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Wage and Hour Matters

Wage and Hour Matters – Understanding Your Rights


Wage and hour violations are quite common in workplaces. Violations of this nature may go on undetected for many years. This page covers some of the most important things you need to know about wage and hour matters in California.

Wage and Hour Violations in California Explained

California wage orders and labor laws provide for minimum wage, overtime, double-time, meal and rest breaks, and various other protections.

Employee Misclassification as Exempt

If you are an “exempt” employee, you do not enjoy the protections of the wage orders, labor code, overtime and double-time pay, and various other wage and hour laws that benefit non-exempt employees. Some employers deliberately classify their workers as exempt to avoid paying them overtime wages. The law assumes that employees are not exempt from labor code protections, and employers have the burden of proof to demonstrate that they properly classified their employees as exempt.

One example that happens frequently is classifying managers of fast-food restaurants or retail stores as exempt from overtime and paying them a salary at the bare minimum threshold—while requiring them to work 50-65 hours per week while performing the same or similar work that non-exempt employees perform.

The Law in California provides a two-part test that determines whether you are exempt from overtime and the protections of the California Labor Code.

  1. Salary Basis
  2. Duties Test

Generally, in order to be properly classified as an exempt employee, at a minimum—you must earn two times the state minimum wage, and your wages must be paid as a salary instead of on an hourly basis. If you live in a city or county that has a higher minimum wage than the state, it does not matter. The state minimum wage is how this number is calculated.

With respect to the duties test, it is a fact-intensive analysis that is determined by the nature of the work done and the skills needed to execute it. There are three main categories of employees who are properly classified as exempt employees.

  1. Executive Exemption
  2. Administrative Exemption
  3. Professional Exemption

In order to be properly classified as one of these categories, more than 50% of your time must be spent doing the duties that are typical to these exemptions. Executive professionals have a wide range of job duties that typically involve supervising other employees and making important decisions such as hiring and firing. Administrative employees perform work that is of substantial importance to management and the functioning of a business or other entity. Professional employees have a license that is regulated by the state or work in a profession that is considered artistic. Some examples include doctors, lawyers, nurses, scientists, music artists, creative writers, and actors.

Breach of California Overtime Laws

California law requires that all non-exempt employees receive overtime pay at a rate of 1.5 times above their regular rates. In this state, you are entitled to overtime pay when you work more than 8 hours daily or 40 hours weekly. You are also entitled to double-time pay when you work shifts that exceed 12 hours. This rate should be 2 times your base pay rate, hence the name, “double time.” If your employer forces you to work off the clock to avoid paying overtime, this is unlawful.

Failure to Provide Mandatory Breaks

Employers are required by law to give their employees reasonable breaks during work shifts. More specifically, it is mandatory for employers in the state to provide their employees with a paid 10-minute break for every four hours worked.

Other common wage and hour violations include:

  • Failure to pay employees on time
  • Failure to keep proper records, such as payment records
  • Failure to timely pay employees upon termination of their employment contracts
  • Failure to pay accrued “PTO” or Vacation Wages
  • Refusal to pay earned commissions
  • Unlawful tip pooling practices
  • Requiring that tips be paid to management employees

What Damages Can You Recover From a Wage and Hour Lawsuit?

The damages to expect will depend on the type of violation your employer committed. For example, you may be able to collect the wages you are owed, meal and rest break premiums, penalties, accrued interest, and attorneys fees.

Speak to Our Reputable and Respected Employment Lawyer in San Francisco California Today

If there is evidence to indicate that your employer violated wage and hour regulations that impacted your income, take action by contacting reputable San Francisco employment attorney Melody Rissell Leonard with The Rissell Law Firm. Melody takes pride in helping clients get great results and works tirelessly on behalf of people who were wronged in the workplace. Contact Melody today to schedule a free, confidential case review.

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