All too often, employees in California do not fully understand their rights regarding wages, hours and overtime. As a result, numerous violations by employers go unnoticed and unchanged.
The best way to ensure that you and your coworkers are being treated fairly by your employer is to recognize and take action against wage and hour violations. The first step in being able to do so is to understand Federal and state laws and how they apply to your legal rights as an employee.
Most wage and hour issues fall into the following categories:
- Minimum wage violations - As of January 1, 2016, the minimum wage in California is $10 per hour. Employers are not allowed to include tips in the minimum wage calculation; it must be the flat rate before gratuities are added. Additionally, managers, supervisors and owners are not allowed to share their employees' tips.
- Overtime issues - Nonexempt employees cannot work more than eight hours in a work day or 40 hours in a week without receiving time-and-a-half for those extra hours. After working more than 12 hours in a day or eight hours on the seventh consecutive day, employees receive double their hourly rate.
- Employee misclassification - To avoid paying overtime, employers may classify certain employees as exempt or, in some cases, even as independent contractors. According to the law, an exempt employee must have certain discretion, authority and duties as part of his or her role. Independent contractors should have a relationship with the employer that is different from that of an employee. It is not acceptable for an employer to use this title to avoid payroll taxes, minimum wage and overtime requirements.
- Meals and breaks - California employees who work more than five hours are to receive a 30-minute, uninterrupted meal break. If the work period is six hours or less, however, the break can be waived only through mutual consent between employer and employee. And addition 30-minute break must be offered after more than 10 hours. This can also be waived through mutual agreement if a shift is less than 12 hours and if the first break was not waived.
If you suspect any of your wage and hour rights have been violated as an employee, you can seek counsel from and experienced employment law attorney.