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Wage and Hour Violations
One of the most important rights for many California employees is the guarantee of a minimum wage and protections to take breaks to eat and rest when working. Though the laws are complicated, an employer who agrees to pay a certain compensation for work done must follow through on their end of the agreement and not take steps to illegally deduct wages or avoid paying employees fairly. If you have questions or believe you are not being paid fully or fairly, speak to a California employment attorney at Walton Law, APC right away.Misclassification Violations
Because exempt employees are not required to be paid according to minimum wage laws, some employers try to make life easier for themselves by misclassifying workers as exempt or hiring people as independent contractors.Exempt vs. Non-Exempt
As a way to avoid paying minimum wage, overtime, or giving meal and rest breaks, some employers try to classify employees as exempt. However, to properly do so an employee must be paid at least double the existing minimum wage no matter the number of hours the employee actually works. Employers must also show the employee spends most of their time performing administrative, professional, or executive duties. If both of these are not met, the employee is not exempt.Employees vs. Independent Contractors
Independent contractors often lose out on important benefits like paid vacation, workers’ compensation, and overtime. So, in California, workers are presumed by the law to be employees and subject to minimum wage laws unless:
- They are free from the employer’s control and direction as related to performing their work
- They perform work outside the employer’s usual business
- The worker usually performs the same nature of work they were hired for as an independently establish trade, occupation, or business
In California, non-exempt employees must be paid a minimum wage based on the size of their employer. It can be difficult to determine which wage applies to you because there are exceptions for some workers and some industries, but a skilled California employment lawyer can help you determine if you’re being properly paid.All Hours Worked
Employees must be paid for “hours worked” – not just compensable time performing regular job duties during their shift. Also, employers are not permitted to round hours down on a time clock if it means an overall loss of pay due to the decrease in an employee’s hours.
- Training Time – Non-exempt employees must usually be paid for time spent training, in meetings, or for similar activities unless they are unrelated to the employee’s work and are voluntarily attended.
- Preparation Time – Time spent donning protective equipment or setting up before a shift may also be compensable.
- Travel Time – Employers usually don’t have to pay for an employee’s regular commute to and from work. However, if an employer directs an employee to travel, run errands, or go to a different office, they may be required to pay for that time.
- On-Call or Waiting Time – Even if simply waiting for something, employees who must remain at work on-premises must be paid for all hours because California usually deems them to be working.
Exempt employees aren’t entitled to overtime. However, non-exempt employees are entitled to time-and-a-half when working more than 8 hours in a single day or 40 hours in a single week. They must also be paid this overtime rate for the first 8 hours they work on the 7th consecutive day during a workweek. The rate goes to double their usual rate when working more than 12 hours in a single day or any time over the first 8 hours worked on the 7th consecutive day in a workweek.Commissions, Tips, and Piece Rate Employees
It is important for California employees to know employers usually can’t pay commissioned employees less than minimum wage no matter how much or little income they generate. Outside salespeople who primarily work in the field instead of the office are usually the only exception. Commissioned employees are also entitled to overtime except when over half their income is from commissions and their total income in the pay period exceeds 1.5 times the current mandatory minimum wage. Commissions are included when calculating the overtime rate for eligible employees.
Any tips or gratuities received are not counted towards meeting the minimum wage an employer owes, and employers are prohibited from participating in tip sharing or pooling with their employees.
Employees paid by piece rate must still be paid at least minimum wage during a pay period regardless of how much product they produce. These employees must also be paid at least minimum wage (and paid separately) for work time where they aren’t earning piece rate wages – cleaning and waiting for orders, for example.Meal and Rest Break Violations
In California, a private employers failure to provide legally required meal and rest periods is among the most common violations. Employers must provide non-exempt employees a reasonable opportunity to take:
- A 30 minute, uninterrupted, work-free period off the clock whenever they work more than 5 hours during a shift
- A second meal period of this type of more than 10 hours are worked in the same shift.
Though an employee doesn’t have to force an employee to take the meal period, they can’t discourage an employee from taking it. There are only two ways both parties may waive meal periods. If the shift ends before the 6th hour of the shift the first period may be waived, and if the first meal period was provided and more than 10 hours are worked the second may be waived. Any such waiver must be truly voluntary.
All non-government employers must provide non-exempt employees the reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted, off-duty, 10-minute rest every 4 hours or substantial portion of it in addition to required meal periods – this equates to two 10-minute breaks in an 8 hour shift. As with meal breaks, the employer must not discourage taking breaks, including failing to relieve them, but is not forced to require employees to take them.Other Violations of the Labor Code
In addition to complying with wage and hour laws, employers must follow dozens of other rules to be fully compliant in California. For example, employers in California must:
- Must provide legally compliant wage statements with employee paychecks
- Must keep accurate employment records
- Must not deny access to records they possess including documents you signed, pay records, and your employee file
- Must not prohibit you from talking about pay with other employees
Not being paid what you’re owed by your employer can be frustrating and subject you to unfair financial stress. Whether your employer knows but has not addressed the problem, or you are afraid to speak out for fear of retaliation, the skilled California employment lawyers at Walton Law, APC are here to help. Get in touch with us 24/7 by calling (866) 338-7079 or by using our Contact Us page to schedule your risk free case review. The initial consultation is always free. Let our attorneys review your unique situation, answer your questions, explain your options, and fight to make sure you get the money that your employer owes you.