Wage and hour laws are designed to protect employees from exploitation
When you have a job, you — rightfully — expect to be paid for the hours that you work. Federal and state wage and hour laws exist to make sure that employers pay their workers fairly. Unfortunately, employers throughout California may still try to avoid paying employees what they are owed.
Wage and hour laws apply to non-exempt employees. Generally, non-exempt employees include people who are paid by the hour, but it may also include salaried employees. These laws do not apply to independent contractors or to exempt employees (such as executive, administrative and professional workers). As a California employment attorney can explain, if you are a non-exempt employee, then your employer is required to pay you minimum wage, overtime, and to comply with recordkeeping and other laws.
There are a number of ways that employers violate these laws. Below, we outline 5 common scenarios.
Not Paying Minimum Wage
In California, all employees must be paid the minimum wage set forth by the California Industrial Commission. Employers may try to get around this requirement by taking advantage of vulnerable workers (such as those immigrants) or by telling employees that their tips or other compensation count towards minimum wage. In California, there is no “tipped minimum wage.” All employees must be paid the full minimum wage (currently $13.00 or $12.00/hour based on the size of the employer).
Not Paying Overtime
Employers in California must pay employees overtime at a rate of one and a half times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 8 hours in a workday or 40 hours in a workweek. Some companies violate these laws by engaging in shady tactics like moving an employee’s extra hours to a new week, or simply not paying overtime at all.
Requiring Employees to Work Off the Clock
Another common wage and hour violation involves asking employees to do work before they have punched in or after they have punched out at the end of the day. Under both California and federal law, these types of requests are illegal.
Not Providing Meal or Rest Breaks
Non-exempt employees in California are entitled to a meal break when they work more than 5 hours in a day, plus rest breaks of 10 minutes every 4 hours. During meal and rest breaks, employers cannot require employees to be on call or perform any work. Despite these clear laws, some employees ask their workers to skip their breaks, come back early, or even refuse to give their employees any breaks when they are busy.
One of the most common ways that employers try to avoid wage and hour laws is by misclassifying their employees as independent contractors. When a worker is considered an independent contractor, they aren’t covered by wage and hour laws and are not entitled to certain benefits and other protections. A relatively new California law, AB5, sets out a test for determining if a worker is an employee or an independent contractor.
If you believe that your employer has engaged in these or other practices to avoid paying you for your work, you may be able to file a claim against them. Reach out to PLBSH today to schedule a consultation with a California employment attorney about your potential case.