As 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.
For the past few days I’ve been absorbing information at the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA) annual conference. It has been an astounding event, full of highly intelligent and successful lawyers who deeply care about California worker’s rights.
I’ve seen presentations on wage and hour class actions, individual wage and hour cases, representing undocumented workers, updates on the evolving law concerning class waiver provisions in unconscionable arbitration agreements, and detailed analysis on the Harris v. City of Santa Monica mixed motive case. In all, if you practice employment law and you don’t go to this conference, you’re missing out on incredible tips, tricks, and strategies.
I’ve also had the pleasure to meet some highly regarded lawyers: Lawrence Bohm, Bryan Schwartz, and Glenn Kantor. I’ve seen presentations by David deRubertis, Michael Singer, and Cliff Palefsky. I can only hope that one day I’ve accomplished half of what these amazing individuals have accomplished. Keep up the good work!
What’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.
I love reading my local news. The Orange County Register does a good job covering local business affairs. Jan Norman, covering small business, is a fantastic reporter. She is objective and fair. But I have a little beef with her recent article, “Business survey ranks Calif. 47th in lawsuit climate.”
The article is about a survey conducted by the U.S. Chamber Institute of Legal Reform (ILR), a national lobby group for big business. According to ILR’s website:
The (ILR) is a national campaign, representing the nation’s business community, with the critical mission of making America’s legal system simpler, fairer and faster for everyone.
Further down the page it states:
ILR aims to neutralize plaintiff trial lawyers’ excessive influence over the legal and political systems.
This is a ridiculous position. Plaintiff lawyers are consistently the underdogs representing the little guys. In general, they don’t have millions of dollars to throw at cases like the lawyers who were surveyed by ILR. Moreover, plaintiff lawyers don’t have the lobbying power that Corporate America has in Federal and State legislatures.
Read more after the jump….