering certain protections to in-home caregivers.
Another law requires that workers in industries such as agriculture and landscaping get rest breaks during hot weather.
Immigrants in the country illegally receive several new rights and protections.
It is a crime for employers to report workers to immigration authorities in retaliation for work-related complaints and for anyone to extort money from those in the country illegally by threatening to report their legal status.
Local law enforcement agencies can no longer detain immigrants for deportation if they are arrested for a minor crime and otherwise are eligible to be released from custody. Law enforcement agencies also are prohibited from requiring immigration or citizenship papers before releasing crime reports and other public records.
Immigrants who are not U.S. citizens can assist voters casting a ballot, and lawyers who are in the country illegally can be licensed to practice law.
A law granting immigrants who are in the country illegally the right to a driver's license will take effect in 2015.
Other new laws add job protections for victims of domestic violence and other crimes. Employers cannot fire an employee who has been a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, nor can they dismiss a worker who is the victim of certain crimes and takes time off for a court hearing.
The California Chamber of Commerce opposed the minimum wage increase, which it warned will drive up costs for all businesses and consumers. Other laws affecting workers add to the cumulative impact on employers, the chamber said.
"We already have some of the most onerous labor laws in the country," said Jennifer Barrera, a labor policy advocate with the chamber. "When you add the new laws, we are concerned about the increased burden on employers."
Professional athletes who spend most of their careers with teams based in other states were among the few workers to lose a job-related protection. They face restrictions in filing workers' compensation claims for cumulative trauma incurred during their professional careers.
On a major social issue, California went its own way in expanding abortion rights, while some other state legislatures work to limit access to abortions.