Violations of Wage and Hour laws
California has been the scene of many high profile lawsuits against major employers for wage theft and violating the employment laws governing the wages and hours of their employees. It has been clear from some of these cases that the employers knew what their legal obligations were, but decided it was in their economic interest to ignore those obligations. These underpayments, non-payments, and other violations are estimated to cost employees billions of dollars annually across the country.
According to the 2013 report from California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), California’s wage theft crisis is well documented. The DLSE report described a UCLA study on the issue just in Los Angeles County:
- An estimated $26 million in wages are stolen every week from low-wage workers in that county
- Among workers who had experienced a pay-based violation in the work week prior to the study, an average of $2,070 was lost annually to workplace violations (from a total average annual earnings of $16,536)
- Almost 30 percent were paid under the minimum wage during the week preceding the survey
- Over the substantial number of workers who had put in more than 40 hours for a single employer during the previous work week, 79.2 percent did not receive the legally required overtime rate
Northern California is not immune from the problem either, nor is it just a California phenomenon. A study of out-of-court settlements of wage and hour claims nationally identified a total of $2.7 billion in settlements during the period 2007 through 2012. The industries with the most settlements, from most to least, were: retail, financial services and insurance, and fast food.
The four most common violations of the wage and hour laws in the study were:
- Nonpayment of overtime
- Classifying employees as exempt from overtime when they are not
- Forcing employees to work more hours than they are paid for (“off the clock” hours)
- Not providing the required meal and break periods
Wage and Hour Laws
In California, wages and hours are governed both by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the state’s Labor Code. The California Labor Code and its accompanying regulations have numerous provisions that set requirements for paying employee wages, from setting the minimum wage, to when overtime is required, which employees are exempt from the overtime requirements, prompt payment of wages during employment and the final payment when the employee leaves the job, and the information that must be provided to employees and retained in the employer’s records.
Violation of these laws supports various types of damages in favor of the employee:
- Unpaid minimum and overtime wages
- Penalties for delays in giving employees their final wages (up to 30 days of wages for this waiting time)
- Penalties for not providing accurate itemized wage statements
- Compensatory payment of one hour’s wages for each meal or break time that wasn’t provided
Help in the Sacramento Area when You’re Owed Wages
It takes an experienced attorney to navigate the interplay of the many different laws covering wages and hours. In addition to the laws described above, any given case may raise other issues that are technical and crucial to the employee’s recovery, like whether releases signed at the employer’s insistence are enforceable, and whether the employer has retaliated against the employee for filing wage and hour complaints (which would be a separate violation of the labor laws).
The team at Labor law Office, APC in Sacramento has the experience to make sure that employees get the wages they have coming, along with any penalties for violations of the laws. We have been approved by courts to serve as class counsel in over a hundred class actions and have successfully represented thousands of employees. We offer a free case evaluation to determine if your rights to pay have been violated.
If you have any doubts about whether you have been properly paid by your employer, call Labor Law Office, APC today.