California Wage and Overtime Claims and Disputes
Information Provided by Our Los Angeles Wage Dispute Lawyer
Federal and state laws require that your employer pay you minimum wages and, in most instances, overtime wages. The federal minimum wage law requires your employer to pay you at least $7.25 per hour; however, California law requires a minimum of $8.00 per hour. In many instances, you must be paid for “standing” and/or “travel time.” Your employer is prohibited from fining or docking your wages below the minimum wage. It is also illegal to withhold your final paycheck. If you have not been paid at least $7.25 per hour, or if you have not been paid for all the hours you worked, then your employer may have violated these laws and you may be entitled to damages. A Los Angeles wage dispute attorney can explain the laws more clearly and assist you in making a claim.
Federal and state laws also require that certain “non-exempt employees” be paid overtime wages which is time-and-a-half wages for each hour worked over forty (40) in individual workweeks. Even if you are paid a salary instead of an hourly wage, you may still be entitled to overtime wages. Your job duties and responsibilities determine if you must be paid overtime, not your salaried status or job title. If you have not been paid overtime wages in an individual workweek, your employer may have violated these laws and you may be entitled to damages. A Los Angeles overtime attorney can help you determine what you are entitled to and assist you in making claims.
If you are an hourly (“nonexempt”) worker, the FLSA requires that you be paid at one and a half times your regular hourly rate if you work more than 40 hours in a five-day workweek. Several classifications of salaried employees are exempt from the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the FLSA: outside salespersons, independent contractors, employees of certain retail establishments, amusement and recreation park employees, and others who meet various statutory tests, such as persons who hold bona fide executive, administrative, or professional jobs. The rules governing whether you are considered an exempt executive, administrative, or professional worker are complex. Speak to a lawyer for more details where applicable.
In addition to claims of employee entitlement and problems regarding the computation of overtime, other disputes that sometimes arise include whether an employee can waive the right to overtime pay, what rights employers have in requiring people to work overtime, whether employers can equalize overtime on a day-to-day basis, and problems with unauthorized overtime.
In one recent case, an employer docked a worker $3,300 for taking time off. She sued and won. The court ruled that when this occurred, the worker became reclassified as an hourly worker and once any professional worker is classified as hourly, the company is liable for all overtime incurred during the past two years for that employee and similarly situated employees. The company was ordered to pay $750,000 in damages to the woman and 23 others. A Los Angeles unpaid wages attorney can determine what you are entitled to and assist you in making your claims.
Tip: If you are a salaried exempt professional, question all company policies that impose partial or full-day unpaid leaves. If you are an hourly employee, recognize that most compensatory plans (also called comp plans) allowing workers time off without pay in the work period following the week they worked excessive hours, or allowing them to work more than 40 hours one week to make up for working less than 40 hours in a previous week, may be illegal. Each workweek must be considered separately in determining overtime hours, regardless of the length of the pay period, except for certain occupations (e.g., police officers or firefighters); employers giving time off must compute the value of such benefits at one and a half times the regular rate of pay.
Employers who fail to pay required overtime are liable for any unpaid overtime compensation and an equal amount as liquidated damages, plus attorney fees and costs. For willful violations, damages sometimes include earned overtime up to three years back, plus punitive damages. A Los Angeles wage dispute lawyer can determine the violations and help you seek your compensation.
Counsel Comments: Since the purpose of the FLSA is to ensure that employees are paid their full wages, employers may not make any deals to settle wage-hour claims for less than the full amount (even when a release is signed by the employee to defeat the rights of the worker). Although usually courts are pleased when prospective litigants compromise their differences, no such compromise is generally accepted under FLSA.
If you are an hourly worker, you may be entitled to overtime pay under the following conditions:
- If you arrive to work earlier than your starting time and do light work at the request of the employer
- If you typically work through lunch breaks at the employer’s request
- If you take work home with the knowledge and permission of the employer
- When at home you are required to be “on call” and ready to report to work within an hour
- If you work several hours of overtime on a Friday and the employer states that you can leave work several hours earlier the following week
- If the job requires you to stay overnight for out-of-state assignments or travel extensively while on company business (but not for normal commuting travel to and from your home)
- In these and other situations, speak to a knowledgeable labor attorney about your rights and options. The wage and hour law is complex, and matters are often subject to detailed investigations.
However, employers are generally required to give nonexempt workers as much advance notice as possible when they are expected to stay late. They should also rotate overtime, maintain a roster recording each worker’s overtime, and establish rules as to how the roster system will work. Federal law requires employers who offer overtime to post signs outlining the federal minimum wage and overtime regulations conspicuously in places where workers enter and exit.
Additional rules concerning overtime are:
Generally, employers cannot force workers to waive their entitlement to overtime. If the company has no knowledge that an employee is working overtime and has established a rule or policy prohibiting overtime work that is conspicuously posted, an employee may not be entitled to overtime pay after making a claim. The FLSA does not protect employees who deliberately over-report their overtime hours. The employer may terminate an employee who falsifies overtime hours and may not be subject to claims of retaliation or unfair treatment. Generally, employees cannot refuse to work overtime unless they have a valid reason (e.g., taking care of a sick child). If the refusal to work overtime is not for good cause and the employer suffers undue hardship, this may be grounds for a valid termination and denial of unemployment benefits, even for union workers protected by collective bargaining agreements. However, if you believe you were fired unjustifiably, speak to a lawyer immediately. If you are requested to participate in a company-sponsored program after hours, such as a mercy session (e.g., a company-sponsored blood drive), and are an hourly worker, you may be entitled to overtime compensation.
Many wage disputes are the result of unpaid wages, improperly calculated overtime, and minimum wage violations. If you have a Los Angeles wage dispute claim, contact a Los Angeles wage dispute lawyer at our law firm today to set up a consultation. Our Los Angeles wage dispute lawyer gives clients information about what to do if they are not receiving the correct pay.