practice areas

 

Wage and Hour Law

Wage and hour laws establish requirements with respect to wages, hours worked, and working conditions. Under the Labor Code and the Wage Orders, employers have certain obligations, such as the payment of minimum wage and overtime wages, the provision of meal periods, the authorization and permission of rest periods, the timely payment of wages, and the provision of itemized wage statements.

When employers fail to meet these obligations, they can be subject to liability for damages such as unpaid wages, statutory penalties, and civil penalties.

The field of wage and hour law is very complex, and widespread violations can often subject employers to class-action lawsuits brought on behalf of many employees. In addition, federal wage and hour requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") may complicate the analysis of some wage and hour matters. Moreover, there are state and federal exemptions that may completely exempt an employee from wage and hour laws, or merely exempt an employee from certain requirements, such as minimum wage and overtime requirements.

The following are common wage and hour claims:

    • Minimum Wage – By law, an employer must pay its employees at least the minimum wage for all hours worked. The calculation of the applicable minimum wage may vary depending on the situation. In general, California law requires the state minimum wage to be at least equal to the federal minimum wage. As of January 1, 2008, the California state minimum wage is $8.00 per hour. The failure by an employer to pay minimum wage subjects that employer to liability for damages. The amount of damages is typically equal to the difference between what the employee was actually paid and what the employee should have been paid. The employer may also be liable for other damages, such as liquidated damages, attorney's fees and costs, interest, and civil penalties.

     

      • Overtime Wages – Under California law, an employer must pay an employee one and a half times the employee's regular rate of pay if he or she works more than 40 hours in a week or more than 8 hours in a day. The employer must also pay the employee double his or her regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of 12 hours in a day. An employee's regular rate is generally the same as his or her hourly rate, but may be different in certain circumstances. The failure by an employer to pay overtime wages subjects that employer to liability for damages. The amount of damages is typically equal to the difference between what the employee was actually paid and what the employee should have been paid if the overtime hours had been properly calculated. The employer may also be liable for other damages, such as attorney's fees and costs, interest, and civil penalties.

     

      • Meal Periods - Under California law, an employer generally must provide an employee with a 30-minute meal period for every 5-hour work period. The employee must be relieved of all duty during this meal period. If the employee works for a period of more than 10 hours per day, then the employer must provide the employee with a second 30-minute meal period. If an employer fails to provide proper meal periods, then the employer may be subject to liability for premium pay, which is equivalent to 1 hour of pay at the employee's regular rate of compensation. The employer may also be liable for other damages, such as attorney's fees and costs, interest, and civil penalties.

     

      • Rest Periods – Under California law, an employer generally must authorize and permit an employee to take a 10-minute rest period for every 4-hour work period. Typically, the rest period is taken in the middle of each work period. If an employer fails to provide proper rest periods, then the employer may be subject to liability for premium pay, which is equivalent to 1 hour of pay at the employee's regular rate of compensation. The employer may also be liable for other damages, such as attorney's fees and costs, interest, and civil penalties.

       

      • Tools – Under California law, when the employer requires tools or equipment, or such tools or equipment are necessary to the performance of the job, the employer generally must provide and maintain the tools. If the employer obligates the employee to provide the tools, then the employer may be liable to the employee for the costs of the tools. The employer may also be liable for other damages, such as attorney's fees and costs, interest, and civil penalties.

       

      • Wage Statements – Under California law, every employer shall furnish a properly itemized wage statement semimonthly or at the time of each payment of wages. The statement must show certain items, such as gross wages earned, net wages earned, and total hours worked. If an employer fails to furnish proper wage statements, then the employer may be subject to liability for statutory penalties and civil penalties. The employer may also be subject to liability for attorney's fees and costs.

     

      • Payment of Wages – Under California law, an employer must promptly pay an employee's wages upon discharge or quitting. If the employer terminates the employee, then the wages earned and unpaid at the time of termination are due and payable immediately. If the employee quits, then his or her wages are due and payable not later than 72 hours after quitting. Where an employer willfully fails to pay an employee's wages upon separation from employment, the employer may liable to the employee for up to 30 days' wages. The employer may also be subject to liability for other damages, such as attorney's fees and cost, interest, and civil penalties.