Category Archives: Wages and Hours

This category examines the minimum wage and overtime laws in California. It also examines jobs that are exempt (salary) and those that are non-exempt (hourly). It also looks at real world examples and cases surrounding this massive body of law.

Employment Lawyers: Ensuring Employees Are Compensated Fairly

In California, as well as across the nation, there are many jobs which require employees to be on “standby” or “on-call”. For example, some employees who are on standby may be required to carry their cell phone or smart phone and check their email regularly while they go about their personal affairs. Other employers may require the employee to carry a cell phone at all times as they may contact the employee to immediately come into work. For the standby or on-call employee, it can become confusing as to whether he or she is being compensated fairly for being on standby or on-call. If something seems unfair, an employment lawyer should be contacted so the employee’s situation can be evaluated.

Under California law, on-call waiting time is compensable if it is spent primarily for the benefit of the employer and its business. In Augustus v. American Commercial Security Services, the employer had a widespread policy which required its employees, security guards, to remain on standby or on-call at all times, even during rest breaks. When on-call, the security guards carried radios and cell phones and were required to be available at all times. The plaintiff class made up of the security guards filed suit alleging they were not being provided off-duty breaks as required under California law as they were essentially forced to remain on-call and were never at any point relieved of all duties. The security guards contacted an employment lawyer to represent them against the employer.

Plaintiffs argued that the employer had to ensure that its employees were completely relieved of all duty during their breaks, and the employee failed to do just that. Defendants argued that it did not matter whether the security guards were on call so long as the rest breaks were never interrupted then there was no violation. The judge was not convinced and sided with the plaintiff class. The judge entered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff class for $90 million.

This case is a huge win for California employees. Unfortunately, employers still violate the law in an attempt to cut costs or maximize their employee’s work time. However, cases such as Augustus v. American Commercial Security Services confirms that there is consequences for employers violating the law and employers can be held accountable in the court of law. If you believes your employer has committed a wage and hour violation, contact an employment lawyer immediately.

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Minimum Wage and Overtime: Holding Employers Accountable for Depriving Employees of Basic Pay

Minimum Wage KittenAs surprising as it may seem, some employers still fail to pay their employees proper minimum wage and overtime under California law. Recently, the California Department of Industrial Relations issued wage theft citations of roughly $16 million against several California restaurants. The California restaurants were cited for wages, premiums, and penalties owed to hundreds of employees for various wage theft violations. Investigations exposed a heinous amount of wage theft as it was discovered that employees, mostly waiters and waitresses, were paid an average of $1.15 per hour. Some waiters and waitresses were even either not compensated at all or were just paid a fixed rate of $200 per month. Also, kitchen employees were also never compensated for overtime. Considering some employers have trouble following wage and hour laws, let’s go over some of the basics.

As of July 14, 2014, California’s minimum wage is $9.00 per hour. Although the Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, California law supersedes for employees working in California. Thus, the California restaurants were breaking both California and Federal law by paying their employees only $1.15 per hour. It is also important to note two important things. Employees cannot waive minimum wage so even if some of the waiters and waitress here agreed to be paid under minimum wage, that agreement would not hold water in court. Second, since we are talking about employees who make tips, California law prohibits an employer from crediting tips toward minimum wage and also prohibits an employer from taking any amount of tip given to an employee by a patron.

Under California law, an employer must pay 1 ½ times the employees regular wage after 8 hours worked in a day and after 40 hours worked in a week for all non-exempt employees. Sometimes employers tell an employee that it is necessary for him or her to work long hours due to the nature of the assignment and therefore overtime is not required. Or employers might tell employees that the company he or she works for does not fall under the kind of company that must pay overtime under California law. These are all fabrications and excuses not to pay an employee. All that matters is if the employee worked overtime hours and whether the employee worked with the knowledge of his employer.

Although it sad and unfortunate that employers continue to violate basic wage and hour laws, citations issued by the California Department of Industrial Relations, such as the citation discussed above, shows that employee rights are still being fervently upheld across the state. If you believe your employer is paying you under minimum wage or you are being deprived of overtime, contact an attorney immediately.

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Governor Brown Raises California Minimum Wage

Governor Brown Raises Minimum Wage in CaliforniaGovernor Edmund Brown will join business owners, legislators and dozens of working Californians tomorrow in Los Angeles and Oakland to sign AB 10 by Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Salinas), which will raise the minimum wage in California from $8.00 per hour to $10.00 per hour.

AB 10 will raise California’s minimum wage in two one-dollar increments, from $8 per hour today to $9 per hour, effective July 1, 2014 and from $9 per hour to $10 per hour, effective January 1, 2016.

Specifically, AB 10 will amend Section 1182.12 of the Labor Code is amended to read:

1182.12.

Notwithstanding any other provision of this part, on and after July 1, 2014, the minimum wage for all industries shall be not less than nine dollars ($9) per hour, and on and after January 1, 2016, the minimum wage for all industries shall be not less than ten dollars ($10) per hour.

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See’s Candy & California Law – Rounding is OK…Sometimes

See's Candy Rounding Wage and Hour Lawyer

Wage Attorney on Rounding – California just came down with another big court decision. This one involves lots and lots of chocolate. In  See’s Candy Shops, Inc. v. Superior Court the California Court of Appeal addressed whether it is legal for an employer to round it’s employee’s time clock entries to the nearest tenth of an hour.

In See’s Candy, Plaintiff was employed in a non-exempt hourly positon by See’s Candies Shops. She filed a wage and hour class action lawsuit. The trial court granted her summary adjudication motion and dismissed four of See’s affirmative defenses. See’s challenged the dismissal of two of the defenses related to it’s policy of rounding employee punch in and out times to the nearest tenth of an hour.

How did this rounding policy work? For example, if an employee clocked in at 7:58 a.m., the system rounds the time to 8:00 a.m., and if the employee clocked in at 8:02 a.m., the system rounds down the entry to 8:00 a.m. The plaintiff argued that this rounding policy violated CA Labor Code sections 204 and 510 because the employees were shorted small amounts of wages.

See's Candy Wage Hour LawyerThe Court determined that See’s argument had merit because there was no CA statute or case law related to rounding, so the Court looked to the federal regulatory standard in the FLSA. Under that standard, employers are permitted to use a rounding policy as long as it does not consistently result in a failure to pay employees for time worked. An employer may use a nearest-tenth rounding policy if it is fair and neutral on its face and it is used in a manner than will not result, over time, in failure to compensate employees for the time they actually worked. See’s presented evidence that its rounding policy did not result in a loss of wages to employees over time.

By the way, this lawyer prefers…no loves the dark chocolate marzipan. It will blow your mind. Just saying….

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Lady Gaga Gets Sued for Overtime – This Deposition Transcript is Simply Amazing

Lady Gaga Sued for Overtime - Wage & Hour AttorneyEven the rich and famous get sued for not paying overtime. Stefani Germanotta, aka “Lady Gaga,” was sued in 2011 by Jennifer O’Neill, her personal assistant. O’Neill claims she’s owed overtime for serving at Gaga’s “beck and call” around the clock between early 2009 and March 2011. She claims she worked $393,000of worth of unpaid overtime.

Gaga was deposed last year. As I’m an employment lawyer, I’m just going to say this…I certainly hope that I can sue someone as awesome as Lady Gaga. I want to have a deposition like this. Now, I could spend a bunch of time detailing the questions, but I think it would be far more entertaining to just quote the ridiculousness that came out of Gaga’s mouth.

“Are you going to stare at me like a witch this whole time — honestly?” Gaga asked one of the lawyers. “Because this is going to be a long f–k ng day that you brought me here.” Later she states: “No, no, no. Listen, listen, sir, if you’re going to ask me questions for the next five hours, I am going to tell you exactly what f–king happened, so that the judge can read on this transcript exactly what’s going on.”

Gaga said none of her employees get paid overtime, adding that O’Neill “knew exactly what she was getting into, and she knew there was no overtime….” “This whole case is bulls–t, and you know it,” Gaga added.

According to the New York Post, Gaga conceded her decision not to pay overtime wasn’t based on labor laws, but is “actually based on a bubbly, good heart.” Gaga said she paid O’Neill’s $75,000 a year. She gave the job to O’Neill as “a favor, and Jennifer was majorly unqualified for it.”

Gaga said O’Neill failed at even the most basic of tasks, noting that “one of the biggest problems I had with Jen is that I felt like she didn’t lay out all my stuff for me” while traveling, because “there is 20 bags and there is only one me, and I can’t sift through everything.

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What About Wages? Termination & Quitting

Wages on firing, termination, layoff, quitting, etc. Donald TrumpEveryone has either quit a job or been fired. Sometimes, employers take advantage of this transition period and fail to pay the employee for all the work that he or she has done. The California Labor Code addresses this vulnerable time and has come up with a series of statutes to protect workers.

Labor Code Section 201 – When an employee is fired, terminated, or laid off, their earned wages are due and payable immediatelyThis also applies to any vested vacation time.

Labor Code Section 202 – When an employee quits without notice their wages are due and payable within 72 hours. If the employee has given at least 72 hours notice, the employee is entitled to their wages at the time of quitting.

Labor Code Section 203 – If an employer willfully fails to pay any wages due to an employee who is discharged or who quits (pursuant to sections 201 and 202), the wages of the employee continue as a penalty from the due date until paid – up to 30 days. This means that your wages continue at the hourly rate you were earning when you quit or were fired for 30 days at 8 hours per day.

Labor Code Section 208 – Every employee who is discharged shall be paid at the place of discharge, and every employee who quits shall be paid at the office or agency of the employer in the county where the employee has been performing labor. All payments shall be made in the manner provided by law.

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Branigan Robertson is a California employment lawyer who exclusively represents employees in workplace disputes. He focuses his practice on sexual harassment, wage & hour, wrongful termination, and retaliation. Visit his website at BRobertsonLaw.com or call his office at 949.667.3025.

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Want to Be a “Private Attorney General” and Fight Labor Injustice?

PAGA, wages, paystub, hours, time card, punch card, employment law, californiaIn 2004, our great State enacted the “Private Attorneys General Act” (commonly known as “PAGA” – Labor Code § 2699). This statute gives an incredible amount of power to everyday employees who want to fight for workplace rights.

Under the PAGA, an employee may bring a lawsuit for Labor Code violations committed against the employee by his or her employer on behalf of other current or former employees against whom one or more of the alleged violations was committed. What is interesting here is that PAGA is not referring to class actions, it creates a private civil action on behalf of other employees. That means the PAGA contains no specific class certification requirements.

Employers are liable for a penalty of $100 for each aggrieved employee per pay period for the first violation and $200 for each aggrieved employee per pay period for each subsequent violation. The aggrieved employee does not, however, recover the full penalty amount. Seventy-five percent of the penalty goes to the Labor and Workforce Development Agency for enforcement of labor laws and education, and only 25 percent is recovered by the aggrieved employees. In addition to the civil penalty, a prevailing employee (but not a prevailing employer) may be awarded “reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.”

What type of penalties are we talking about?

  • Failure to pay wages immediately upon discharge.
  • Failure to pay with a payroll check with sufficient funds.
  • Illegal deductions or withholdings from wages.
  • Failure to provide statutorily compliant paystubs.
  • Failure to provide proper meal and/or rest breaks.
  • Failure to pay all tips and gratuities left for workers.
  • Failure to pay overtime for all hours worked in excess of 8 hours in a day or 40 in a week.
  • Failure to pay minimum wage.
  • Failure to reimburse for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties.

If you are currently suffering from one of the above Labor Code violations, you can become a private attorney general, and sue on behalf of your fellow employees to right the wrong. If you have any questions about PAGA or the labor code violations listed here, feel free to give me a call.

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Branigan Robertson is a California employment lawyer who exclusively represents employees in workplace disputes. He focuses his practice on sexual harassment, wage & hour, wrongful termination, and retaliation. Visit his website at BRobertsonLaw.com or call his office at 949.667.3025.

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Filed under Accurate Paystubs, Meal Breaks, Overtime, PAGA, Rest Breaks, Wages and Hours

California Tip Pooling Laws – “Direct Table Service” Defined

Tip Pooling, Lawyer, Employment Law, Waitress lawyerCalifornia law protects hundreds of thousands of people who work as waiters, waitresses, servers, bartenders, etc. The law protects these employees from having to share their tips with the owners or managers of the company they work for. However, employers are allowed to implement certain types of mandatory tip sharing arrangements (most call this “tip pooling”), but these arrangements must conform to the law.

So what is the law? The California Labor Code states:

Section 351.  No employer or agent shall collect, take, or receive any gratuity or a part thereof that is paid, given to, or left for an employee by a patron, or deduct any amount from wages due an employee on account of a gratuity, or require an employee to credit the amount, or any part thereof, of a gratuity against and as a part of the wages due the employee from the employer. Every gratuity is hereby declared to be the sole property of the employee or employees to whom it was paid, given, or left for….

Section 353.  Every employer shall keep accurate records of all gratuities received by him, whether received directly from the employee or indirectly by means of deductions from the wages of the employee or otherwise. Such records shall be open to inspection at all reasonable hours by the [government].

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California Passes New Regulations on Paystubs

Paystub Requrements - Sample PhotoWhat’s the deal with paystubs? Most employees don’t even look at their paystubs. Existing law in California requires every employer, twice a month or at the time of each payment of wages, to furnish each employee an accurate itemized statement (paystub) in writing showing certain information.

This information includes, among other things, the name of the employee and the last 4 digits of his or her social security number, the gross wages earned, all deductions, net wages earned, the dates of the period for which the employee is paid, and the name and address of the employer. Existing law provides that an employee suffering injury as a result of a knowing and intentional failure by an employer to comply with this requirement is entitled to recover the greater of all actual damages or a specified sum, not exceeding an aggregate penalty of $4,000, and is entitled to an award of costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.

The “injury” required to trigger the penalty has just changed. California just amended its paystub statute (Labor Code § 226) with a new law (SB-1255 which Governor Brown signed into law on September 30th, 2012). The changes go into effect on January 1, 2013.

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Filed under Accurate Paystubs, Class Actions, Lawsuits & Lawyers, Wages and Hours

My Boss Doesn’t Let Me Take A Rest!

If your boss does not let you take a rest break, or forces you to work during your rest breaks, what can you do? What is owed to you? According to California Labor Code Section 226.7:

(a) No employer shall require any employee to work during any meal or rest period mandated by an applicable order of the Industrial Welfare Commission.

(b) If an employer fails to provide an employee a meal period or rest period in accordance with an applicable order of the Industrial Welfare Commission, the employer shall pay the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation for each work day that the meal or rest period is not provided.

Moreover, the applicable wage order to your industry likely includes language similar or identical to this (section 12):

Every employer shall authorize and permit all employees to take rest periods, which insofar as practicable shall be in the middle of each work period. The authorized rest period time shall be based on the total hours worked daily at the rate of ten (10) minutes net rest time per four (4) hours or major fraction thereof.

If you’ve been denied rest breaks, or forced to be ‘on-call’ during your rest breaks, you might have a legal claim. If you want to know more, check out my earlier post on a recent rest break case. The case, commonly known as “Brinker,” was big news because the California Supreme Court weighed in and attempted to resolve lingering questions for wage and hour lawyers all across the state. I’ve also written an entire post exclusively on rest breaks. Check out both to learn more information.

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Branigan Robertson is a California employment lawyer who exclusively represents employees in workplace disputes. He focuses his practice on sexual harassment, wage & hour, wrongful termination, and retaliation. Visit his website at BRobertsonLaw.com or call his office at 949.667.3025.

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Filed under FLSA – Fair Labor & Standards Act, Rest Breaks, Wages and Hours

Independent Contractor or Employee?

Are you an independent contractor or an employee? What is the difference?Many companies try to sidestep California’s law by hiring “independent contractors” instead of employees. If legitimate, independent contractors are not “employees” covered by the wage and hour laws, and therefore companies don’t have to pay them overtime. Legally, companies are not allowed to hire an “independent contractor” if the worker qualifies as an “employee” under California’s economic realities test.

This test looks to see whether the worker is dependent on the company to which they render their services to. In determining whether workers qualify as employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act, courts look at a number of factors, including:

  • the degree to which the employer has the right to control how the work is performed,
  • the degree to which the worker’s opportunity for profit or loss depends upon the worker’s managerial skill,
  • the worker’s personal investment in equipment, labor, or materials required for the job,
  • whether the service at issue requires a special skill,
  • the degree of permanence of the working relationship; and
  • whether the service rendered is an integral part of the employer’s business.

The importance that the court gives each factor depends on the totality of the circumstances; however, the right to control the means and manner of job performance is generally the most important consideration.

On the other hand, if the worker is classified appropriately as an independent contractor, he or she is not a “employee” under California law, and are therefore not entitled to overtime.

Sadly, abuse of this system is rampant. According to one study, tax audits done by the Economic Development Department from 2006 to 2008 show that 29% of audited employers misclassify workers as independent contractors when they should be employees. This comes from the National Employment Law Project (October 2011) Independent Contractor Misclassification Imposes Huge Costs on Workers and Federal and State Treasuries,  p. 4, 5, fn. 5.

If you have been misclassified as an independent contractor, and therefore denied overtime, give an employment attorney a call. You might be owed a lot of money.

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Branigan Robertson is a California employment lawyer who exclusively represents employees in workplace disputes. He focuses his practice on sexual harassment, wage & hour, wrongful termination, and retaliation. Visit his website at BRobertsonLaw.com or call his office at 949.667.3025.

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Filed under FLSA – Fair Labor & Standards Act, Independent Contractor, Overtime, Wages and Hours

Do Employees Get Overtime If They Are Paid A Salary?

Do employees get overtime if they are paid a salary?A common question employment lawyers get is: “I get paid a salary but I work 50, 60, 70 hours a week. Should I be paid overtime?”

As with most legal questions, the answer is far more complicated than the question. But this article attempts to outline the answer without too much legal gobbly-gook.

One of the biggest myths about overtime in California is that people who are paid a salary are never entitled to overtime.  The sad fact is that many people who are paid a salary by their employers are entitled to overtime and don’t receive it, and even more are paid hourly but don’t get any overtime because they work for dishonest companies with shady time-keeping procedures. Thus, if someone tells you that you are not entitled to overtime just because you are paid a salary, they are dead wrong.

In California, everyone is entitled to overtime pay unless they first meet one of the legal overtime exceptions. These exceptions are called “exemptions” under the law. Think of an exemption as a test: if your job passes the test your employer gets rewarded and doesn’t have to pay you overtime; however, if your job fails the exemption, then you are rewarded with overtime. I italicized “job” to emphasize that the test is dependent on your job functions, not on your personal capabilities.

Employers sometimes find it difficult pass an exemption for your job. Undeterred, many companies claim that your job meets the exemption when, in reality, it doesn’t. They do this because they don’t want to pay you the hour. It’s so much easier to pay you a salary – there are no time cards, variable monthly payments, and no overtime.

The next question becomes, what are these exemptions and does your job meet one of them? There are four major exemptions: “administrative,” “executive,” “professional,” and the “computer software professional.” If your job doesn’t meet the requirements for one of these exemptions then you are entitled to overtime pay.

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Filed under Exempt, FLSA – Fair Labor & Standards Act, Hourly or Salary?, Non-exempt, Overtime, Wages and Hours