Employment Law Blog

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Class Action Settlements in California

The well-recognized factors that a trial court should consider in evaluating the reasonableness of the value of a class action settlement agreement include, but are not limited to:
[T]he strength of plaintiffs’ case, the risk, expense, complexity and likely duration of further litigation, the risk of maintaining class action status through trial, the amount offered in settlement, the extent of discovery completed and stage of proceedings, the experience and views of counsel, the presence of a governmental participant, and the reaction of the class members to the proposed settlement.
Dunk v. Ford Motor Co. (1996) 48 Cal.App.4th 1794, 1801.

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Penalties for Violations of the Business & Professions Code

Labor Code §§ 226.7 and 512 and the applicable wage orders require Defendant to authorize and permit meal and rest periods to its employees. California law prohibits employers from employing an employee for more than five hours without a meal period of at least 30 minutes. “[A]n employer’s obligation is to provide an off duty […]

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Mandatory Meal and Rest Periods

Labor Code §§ 226.7 and 512 and the applicable wage orders requires an employer to authorize and permit meal and rest periods to its employees. California law prohibits employers from employing an employee for more than five hours without a meal period of at least 30 minutes, and from employing an employee more than ten hours per day without providing the employee with a second meal period of not less than 30 minutes. “[A]n employer’s obligation is to provide an off duty meal period: an uninterrupted 30–minute period during which the employee is relieved of all duty.” Brinker Rest. Corp. v. Super. Ct., 53 Cal. 4th 1004, 1035 (2012). “An employer must relieve the employee of all duty for the designated period.” Id. at 1034. An employer cannot “impede or discourage [employees] from [taking breaks].” Id. at 1040. Section 226.7 and applicable wage orders also require employers to authorize and permit employees to take 10-minute rest periods for each four hours or major fraction thereof of work, and to pay employees their full wages during their rest periods. “[A]s a general matter, one rest break should fall on either side of the meal break.” Id. at 1032. Unless the employee is relieved of all duty during the 30-minute meal period and 10-minute rest period, the employee is considered “on duty” and the meal or rest period is counted as time worked under the applicable wage orders. When an employer fails to provide a rest or meal period in accordance with the applicable wage orders, the employer must pay the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of pay for each workday that a required rest period is not provided, and one additional hour of pay for each work day that a compliant meal period is not provided. Labor Code § 226.7.

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Compensation for On-Call Shifts

It is well established that an employee’s on-call or standby time may require compensation. “Of course, an employer, if he chooses, may hire a man to do nothing, or to do nothing but wait for something to happen. Refraining from other activity often is a factor of instant readiness to serve, and idleness plays a part in all employments in a stand-by capacity. Readiness to serve may be hired, quite as much as service itself.” (Armour & Co. v. Wantock (1944) 323 U.S. 126, 133; see Skidmore v. Swift & Co. (1944) 323 U.S. 134, 137 (“Facts may show that the employee was engaged to wait, or they may show that he waited to be engaged.”); Madera Police Officers Assn. v. City of Madera (1984) 36 Cal.3d 403, 406 (concluding officers’ on-call mealtime was compensable hours worked).)

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Penalties in California Wage & Hour Suits

California Labor Code § 510 requires employers to pay overtime compensation for hours worked over eight hours per day and 40 hours per week. An employer may avoid paying overtime for hours worked over eight per day by adopting a valid Alternative Workweek Schedule (“AWS”). The procedures for adopting a valid AWS are set forth in Labor Code § 511 and the relevant Industrial Welfare Commission (“IWC”) Wage Order No. 16 (California Code of Regulations, title 8, § 11160, subd. 3(B), 3(C)). Among other things, the law requires an employer to hold a secret ballot election regarding the AWS amongst its employees and to file the results of the election with the State. Prior to the election, the employer must issue a written notification to the affected employees, explaining the election process and the effects of the AWS on the employees’ work schedule and compensation.

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What Counts as “Wages” in the Context of Waiting Time Penalties?

Labor Code §§ 201-203 require an employer to pay all wages owed to an employee who has been discharged or who has quit. If the employer fails to pay an employee all wages owed within the statutorily required time period, § 203 calls for a penalty on the employer equal to one day’s rate of pay for each day the employer fails to pay, for a time period not to exceed 30 days. An employer’s liability for waiting-time penalties under Labor Code § 203 flows directly from the violations established above. An employer can easily satisfy the requirement that their failure to pay proper wages upon termination was “willful.” The standard for willful is not high: “[t]he employer’s refusal to pay need not be based on a deliberate evil purpose to defraud workmen of wages which the employer knows to be due.” Rivera v. Rivera, No. 10-CV-01345-LHK, 2011 WL 1878015 at *7 (N.D. Cal. May 17, 2011). A willful failure to pay wages within the meaning of § 203 occurs when an employer intentionally fails to pay wages to an employee when those wages are due. Id.

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Explaining Wage Order Exemptions in California

The IWC wage orders specify three exemptions for (1) executive, (2) administrative, and (3) professional employees. The exemptions are strictly defined and narrowly construed, and the employer bears the burden of proving the applicability of an exemption as an affirmative defense. Ramirez v. Yosemite Water Co. (1999) 20 Cal.4th 785, 794.

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Certification and Penalties for a Wage & Hour Class Action in California

Labor Code sections 226.7 and 512 in conjunction with Industrial Welfare Commission (“IWC”) Wage Order No. 5 (California Code of Regulations, tit. 8, sec. 11050) require Defendants to authorize and permit meal and rest breaks to their employees.  California law prohibits employers from employing an employee for more than five hours without a meal period of at least 30 minutes.  “[A]n employer’s obligation is to provide an off duty meal period: an uninterrupted 30–minute period during which the employee is relieved of all duty.”  Brinker Rest. Corp. v. Super. Ct. (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1004, 1035.  In order for an employee to be relieved of all duty, the employee must be free to leave the workplace premises.  Id. at 1036.  An employer cannot “impede or discourage [employees] from [taking breaks].”  Id. at 1040.

Section 226.7 and IWC Wage Order No. 5 also require employers to authorize and permit employees to take 10-minute rest breaks for each four hours of work, or major fraction thereof, and to pay employees their full wages during their rest breaks.  A “major fraction of four hours” means greater than two hours.  Brinker, supra, 53 Cal.4th at 1029.  Unless the employee is relieved of all duty during the 30-minute meal break and 10-minute rest break, the employee is considered “on duty” and the meal or rest break is counted as time worked under the applicable wage orders.

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