Wage & Hour Violations
The labor laws in California are protective of the rights of employees — and for good reason. California’s public policy requires employers to provide fair and lawful wages and to be held responsible for the failure to comply with wage and hour laws because it benefits the working public and California’s economy to make sure that employees are treated fairly. For proven violations, California’s labor laws provide for the payment of penalties and other damages in addition to unpaid wages.
Minimum Wage Laws
Federal and state laws require that your employer pay you minimum wages and, in many cases, overtime wages. While the federal minimum wage for covered non-exempt employees is $7.25/hour, California employees are entitled to be paid at least $11.00/hour, effective January 1, 2018. If you are not being paid the current minimum wage, your employer may have violated these laws and you may be entitled to damages.
Note: Tips and gratuities cannot be counted by employers towards the minimum wage payment owed under the law. Employers must pay you the full minimum wage of $9.00/hour, regardless of how much you earn in tips.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA), employees must receive overtime pay (1.5 times the regular hourly rate) for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek unless their job duties qualify them as “exempt” from overtime provisions. If you are an hourly employee you most likely qualify as “non-exempt.” If you are paid a salary instead of an hourly wage, you may still be entitled to overtime wages. Your job duties and responsibilities determine if you must be paid overtime, not your job title or salary status.
Meal and Rest Breaks
Employers must provide employees with an opportunity to take meal and rest breaks. In California, an employee must be permitted to take an uninterrupted 30-minute meal break and 2 ten minute rest breaks per 8-hour shift. During these meal and rest breaks the employer must relieve the employee of all duties during those breaks. Employers who fail to provide employees with an opportunity to take uninterrupted meal and rest breaks may be liable for up to 2 hours a day of premium pay at the employee’s hourly rate.
Exempt Employee Defined
To be considered “exempt” an employee must meet the following three conditions:
- The Salary Basis Test
The employee must be paid a set sum of money for each week or shorter time period regardless of whether the employee worked fewer-than-expected hours or performed a less-than-desired quality of work. The salary basis test has several exceptions that allow an employer to pay an employee a lesser sum of money including full-day absences due to personal reasons such as illness.
- The Salary Test
To meet the salary test, the employee must be paid a minimum of $23,660 annually.
- The Duties Test
The following three classifications of employees qualify for exemption for overtime payments under the duties test: executive, administrative, and professional.
Executive employees are those whose primary duties are managing at least two employees and who have hiring and firing authority (or whose recommendation on hire and fire decisions are given substantial weight).
Administrative professionals are those who perform office work related to the management of policies of the business and exercise independent judgment on matters of significance to the business.
Professional employees are those whose duties require advanced types of work in a field of science or learning. The U.S. Department of Labor expressly provides that licensed practical nurses, x-ray technicians, and other similar healthcare employees do not meet the professional employee’s test and are therefore subject to overtime provisions. However, registered nurses, physician assistants, and physical therapists are generally considered exempt and accordingly, no overtime wages are due them.