MEAL BREAKS ARE REQUIRED FOR MOST EMPLOYEES IN CALIFORNIA

The human body isn’t meant to work constantly. People who are working need to be able to rest for a little bit. They also need to eat. The Labor Code in California sets specific standards for employers so that employees know they can take care of these basic needs.

If you work at least five hours in a shift, you are required to get a 30-minute meal break. The only exception to this requirement is if you work less than six hours and you agree that you don’t need to take the break.

People who work at least 10 hours per day are required to get a second meal break that lasts at least 30 minutes. If the worker works fewer than 12 hours, the second break can be waived if the employee and employer both agree.

One area where employers aren’t always honest is pay for these breaks. The only way the break can be unpaid is if you are relieved of all duties during the entire period. If you have to remain on duty, the meal break must be paid. The only times when you can have an on-duty meal period are if you agree to it in writing or if the nature of the job makes it impossible for you to go off duty. If your employer requires you to remain on the premises, you must be paid, even if you are relieved of all duties.

There are some employers who will try to skirt around these rules. This is unacceptable. Claiming that the business is too busy or that it is short-staffed aren’t good reasons to deny required meal breaks to employees.

If you aren’t given the meal periods required for your shift, your employer owes you one hour of pay per for each workday that you aren’t given the break. If your employer isn’t giving you the breaks you are due and refuses to provide you with the requisite compensation, you might need to explore legal action.

PAY DISCREPANCIES MUST BE HANDLED SWIFTLY SO YOU HAVE YOUR MONEY

You deserve the pay that you are due for the hours that you worked. Unfortunately, some employers want to make as much money as they can, even if it means that they short their employees’ pay. We understand that you might want to just get your money and not have to battle with your employer.

In some instances, employers aren’t making purposeful omissions of your pay. When you bring the discrepancies to their attention, they will likely fix them and ensure that things are correct moving forward. The issue comes in when they won’t acknowledge the problem or don’t want to correct it.

We are here to help you address wage and hour disputes. We know that it is hard to have to challenge your employer, but you aren’t working for free. There is a chance that these issues might effect other employees as well. We can work with you to review the circumstances and help you learn what options you have.

There are many different issues that can impact your pay. One involves you working off the clock — even if you don’t realize it. Another is that your employer might not be paying you for all of the overtime to which you are entitled. A less common way is that you might not be given all the breaks that you are due.

If you have any indication that something is amiss with your pay, you should investigate the matter further. Keeping records of your time worked the breaks that you take might help you determine what is going on.

FIND OUT IF THE PAY YOU ARE RECEIVING MEETS LEGAL STANDARDS

As an employee, you expect to get paid what you were told you were going to receive when you were hired or had a performance evaluation that resulted in a pay change. This is important because most employees count on their paycheck to pay for vital bills like shelter, utilities and food. Most of the time, there isn’t any issue; however, employers aren’t always upfront about pay. This can cause some issues with the employees.

When you are thinking about pay, you should make sure that you are making at least minimum wage. While there are some exceptions to the rule, you should typically be making at least the federal minimum wage or state minimum wage, whichever is higher at the time. If you aren’t making at least that amount, there might be an issue that you need to address. One job that often has an exception is a server who receives tips.

If you are working overtime, which is defined as more than 40 hours per workweek, you should remember that you should be getting a pay bump for those excess hours. This is at least 1.5 times your normal hourly pay.

Another consideration that you have is whether you are getting the breaks that you are supposed to get. There are minimum breaks that you are entitled to. These depend on the job duties you have and the number of hours you are working in your shift.

It might be possible for you to take action against an employer if you aren’t getting the pay that you are supposed to receive. The same is true if you aren’t receiving breaks and other things required by law.

DOES YOUR EMPLOYER MAKE YOU WORK OFF THE CLOCK?

You may be one of those fortunate people in California who has found a job that is fulfilling and enjoyable. Perhaps you work with a group of people who are fun and uplifting. You consider your co-workers your friends, and you even spend time with them after work and on weekends.

No matter how much you love your job or your co-workers, the main purpose of work is to earn money. If you spend time off the clock doing tasks exclusive to your employment, your employer is likely breaking the laws governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act, and you have the right to demand fair compensation for your time.

Common examples of off-the-clock assignments

In addition to failing to pay you for the work you do off the clock, allowing or forcing you to work without compensation also prevents that time from accumulating with your regularly scheduled hours. In other words, if your employer counted the time you work off the clock, you may be eligible for overtime at a higher rate than your normal pay. Withholding overtime is a serious abuse of employees. Some ways in which your employer may require you to work off the clock include any of these or others:

  • Setting up your wait section in a restaurant
  • Warming or loading your truck before beginning your route
  • Re-doing or fixing mistakes on a project
  • Cleaning equipment or re-stocking supplies for the next shift
  • Attending mandatory training or meetings outside your scheduled hours
  • Taking your unpaid meal break at your desk to answer phones or reply to emails
  • Helping a co-worker who is behind on assignments

Your employer cannot ask you to clock out while you are waiting for an assignment or during other down time, such as when your computer needs to reboot. Even if you voluntarily stay after hours or come in early to do prep, paperwork or set-up, your employer is in violation of FLSA.

If your boss demands, coerces or allows you to work off the clock, he or she may owe you back wages. In fact, you may be able to claim off-the-clock wages as far back as three years. You may also qualify for your employer to pay your legal fees as well as any damages you suffered. The process of claiming the wages you deserve begins with a complaint to the U.S. Department of Labor. An experienced attorney can assist you in seeking your lost wages.

RESTAURANTS AND WAGE VIOLATIONS

Wage disputes seem to be a common problem for restaurant employees — whether they’re working at a burger joint or waiting tables at a four-star establishment. Lawsuits over wages have doubled in the last decade, leaving employers and employees equally disgruntled.

How do wage violations happen in restaurants? There are several common issues:

Unofficial employees

Some employers will pay a few of their workers “under the table.” This is particularly common in small establishments, especially those that are mostly family-owned and operated. Keeping the number of countable employees below a certain limit reduces an owner’s insurance and tax liabilities. It also makes it easier to deprive workers of their rightly earned wages and overtime. It’s hard to demand overtime when you aren’t even an official employee.

Shifted hours

Even larger employers have been caught doing this one. In order to avoid paying overtime — or even giving an employee full-time status (along with insurance and other benefits) — restaurant managers have been known to carefully track the number of hours their employees work. When an employee reaches or exceeds 40 hours, they may “shift” those hours to the next pay cycle. This keeps the official tally of the worker’s wages below the threshold for either full-time or overtime pay.

False exemptions

This is a big issue. An employee isn’t exempted from overtime just because he or she is salaried. Employers know this and will sometimes reclassify an employee who has little or no actual managerial duties into a pseudo-managerial position anyhow. It’s important for employees to realize that being called a “shift manager” and given a salary may not be something done for their benefit. It could be a sneaky way of trying to deprive an employee of overtime.

Employees should be alert to signs that an employer is trying to skirt the rules on overtime and wages. Detailed wall charts showing exactly which employees worked what hours (and showing how those hours are being shifted to other pay periods) are a sign. So are cash payments and sudden promotions without the attendant responsibilities. If you’re being victimized by an employer, the Fair Labor Standards Act(FLSA) does provide remedies.

Source: Risk Placement Services, Inc., “The Rise of Wage-and-Hour Disputes for Restaurants,” accessed April 20, 2018

KNOW THE OVERTIME PAY RULES EMPLOYERS MUST FOLLOW

When you work, you might want to get as many hours as you can. Some employers might balk at this and might even limit the amount of hours you can work. This is partially because of the overtime laws that require employers to pay employees more when they work more than 40 hours per week.

Overtime pay is important for employees because it compensates them at a rate of 1.5 times their normal hourly pay for the extra time they are away from home. There are a few different circumstances in which employees are eligible for overtime pay, so understanding these is imperative for anyone who is in the workforce.

Workers who work more than eight hours per workday are eligible for overtime at a rate of 1.5 times their normal rate for any hours over eight up to the 12th hour. The rate of overtime pay increases to two times the normal rate for any hour beyond the 12th of the workday.

Another instance in which workers are eligible for the overtime pay rate of two times the normal rate of pay is when they work seven consecutive days and clock in for more than eight hours on that seventh day.

There are some exceptions to these laws, so you must find out if your case is exempt from these laws. Making sure that you get the money you are due is important since you can’t be expected to work for less than you are legally due. Even if the overtime wasn’t authorized, you might still be eligible to receive payment for the hours you worked.

Source: State of California, Department of Industrial Relations, “Overtime,” accessed Feb. 28, 2018

WAGE AND HOUR DISPUTES MUST BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY

People who have a job rely on their income to make ends meet. When they aren’t given the money they are due, it can make life difficult to live in the same manner in which you are accustomed to living. This is where wage and hour laws come into effect.

Workers can count on these laws to help keep them protected. If you are a worker who has worked and haven’t gotten paid for that work, you need to take steps to get the money that is due to you. Wage and hour disputes must be taken seriously. We can help you explore the options that you have to get what is due to you.

These disputes are often difficult to handle because you might not want to rock the boat at work. Still, you shouldn’t be expected to work without getting paid for it. This is where knowing the law and find out the best option for your case comes in.

Sometimes, there are situations that are simply overlooked by the employer. These are some of the easiest to deal with because the employer is often quick to correct the issue when it is brought to his or her attention.

In cases where the employer doesn’t try to make things right, you might have to take legal action. We are here to help you get your case together so that you can be on your way to getting the pay you should have already received. You don’t have to try to do all of this on your own. We can work with you every step of the way.

HAVE YOUR HONEST WAGES BEEN DISHONESTLY WITHHELD BY EMPLOYERS?

You are likely among the many people who want to do their jobs right and to the best of their abilities. Because you certainly know that working hard could lead you to more successes, opportunities and income, you likely want to ensure that you do not give your employer reason to believe you have slacked off. However, you may feel concerned when you receive one paycheck — or more — that is lower than you anticipated.

Unfortunately, wage theft is a real concern in many areas of employment. Even worse, many workers do not realize that they have had their rightfully earned wages taken or withheld from them. Some employers may try to hide behind misclassifications or policies that do not adhere to employment law and due to a lack of knowledge on the subject, you and many others may not realize you have been unfairly compensated.

When does wage theft occur?

Wage theft does not always come about in obvious ways. Certainly, if your paycheck is lower than the pay you should have received for hours worked, then you likely know something is off. However, you could also face wage theft in other scenarios that may not seem as upfront, such as having to pay for your work uniform or other items needed to carry out your job duties. Other forms of wage theft include:

  • Stealing tips
  • Requiring that you work through meal and rest breaks
  • Deducting from your paycheck without legal cause
  • Paying you “off the books” and therefore, without record of your true pay
  • Requiring that you work off the clock and not paying you for those hours
  • Failing to pay you for overtime hours worked

Of course, other actions could potentially result in unpaid wages, and gaining information on California state laws may prove useful.

Can you fight wage theft?

Losing out on rightfully-earned pay can not only seem disheartening but also cause you to struggle financially. Luckily, options do exist for fighting wage theft. Reports indicate that more lawsuits have been filed in recent years in relation to this type of violation, but it is unclear whether wage theft is occurring more often or whether employees are better understanding their rights.

If you believe that you have missed out on earned compensation due to wage theft, you may want to look into your legal options. A successful legal claim against the liable parties may allow you to obtain back pay and other monetary restitution for resulting damages.

ON-CALL FOR WORK? KNOW THESE PAY POINTS

Many professions come with the need to be on-call for work sometimes. This means that you might not have to go in for a shift, but you need to be ready if you are called. Different employers have different requirements for on-call shifts. These requirements can have an impact on whether you should be paid for the time you are on-call or not.

One restriction that is common when an employee is on-call is having to remain within a certain distance of work. Typically, if this is a short distance, such as five minutes, from the workplace, you will almost certainly be required to be paid. Longer distances might not come with the same pay requirement. This means that if you can go an hour away while you are on-call, you might not be eligible for pay.

Another restriction to consider is your clothing. If you have to wear your uniform while you are on-call, this means that your personal time is being restricted in a manner that will require you to be paid. It is important to realize that if you decide to wear your uniform without your employer requiring you to, your personal time isn’t being infringed upon by the employer.

You also have to think about how much freedom you have when you are on-call if you are trying to determine whether you should be paid or not. If you are very restricted and can’t enjoy the time you are on-call, chances are good that you will be required to be paid. If work disturbs you a lot during your on-call shift, you should likely be paid.

When an employer doesn’t pay you for on-call work, you might need to take legal action. This might not be a pleasant event but you deserve the money you are due.

Source: HR Morning, “FLSA: How to make sense of on-call and waiting time,” Dan Wisniewski, accessed Jan. 19, 2018

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS PERTAINING TO WAGE AND HOUR LAW

Getting the pay you deserve shouldn’t be something that takes a battle. Instead, you should be able to count on your employer to pay you what you are due. Unfortunately, there are some employers out there who don’t do this. When you’re faced with issues with your pay, you need to take action to get your rightful wages. This can be as easy as approaching the employer or as complex as having to file a formal complaint and lawsuit.

There are several things that you need to think about when you are trying to figure out what to do about the issues you’re having with pay. One of these is what your desired outcome for the issue is. If you are still interested in working for the employer and think that the issue was just an oversight, you might choose to simply speak to the employer to try to get the situation corrected.

It is possible that you will have to take legal action against the employer. This isn’t something to take lightly, so think carefully about what you are going to do. We can help you to evaluate the options for getting your money. You can go through these and determine which option you’d like to pursue.

Another issue that some employees face is that employers don’t want to have to give them their rightful breaks. This is another area of wage and hour law where you can take action to get your employer to comply with the applicable laws. You should realize that break guidelines aren’t just suggestions about what should happen. They come from laws intended to protect workers’ rights.