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Wage and Hour Issues Attorney in Sherman Oaks, California

California was one of 13 states with minimum wage laws in place before the federal government finally stepped up and passed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, establishing minimum wage, overtime, child labor, and recordkeeping mandates nationwide.

Close to a century later, California now enjoys among the most generous minimum wage and overtime laws anywhere in the nation. Still, some employers will try to skirt their obligations, resulting in what has been called “wage theft,” the act of depriving workers of the full compensation due to them.

If you feel you’ve been cheated out of wages, or have been forced to work “off the clock” or through your break periods, contact The Sweeney Law Firm, APC. We represent employees in wage and hour disputes in the Sherman Oaks area and the rest of California, helping these individuals exercise their right to the compensation they are due.

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Wage & Hour Laws in California

The FLSA established nationwide standards for minimum wage, overtime, child labor, and recordkeeping requirements. The legislation established the workweek at 40 hours within any given seven-day period, and it required the payment of one-and-a-half times a worker’s hourly rate for any time worked past 40 hours.

The FLSA also allowed states to set higher standards, but not to undercut regulations established through Congress and by the Department of Labor (DOL), which oversees enforcement of the FLSA.

California has consistently been at the forefront of exceeding federal mandates. As of 2021, the minimum wage statewide (though counties and municipalities can set higher rates) is $13 an hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees and $14 an hour for employers with 26 or more employees. The rates will rise one dollar each come January 1, 2022, and the following year, $15 an hour will be the standard for employers of all sizes.

California also sets higher overtime standards. If an employee works more than eight hours in one day, they are eligible for overtime after completing those eight hours. After 12 hours, the rate goes to double the regular rate of pay. If an employee works seven straight days in a workweek, on the seventh day the rate of pay must be one-and-a-half times the regular rate for the first eight hours and double the rate for any time after eight hours.

Exemptions to Overtime

Professional and managerial employees, generally known as “white collar” employees, are exempt from overtime pay and other wage and hour requirements if certain conditions are met. Generally, these employees must be executives, administrators, professionals in certain fields, outside salespersons, or computer employees, but this list is not exhaustive.

Also, under California law, an exempt employee must earn at least twice the statewide minimum wage calculated on a monthly basis.

Common Wage & Hour Violations

Minimum wage and overtime pay are two of the most frequent violations of California wage and hour laws.

Employers may argue that an employee isn’t owed overtime because it wasn’t authorized, but California law requires that a non-exempt employee be compensated for any hours he or she is "suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so." This means that, for example, an hourly employee who stays an extra half-hour or hour to finish a project on deadline is owed overtime, even if not authorized or required to work beyond eight hours.

Working “off the clock” for non-exempt employees must also be compensated. If an employer tells an employee to take a project home and complete it, the hours spent at home are compensable. If an employer calls an employee at home on a business matter, the time spent conversing is compensable as well.

California also has break and lunch period requirements. Once an employee works five hours, they must be given a 30-minute (at least) lunch break, which is unpaid. Employees are also entitled to a paid 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked, or a major fraction thereof.

Employers sometimes try to classify employees as exempt when they don’t otherwise qualify so as to avoid overtime. Another ploy is to hire a worker as an independent contractor since independent contractors do not fall under the state’s wage and hour laws, but the state cracked down on this practice with the enactment of Assembly Bill (A.B.) 5 in 2019. This bill codified a decision by the California Supreme Court to classify all workers in the state as employees unless they can meet certain qualifications.

If you’ve been victimized by any of these wage and hour violations, it’s important to reach out to an employment law attorney to protect your rights.

Penalties for Violations

If you are owed wages by your employer, you can sue for back pay. If, for instance, you are denied three hours of overtime at time-and-a-half and your hourly rate of pay is $15, your employer owes you $22.50 an hour, or $67.50.

Minimum wage violations are treated more severely. If your employer fails to pay you the full minimum wage owed to you, you can recover not only the difference but also what is called liquidated damages. If, for instance, you are paid $12 instead of $15 an hour for 40 hours worked, your employer would owe you $120 in unpaid wages ($3 times 40), plus another $120 in liquidated damages.

If an employer denies you a rest break or lunch period or makes you work through them, you will be owed one hour’s pay for each missed break, whether for rest or lunch.

Wage & Hour Issues Attorney
in Sherman Oaks, California

If you suspect your employer of abusing any of your wage and hour rights under California law, including not only minimum wage and overtime but also manipulations of classification or denial of break and lunch periods, contact The Sweeney Law Firm, APC immediately. We have the knowledge, experience, and resources to help you assert your rights to move forward confidently. We proudly serve clients in and around Sherman Oaks, but also nearby in Northridge, Van Nuys, and the entire San Fernando Valley