WE FIGHT INJUSTICE IN THE WORKPLACE
Who is covered?
Minimum wage, overtime, meal breaks, rest periods and off-the-clock work.
What to do if your employer commits a violation.
Los Angeles Wage and Hour Litigation Attorney
Has your employer refused to pay you overtime, even when you work more than 40 hours per week? Or perhaps you are not receiving any meal or rest breaks during your shift. These are just two examples of wage and hour violations–that is, an employer’s refusal to follow California law with respect to the minimum terms and conditions applicable to certain employees.
If you are the victim of such violations, you may need to take legal action against your employer. California wage and hour litigation attorney Jamie Wright, Esq., can help. She represents clients who have been subject to illegal and unfair working conditions, and she can help you hold a negligent employer accountable for any violations of your rights under federal and California law.
Am I Covered by California Wage and Hour Laws?
At the outset, many workers are unsure as to whether wage and hour laws even apply to them. The general rule is that anyone who renders service to an employer for compensation is presumed to be an employee, and that employee is protected by certain laws governing minimum wages, rest breaks, overtime, and so forth.
There are a number of caveats. The first is that some workers are actually “independent contractors” rather than employees. An independent contractor typically cannot succeed in a wage and hour lawsuit. At the same time, determining whether you are actually an independent contractor or an employee is itself a complex legal question–and even you may not be sure of the answer.
Obviously, employers prefer to classify workers as independent contractors whenever possible. However, the mere fact that the employer calls you an “independent contractor” does not automatically make it so. California law. In 2019, California adopted Assembly Bill 5, which codified the “ABC test” for ascertaining a worker’s legal status. Under this test, an employer can only classify you as an independent contractor if it satisfies all of the following conditions:
- As a worker, you are “free from the control and direction” of the employer in connection with how you perform your work;
- The work that you do perform is “outside the usual course” of the employer’s business, i.e., not part of its core functions; and
- You are “customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.”
If the work that you perform does not meet any one of these three requirements, you should be classified as an employee.
Even if you are an employee, you may also be considered “exempt” from wage and hour laws under certain circumstances. Most employees engaged in “executive, administrative, and professional” work are considered exempt, as are individuals who work in certain licensed professions. Once again, the mere fact that your employer declares you “exempt” does not, in and of itself, deprive you of protection under wage and hour laws. The employer must still demonstrate you actually meet the specific requirements of the exemption.
Indeed, wage and hour litigation is often necessary to address situations in which an employer has clearly misclassified workers or improperly declared them exempt. So, if you have any doubts as to your legal status with a current or former employer, it is in your interests to speak with a qualified California wage and hour litigation attorney right away to receive further guidance.
What are the Different Types of Wage and Hour Laws That Protect Me?
Most wage and hour lawsuits fall within one of five categories: misclassification of employees as independent contractors, as discussed above; failure to pay the minimum wage; failure to pay overtime; failure to provide mandatory meal or rest breaks; and failing to pay employees for “off-the-clock” work. Here is a brief overview of the latter three categories:
The federal government sets a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all non-exempt employees. California, however, requires a significantly higher minimum wage. As of January 1, 2020, the California minimum wage is $12.00 per hour for businesses with 26 or more employees and applies to many workers who are considered exempt from the federal minimum wage. (The minimum wage will increase $1 per year until 2023, when it reaches $15 per hour.) For businesses with 25 or fewer employees, the current minimum wage is $11.00 per hour. To be clear, state law controls when it comes to the minimum wage, so your employer cannot justify paying you less based on the lower federal standard. Nor can your employer ask you to work for less than the California minimum wage.
If you are a non-exempt employee, you are entitled to overtime pay for any hours worked past 40 in a given workweek. California mandates overtime pay of one-and-one-half times your “regular rate of pay” whenever you work more than eight hours in a given day. If you work more than six days in a row, you must also receive time-and-a-half for the first eight hours you work on the seventh day. Beyond that, you are also entitled to double your regular pay for any hours worked in excess of 12 during a workday, or in excess of eight on the seventh consecutive day of work.
Note that you are entitled to overtime even if your employer did not expressly authorize any additional hours. While your employer may “discipline” you for taking overtime without authorization, they still have to pay you if you actually did the work. And your employer can require you to work overtime hours so long as they follow the payment rules described above.
Meal Breaks and Rest Periods
If you are a non-exempt employee and work more than five hours on a given day, your employer must give you a 30-minute meal period. On days when you work more than 10 hours, your employer must also give you a second 30-minute meal break. There is some flexibility here: You and your employer may agree to waive the second meal break when applicable, and you can even waive the first break if your shift lasts no more than five hours. However, the decision to waive a meal break is entirely up to you–your employer has no right to pressure or coerce you into not taking them.
In addition to meal periods, California employers must give non-exempt employees a 10-minute uninterrupted rest period or break for every four hours worked. In other words, during a typical eight-hour shift, you must receive at least two breaks of 10 minutes each.
Your employer must pay you for all time during which you perform work. Depending on the nature of your job, this can include time spent on work-related activities before or after your shift officially begins. You are also entitled to pay if you perform any work during a mandated meal break or rest period.
What Should I Do if My Employer Commits a Wage and Hour Violation?
California law permits you to sue an employer who refuses to follow any of the wage and hour laws described above. For example, if your employer has been paying you less than the California minimum wage, you can sue for damages equal to the difference between the minimum wage and what you were actually paid. A court can also award you interest on this unpaid balance as well as your legal fees and court costs. Similarly, if your employer has not given you the meal or rest breaks required by California law, you can ask for damages equal to one hour’s pay for each day that your employer failed to follow the law.
In many wage and hour cases, more than one employee is affected by an employer’s violations. In these situations, employees may join together and file a class action. This is a special type of lawsuit that allows multiple plaintiffs to share the same attorney, and when possible negotiate a common settlement with the employer on behalf of all employees affected by the same wage and hour violations.
Contact California Wage and Hour Litigation Attorney Jamie Wright, Esq., Today
Even when employees know they are being short-changed by their employer, there is still often a reluctance to step forward and file a complaint. Some workers fear retaliation, even though that is prohibited by California law. Others feel it may not be worth “making a big deal” over an overtime or off-the-clock violation. These violations can quickly add up. Once an employer realizes they can get away with taking legal shortcuts, that only provides an incentive to take even greater advantage of employees.
You do not and should not have to put up with such behavior. California wage and hour litigation attorney Jamie Wright, Esq., is here to assist workers who face unfair treatment at the hands of their employers. Contact her today to schedule a consultation regarding any wage and hour-related legal matter.