Tag Archives: wages & hours

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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Filed under Hourly or Salary?, Overtime, Wages and Hours

Your Employee File – An Employment Lawyer’s Perspective

Employee Personnel File Employment Attorney Request Employee FileAll current and former employees have the right to inspect and copy their employment file. Every employment attorney knows this fact. But what exactly are your rights? What are you entitled too? Can your company refuse?

California Labor Code section 1198.5(a) states:

Every current and former employee, or his or her representative, has the right to inspect and receive a copy of the personnel records that the employer maintains relating to the employee’s performance or to any grievance concerning the employee.

Generally, an employer must comply with your request within 30 days. If they fail to do so you should contact an experienced employment lawyer.

What must the employer give the employee?

According to Labor Code section 432 and the Department of Fair Employment & Housing (DFEH) employers are required to give an employee or job applicant, upon request, a copy of any instrument that the employee or applicant has signed relating to the obtaining or holding of employment.

Moreover, files that are generally considered to be “personnel records” are those that are used to determine an employee’s qualifications for promotion, pay raises, or disciplinary action, including termination. The DFEH has some examples of “personnel records” it believes should be disclosed:

  1. Application for employment
  2. Payroll authorization form
  3. Notices of commendation, warning, discipline, and/or termination
  4. Notices of layoff, leave of absence, and vacation
  5. Notices of wage attachment or garnishment
  6. Education and training notices and records
  7. Performance appraisals/reviews
  8. Attendance records

What happens if my employer refused to disclose my file?

An employer who violates, refuses, or neglects to comply with an employee’s right of inspection is guilty of a misdemeanor. Labor Code Section 1199(c). Despite this law, it is rare than an employer will go to jail for this. However, you may try to get penalties via section 1198.5(k), which states:

If an employer fails to permit a current or former employee, or his or her representative, to inspect or copy personnel records within the times specified in this section…the current or former employee…may recover a penalty of seven hundred fifty dollars ($750) from the employer.

Employment Attorney – What about my payroll records?

According to Labor Code section 226(b), employers are required to permit current and former employees to inspect or copy payroll records pertaining to that current or former employee. An employer who receives a written or oral request from a current or former employee for his or her payroll records shall comply with the request within 21 calendar days.

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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 Discharge & Layoffs, Employment Records, Labor Law, Uncategorized

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

Brinker Part II – Lunch & Rest Breaks in California

Wages, hours, Brinker, time card, punch card, employment law, californiaI mentioned in an earlier post that I would post more information on the California Supreme Court decision Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court. The Brinker decision was huge in the employment law world. It clarified some of the most tricky wage and hour issues.

Here are a few of the important rulings:

Lunch breaks: An employer is supposed to give a 30 minute uninterrupted meal break to employees who work more than five hours. An employers obligation is to relieve its employee of all duty, with the employee thereafter at liberty to use the meal period for whatever purpose he or she desires. The employer does not need to ensure that no work is done. An employer cannot discourage or impede meal periods. If the employer has the employee do work during his or her lunch break, the employee must be paid for it. If the employer relinquishes control and the employee decides to keep working with the employers knowledge, then the employer must still pay the employees hourly rate, but not an additional premium. For those who like bullets:

  • Employees who don’t work more than 5 hours don’t get a meal period.
  • Employees who work over 5 but not more than 6 hours get a meal period, unless they’ve waived it in writing. If they don’t waive it, the meal period must begin by the end of the 5th hour.
  • Employees who work more than 6 but not more than 10 hours get a meal period regardless of whether there’s a waiver. The meal period must begin by the end of the 5th hour.
  • Employees who work more than 10 hours get a second meal period. If they don’t work more than 12 hours they can waive the second meal period. If they don’t waive it, the meal period must begin by the end of the 10th hour.

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Filed under Meal Breaks, Overtime, Rest Breaks, Wages and Hours

California Wage Orders

What are wage orders and why do they matter to an employer?  Why do they matter to an employee?

For an employer, a wage order governs the wages, hours and working conditions in California.  For example, Wage Order 02 guides an employer in the personal services industry on what to pay an employee, what employment records must be kept, when meal and rest periods are mandatory, and other details.  Each wage order is meant to be self-explanatory but in reality is difficult and boring to read.  Wage orders must be posted in the workplace at a location where employees can read them during the workday.

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Filed under Exempt, Hourly or Salary?, Non-exempt, Overtime, Wages and Hours