Both federal law and California state law protect employees in a variety of ways. These protections range from ensuring that they receive fair compensation for work time to preserving health and safety by placing limitations on hours worked and mandating minimum break times.
Unfortunately, not every employer complies with these requirements. That’s why it’s important for workers to understand their rights, and also the remedies available if an employer fails to pay overtime rates, denies employees required rest periods, or otherwise violates the law.
Los Angeles County Overtime Policy
The right to overtime pay is protected by both state and federal law. California law extends beyond federal overtime requirements, meaning that California workers are entitled to receive overtime pay under circumstances that would not trigger the federal requirement.
United States Federal Overtime Laws
The federal statute regarding overtime pay is straightforward: non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay for any hours worked in excess of 40 per week. Overtime pay must be at least one and one-half times the employee’s regular hourly rate, and the week is defined as a fixed seven-day period.
One of the most common abuses of federal overtime regulations has been misclassification of employees as “exempt.” The exempt employee classification is intended for management and professional employees. However, some companies have labeled employees who would normally be hourly workers as management and placed them on salary in an attempt to circumvent overtime pay requirements.
In 2016, the Department of Labor took a significant step toward cutting back on this type of abuse by raising the threshold for an exempt employee from $23,660 annually to $47,476. Simply earning $47,476 per year does not mean that an employee is exempt; rather, the threshold is a minimum requirement for exemption. Additional information, such as the employee’s job responsibilities, is also considered.
Federal law places no limitations on the number of hours an adult employee can work in a week, and does not place daily requirement or require days off.
California Salary Laws
California overtime law is much more complex than federal law, but also provides greater protections to employees.
In addition to requiring “time and a half” pay for any hours worked in excess of 40 per week, California law also mandates a premium for long work days. Most California employers must pay non-exempt employees:
• One and one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay for any hours worked in excess of eight in a day, up to and including 12 hours
• One and one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay for the first eight hours worked on the seventh consecutive work day in a week
• Double the employee’s regular rate of pay for any hours worked in excess of 12 in a day
• Double the employee’s regular rate of pay for any hours worked in excess of eight on the seventh consecutive work day in a week
However, there are certain exemptions and exceptions, such that some employers may be required to pay overtime differently, and some employees may not be entitled to overtime pay. And, calculating the “regular rate of pay” may be complicated under some circumstances, such as when the employee is salaried but works an inconsistent number of hours each week, or when an employee performs two separate functions for the company at separate rates of pay.
If you’re uncertain as to whether you are receiving proper overtime pay and think your employer may be cutting corners or have you misclassified, an employment lawyer can be the best source of information about your rights and options.
Claims for Unpaid Overtime Pay Violations in Los Angeles
An employee who has been denied fair overtime compensation has multiple options for pursuing compensation. Depending on the violation, the employee may have only a California state claim, or may have claims under both state and federal law. Additionally, the employee may be able to pursue his or her claim through a complaint to the Department of Labor or through a civil lawsuit against the employer.
Discussing your situation with a California employment lawyer will help you to understand the compensation you may be entitled to, and to choose the best approach for your circumstances.
Rest Periods and Lunch Breaks under California Salary Law
Federal law does not require employers to offer employees breaks—neither short coffee breaks nor lunch breaks. However, when an employer voluntarily offers short breaks of five to 20 minutes during the work day, federal law designates those breaks as work time and requires that the employee be compensated for that time. This requirement does not apply to meal breaks, typically 30 minutes or longer.
California law, however, mandates both rest periods and meal breaks under certain circumstances.
California Meal Break Requirements
A California employer must generally offer a meal break of at least 30 minutes if the employee works for more than five hours in a day. This requirement may be waived by mutual agreement if the employee works six hours or less, but not if he or she works for more than six hours. Similarly, a second meal period is required if the employee works for 10 hours or more, but may be waived by agreement if total work hours do not exceed 12.
Generally, the employee must be free from all responsibility during the meal break and free to leave the premises. There are exceptions, based on the nature of the work. For example, if an employee is the sole worker on a shift in a retail outlet, he or she would not be able to leave the premises without shutting down the business during that time. However, if the employee is required to remain on the premises during the meal break or to perform work during the break, the break is considered work time and must be compensated at the employee’s regular rate.
California Rest Period Requirements
California workers must be granted a paid rest period of at least 10 minutes per four hours worked, with the break time scheduled as near as possible to the middle of the employee’s shift. If a California employer fails to provide for such breaks, the company is required to compensate the employee for one extra hour of work on each day that the break was not authorized.
Employees are free to leave the premises during these rest periods and are not required to remain in contact, so long as they return to work within the allotted time.
Lactation Breaks in Los Angeles
California law includes specific provisions for nursing mothers who need breaks during the workday to express milk. An employer who fails or refuses to provide adequate time as required by Labor Code section 1030 may be subject to a penalty of $100 per violation.
California Employee Rights Attorney for Denied Rest Periods & Meal Breaks
An employee who is denied required rest periods or meal breaks can pursue an administrative remedy or file a civil lawsuit against the employer. In some cases, employees of a company may choose to file a lawsuit as a group or, if the company is large enough, pursue a class action claim against the employer.
Talk to an California Wage and Labor Lawyer
If your employer fails or refuses to follow employment law, whether that means failing to pay overtime pay, falsely classifying you as an exempt employee, refusing you legally-mandated rest periods or meal breaks, or failing to allow you adequate time to express milk while breastfeeding, help is available. Scheduling a consultation with an experienced California employment lawyer can be the first step toward receiving the compensation you deserve.