Employment Law Blog

Filter:  Amaral v. Cintas Corp. No. 2

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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The Definition of “On-Duty” and “Off-Duty” Periods

Employees must be relieved of all duty during their meal and rest breaks. Brinker, 53 Cal.4th at 1035–1036; Faulkinbury v. Boyd & Associates (2013) 216 Cal.App.4th 220, 236. During breaks, an employee “must be free to attend to any personal business he or she may choose.” Brinker, 53 Cal.4th at 1036. An employee is working and “on duty” when he is “subject to the control of an employer,” “including all the time the employee is suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so.” Wage Order No. 9 § 2(H). Time spent by an employee waiting on standby for the benefit of the employer is considered to be on duty. Madera Police Officers Assn. v. City of Madera (1984) 36 Cal.3d 403.

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California Wage and Hour Laws for Large Corporations

“Meal and rest periods have long been viewed as part of the remedial worker protection framework.” Murphy, infra. California law requires employers to authorize and permit rest breaks for every four hours of work or major fraction thereof. The California Supreme Court in Brinker, infra, explained that the “major fraction thereof” requirement means one break for a shift greater than 3.5 but less than 6 (“3.5>6”) hours long, two breaks for a shift greater than 6 but less than 8 (“6>8”) hours long, and three breaks for a shift greater than 10 but less than 12 (“10>12”) hours long.

California Labor Code section 226.7 prohibits employers from requiring its employees to work during any rest period mandated by the Industrial Welfare Commission (“IWC”) Wage Orders. “[I]n light of the remedial nature of the legislative enactments authorizing the regulation of wages, hours and working conditions for the protection and benefit of employees, the statutory provisions are to be liberally construed with an eye to promoting such protection.” Industrial Welfare Com. v. Superior Court, 27 Cal.3d 690, 702 (1980). “[T]he IWC’s wage orders are entitled to ‘extraordinary deference, both in upholding their validity and in enforcing their specific terms.’” Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, 53 Cal.4th 1004, 1027 (2012) (quoting Martinez v. Combs, 49 Cal.4th 35, 61 (2010)). Rest break requirements “have long been viewed as part of the remedial worker protection framework.” Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc., 40 Cal.4th 1094, 1105 (2007).

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“On-Duty” Meal Periods

The Labor Code affords employees a right to off-duty meal breaks, not just permission to eat while on-duty. The applicable Wage Order requires employers to provide every non-exempt employee who works more than five hours with daily “off duty meal periods,” consisting of an uninterrupted 30-minute period during which the employee is relieved of all duty. Wage Order 4-2001, 8 C.C.R. § 11040(11), reads as follows:

“No employer shall employ any person for a work period of more than five (5) hours without a meal period of not less than 30 minutes, except that when a work period of not more than six (6) hours will complete the day’s work the meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and the employee. Unless the employee is relieved of all duty during a 30 minute meal period, the meal period shall be considered an “on duty” meal period and counted as time worked.”

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