Wage and hour law refers to the numerous state, federal labor, and sometimes city or county, labor laws that employers must follow. Some of the most common violations include:
Failure To Pay Wages Owed
This usually occurs when employees work “off the clock” or when they are not paid all that they are owed when quitting or being terminated.
- Further, among other time restrictions, California law requires employers (with some limited exceptions) to pay its employees at least twice per month on days it has previously designated as “pay days.”
- California employers must also pay overtime wages no later than the following pay day for the following pay period.
- With some limited exceptions, if an employee is terminated, their full earned wages are due immediately upon discharge.
- If an employee quits/resigns with at least 72 hours’ notice to their employer, their full wages are due on their last day.
- If an employee quits/resigns with less than 72 hours’ notice or no notice at all, their full wages are due within 72 hours of their last day.
- Among other things, “wages” include any accrued vacation time.
- If an employer in California willfully fails to pay an employee their full wages due within the time periods described above, the employer is subject to a sanction called “waiting time penalty.” The waiting time penalty becomes due to the employee and consists of one days’ worth of pay for every day the employer is late, up to 30 days.
Failure To Pay At Least Minimum Wage
Many city and county ordinances, in addition to state and federal laws, require employers to pay no less than a certain amount per hour. As of July 1, 2021, the minimum wage imposed by federal law is $7.25 per hour and $14.00 per California law. However, depending in what city or county in California you work in, the minimum wage employers have to pay may be higher. For example, if you work in Los Angeles, your employer must pay you at least $15.00 per hour, and if you work in San Francisco, the minimum wage jumps to $16.32 per hour.
(note: These minimum wage figures assume employers have 26 or more employees.)
Failure To Pay Overtime
In California, employers must pay non-exempt employees extra for hours worked beyond eight hours worked in one work-day or more than 40 hours within one work-week.
- For all hours worked in excess of eight hours or in excess of 40 hours per week, non-exempt employees are entitled to 1.5 times their regular rate.
- For all hours worked in excess of 12 hours, non-exempt employees must be paid twice their hourly rate.
- It is important to note that in addition to “exempt” employees, there are other limited exceptions to overtime.
Failure To Provide Meal and Rest Breaks
California has very strict laws which require employers to provide meal and rest breaks after certain hours of work.
- Generally, employers must give their employees a paid minimum 10-minute break for every four hours worked, and an unpaid minimum 30-minute break for every 5 hours worked.
- During either a meal or rest break, most employers cannot require that the employee remain onsite, and must relieve employees of all duties.
- Also, employers generally cannot create incentives or penalties to encourage employees to skip meal or rest breaks.
- As a penalty for violating these laws, California law requires most employers to pay one hour worth of work for each violation, up to a maximum of two hours per day, to the employee whose rest/meal break right was violated.
Misclassifying Employees As “Exempt” From Wage And Meal/Rest Break Laws
Some employees whose wages don’t depend on the number of hours worked, usually on a salary, are known as “exempt” employees.
- Employers are not required to give exempt employees meal and rest breaks or to pay them for overtime hours worked.
- However, federal and state laws require that an employee meet several criteria before their employer can treat them as “exempt.”
- In California, for example, one of the several criteria includes that the employee must be paid at least $58,240.00 per year.
- If the employee is paid even one dollar less than this, the employee cannot be treated as non-exempt and as is entitled to be compensated for all the overtime they were not paid and receive one hour worth of pay for every time they were not given a rest or meal break (maximum of two hours’ worth per day), among other things.
Misclassifying Employees As Independent Contractors
An “employee” is generally a person who is hired to perform services for another person, company, or organization (“employer”), where the employer controls and directs how, when, and where the hired person performs their work. On the other hand, an “independent contractor,” generally, is also a person who is hired to perform services for another person, company, or organization, but the hiring entity does not control or direct how, when, and where the hired person performs their work.
- Employees are entitled by law to many benefits and protections that an independent contractor is not.
- These benefits and protections include the right to overtime wages, the right to be paid at least a minimum wage, right to sick time, protections under ani-discrimination laws, right to meal and rest breaks, and many more.
- Sometimes, however, whether inadvertently or on purpose, employers will classify a worker as an “independent contractor” rather than an “employee.”
- This usually results in the worker losing out on overtime wages and other benefits and protections.
Wage Statement Violations
Most employers in California must provide their employees with certain information with their paychecks. Among other things, this includes:
- Total pay, deductions made, total hours worked, and hourly rate.
- Not only must this information be provided, but it must also be accurate.
- This means, for example, that if your employer fails to pay you for overtime, the information reflected in your paycheck stub would be inaccurate, and you would be entitled to penalties from your employer.
- This is important because most wage and hour violations will automatically trigger wage statement violations.
- Employers must pay $50.00 for the first wage statement violation, $100.00 for each subsequent violation, up to $4,000.00 per employee.