Employee Wage & Hour, Overtime Claims and Other Labor Code Claims

Employees in California who are improperly compensated may have claims for wages and penalties against their employers. In recent years, wage and hour class action litigation has become an important way to protect employee rights to be compensated properly.

Wage and hour class actions are generally formed when a number of employees (the "class") have the same legal complaint for wages or benefits based on the employer’s policy or practice, which affects all of them. Class actions in such cases can be more efficient and cost effective than each employee filing an individual lawsuit.

Blady Workforce Law Group wage and hour lawyers handle wage and hour class action lawsuits, including:

  • Claims that employees have been mis-classified as exempt professionals, executives or administrators;
  • Claims that employees have been mis-classified as exempt salespersons;
  • Claims that employees have not been compensated for overtime at the appropriate rate;
  • Claims that employees were not provided meal periods and/or rest breaks, or that these breaks were not provided at the correct times;
  • Claims that employees are entitled to unpaid wages for off-the-clock work

Overtime pay is mandated for many employees under both federal law (Federal Labor Standards Act) and California law (the California Labor Code.)

California's overtime laws state that a nonexempt employee should not work more than eight (8) hours per work day or more than forty (40) hours per work week, unless he or she receives one and a-half times (1½) his or her regular pay for all hours worked over that time. Eight hours is legally considered a day’s work, and working more than eight (8) hours a day or more than six (6) days in any work week is permitted, only if the employee is properly paid for overtime at the statutory overtime rates.

There are some legal exemptions from the overtime law, which employers may use to avoid liability. An exemption means that the overtime law does not apply to a specific classification of employees. Employers may purposely misclassify employees as "exempt" even though they do not legally qualify for an exemption. Significantly, the fact that an employee is paid an annual salary does not automatically mean he or she is exempt from overtime laws. A salaried employee must be paid overtime unless they qualify as exempt as defined by federal and/or state laws, or unless they are exempt from overtime by the laws of one of the Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders regulating hours, wages and working conditions. The most frequent types of misclassifications are managers who spend less than half their time in management level duties, or who do not supervise two or more employees, outside salespersons who spend less than half their time on outside sales, inside salespersons not in the retail or service secors or who are not paid a commission based on a product or service's price, professionals who do not have a professional degree or license, and/or employees who do not use the required independent judgment.

Employers are obligated to pay their employees for all authorized overtime. However, even if an employee works unauthorized overtime the employer may be obligated to compensate him or her. California law frequently requires that employers pay overtime, whether they have authorized it or not, because an employee must be compensated for any time he or she is "suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so." Claims like these are referred to as "off-the-clock" claims.

Meal and Rest Periods

California law also states that employees are entitled to additional pay (known as "premium pay") for missed, late, or abbreviated meal periods or rest breaks. California Labor Code section 226.7(b) requires employees to be paid one hour’s pay at their regular rate for each day they are not provided a meal or rest period in compliance with the Industrial Welfare Commission wage order.

The requirement for a daily meal period can not generally be waived. A covered employee must be provided at least thirty (30) minutes for every work period of more than five hours as an unpaid meal period within the first five hours of the workday, with an additional meal period for work days longer than ten hours. During meal periods, employees must be free from all duties, and allowed to leave the workplace. It is the employer's responsibility to ensure that its employees take their enture meal period.

Rest breaks must be given to employees at the rate of ten (10) minutes for each four hours worked, or "major portion" thereof. Unlike meal periods, rest breaks are paid, and employees may be required to remain on the work premises.

Other Significant Employee Wage and Hour Issues

Another significant issue for employees and employers is misclassification of an employee as an independent contractor. The factors for determining whether a worker is an employee or employer often favor a finding of employment, especially where the employer exercises the right to control the employee. California has long viewed the independent contractor classification with suspicion, and mistaken classification may subject an employer to civil claims as well as give rise to state or federal administrative enforcement actions and/or investigations.

BW Law Group's attorneys have successfully litigated wage and hour and overtime claims in the workplace. If you have an employee claim, please contact us for a consultation at 323-933-1352.