Wage and Hour violations are employment law violations that occur when employees are not paid for the hours they work or are denied breaks or other provisions legally mandated by California law.
Many employers assume that their employees do not know or understand their legal rights as workers in the state of California and attempt to take advantage of them by denying proper breaks or making their position salaried so they can avoid paying their employees overtime.
Most employment law cases deal with wage and hour laws. It is easier to form a wage and hour case against an employer since much of the relevant information needed is recorded in emails or can be confirmed by other employers.
Because the employee policies at most workplaces do not differ between job classifications, wage and hour cases often end up becoming class-action employment law cases, where many current and former employees will file a lawsuit against the employer to make up for their lost wages.
If you feel that you are not being paid accurately for the amount of work and overtime that you put into your place of work, contact our California employment law attorneys now at (800) 561-4887 for your free consultation.
Wage and Hour Laws in California.
The following are several different categories of wage and hour laws. Click the button to read more about that type of violation.
Lunch and 10-Minute Breaks
Businesses in California are required to allow lunch breaks and 10-minute breaks for their employees. The breakdown of these requirements is as follows:
- 30-Minute Lunch Breaks:
Employees must be given a 30-minute unpaid lunch break within the first 5 hours of work unless the employee’s shift is completed within 6 hours. Employees must not be required to work or even be required to be on the premises when taking their break. If company policies require employees to be on the premises during their lunch, the lunch period must be paid.
- Second Lunch Break:
A second 30-minute lunch break must be given if an employee works more than 10 hours. This must take place by the end of the 10th hour of work. An employee does not have to take this lunch break if their shift does not last longer than 12 hours if a first meal break was taken.
- 10-Minute Paid Rest Breaks:
Rest breaks must be given for each 4-hour period on the clock. Areas for employees to rest are required within the workplace that are separate from the bathrooms or the rest of the work area. Unlike meal breaks, employers can require that the workers stay on company premises, as they are paid for these break periods. Industries with exceptions to this law may include construction, mining, or drilling, as well as other jobs requiring high levels of physical activity.
Right to Waive Breaks
Lunch Breaks: Employees can take on-duty meal breaks only with the express agreement in writing between employee and employer. This agreement can be revoked at any time by the employee.
Rest Breaks: Employees are not required to take their rest breaks if they are aware that they have the option to do so.
There are some industries that have some exceptions to these laws, like the medical, construction, or film industries. Industries in which it would be detrimental to company operation to provide breaks often are governed by a different set of laws, requiring made-up rest periods or additional pay for rest periods not taken. (for example the crew on a commercial fishing boat or employees at 24-hour care facilities)
If you are unsure of your rights to rest and meal breaks, our California wage and hour attorneys can answer any questions during your free consultation and help you take legal action if your rights have been violated.
Penalties for Not Allowing Breaks
If an employer fails to provide meal breaks and 10-minute breaks for their employees, they can be required to pay the employee as a penalty – 1 hour of pay for every day that a meal period was missed, and 1 hour of pay for every day that a break was not provided.
California law regarding breaks is complex and is not always gathered in one place. For example, most of the legislation regarding break periods can be found in the labor code section 512, but the industrial welfare commission (IWC) wage orders also regulate the rights of the employees of specific industries and the exceptions in break laws for their shifts.
Due to the complicated nature of the laws, it is best to get a consultation with one of our California wage and law attorneys if you believe that your rights as an employee are being violated.
Contact Bisnar Chase to schedule a consultation or to answer any questions you may have regarding wage and hour law.
Overtime and Exempt Status
California law states that all non-exempt employees be paid overtime after the first 8 hours of work in a day, or after working more than 40 hours in a week. A more specific breakdown is as follows:
- 1.5x Rate of Pay for Overtime: Overtime law states that workers must be paid 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for overtime, for between 8-12 hours of work in a day, or for the first 8 hours worked on the 7th consecutive workday in a week.
- 2x Rate of Pay for Overtime: If an employee works past 12 hours in a day, or for any time after the 8th hour of work on the 7th consecutive workday in a week.
Who Is Exempt from Earning Overtime?
The legal language concerning overtime-exempt employees is extensive and open to interpretation at certain points, but there are a few primary positions that are exempt from OT:
- Executive Employees:
Executive employees are those who are actively involved in managing their enterprise and regularly oversee the work of other employees. Executive employees are also required to have influence in the hiring and firing process.
Read the full description of an executive exemption as defined by California Labor Law.
- Administrative Employees:
Administrative employees are those who primarily perform work related to business operations or educational system operation and training. These employees must regularly exercise discretion and judgment and execute special assignments and tasks.
Read the full description of an administrative exemption as defined by California Labor Law.
- Professional Employees:
Professional employees include those who are licensed to practice their business (medical, engineering, accounting, etc.) or those whose primary work is considered an artistic profession. Their work must be creative and original and not necessarily governed by set practices and intellectual ability.
Read the full description of a professional exemption as defined by California Labor Law.
Other Exempt Employees
Other exempt employees include:
- Employees of the State
- Outside Salespeople
- Immediate Relatives of the Employer
- National Service Program Employees
- Drivers (Cab, Bus, Farm Vehicle)
This list is by no means comprehensive. If you would like to learn more about who is exempt, visit the California Department of Industrial Relations page on overtime laws.
In general, to be exempt from overtime pay, you must also earn a salary that is higher than 2 times California’s minimum wage of $10/hr. This equals a yearly salary of $47,476. If a salaried employee is not making this number, he or she cannot be qualified as exempt from overtime.
Penalties for Not Paying Overtime
The number of penalties that can be assessed against a company for not paying overtime or misclassifying your employees as exempt can add up to be significantly more than the amount it would cost to pay them overtime in the first place.
If you have not received your overtime wages, you can first file a wage claim with the labor commissioner’s office, and if you no longer work at that position, you can file a lawsuit for a waiting time penalty, which can pay out a day’s wages for each day you have been waiting for your overtime payment – up to 30 days.
If you have not been receiving overtime payments, it is very likely that your employer has also been violating laws regarding proper wage statements, which can also increase your payment from the employer by up to $4,000. Our California wage and hour lawyers can help you analyze and dispute inaccurate wage statements.
As part of the California labor code, employers are required to give their employees a statement every time they are paid with the following information:
- Gross Wages Earned
- Total Hours Worked (Except for Exempt Employees)
- Piece-Rate Units Earned and Piece-Rate if Employee is Paid on a Piece-Rate Basis.
- All Deductions
- Net Wages Earned
- Pay Period Dates
- Name and Last 4 Digits of Employee Social Security Number
- Name and Address of Employer
- Applicable Hourly Rates in Effect
Since those employers who do not pay overtime do not include overtime on their pay stubs, they are usually also in violation of this law requiring complete pay stubs.
Penalties for Insufficient Pay Stubs
Employers who willfully ignore these laws are required to pay $50 dollars for the first pay period in which the violation occurs, and $100 per employee for each pay period violation after that up to $4,000 dollars. Employers may also be required to pay costs and attorney fees for their employees if a lawsuit is filed.
The minimum wage in California is now $10.50/hour and will be rising to $15/hour by 2023 due to a California minimum wage bill signed and passed in March 2016. The federal minimum wage is $7.25/hour at the time of writing.
Minimum wage laws exist at a federal, state, and local level. Employers must follow the highest minimum wage law set by any of these entities, and workers cannot agree to work for a lesser wage. There are only a few exceptions to minimum wage laws:
- Outside Salespeople are Exempt from Minimum Wage Laws
- Parents, Spouses, or Children of the Employer are Exempt
- Apprentices Under State Apprenticeship Standards
- Trainees during their first 160 hours of employment may be paid no less than 85% of minimum wage
Unlike Federal Law, tipped wait-staff in California are not allowed to be paid a lesser wage and their tips cannot offset the amount that the employer pays hourly. Wait staff must be paid at least minimum wage in addition to the tips they receive. If you are concerned that your employer is not paying you the highest minimum wage possible as dictated by law, one of our California wage and hour attorneys may be able to help you seek compensation for your losses. See more information about California’s minimum wage on the California Department of Industrial Relations website.
Equal Pay for Women
Thanks to President John F. Kennedy, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 ensures that men and women get paid the same amount of wages for the same amount of work in a similar classification.
Although the federal government protects the wage rights of workers of all genders, there are groups and organizations that claim women are still marginalized in the workplace and that currently, women on average make $0.80 for every $1.00 a man earns for the same amount of work in the same position.
Being paid equally for the work that you perform is your legal right. The law states that all workers must be paid the same rate of wage if the work is of equal value and the job classifications are similar to each other. There are no exceptions to this universal law in America.
If you feel that the wage that you are receiving for the work you have put in does not accurately reflect the labor that you perform or that you have become a victim of gender discrimination in the workplace, our California wage and hour lawyers may be able to help you out. The best way we can help you is if you set up a free consultation with us. We will sit down with you and discuss the facts of your case. If your case qualifies you for compensation, we will fight relentlessly to ensure justice is served.
Honest Attorneys Who Will Fight for You
You need to have evidence of wrongdoing and willful disregard for the law to have a good wage and hour case against an employee.
If you contact one of our wage and hour attorneys, they will help you accumulate all the evidence you need, and the sooner you start, the more you will likely be able to collect. Wage and Hour victims can be compensated for missing breaks, being classified incorrectly as exempt, not being paid according to the law, and for not being provided with accurate pay stubs.
One of our clients who worked for a payday loan company received a settlement of 2 million dollars for their class of employees, and that is just one of many settlements that we have secured for our clients. Call us today to set up your free case review.