Ask any working person to identify their favorite day at work, and you’ll likely receive a consistent response: payday.  Payday replenishes an employee’s funds, provides relief, and elicits joy.  For most employees, payday is a seamless practice. You work, and you receive your wage in guaranteed intervals, which customarily are weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. Unfortunately, employers are increasingly engaging in wage and hour violations, which often leave employees under-compensated for full wages due.

As a result of living busy lives, people are not largely preoccupied with the myriad of laws and rules governing wage and hour procedures.  However, these laws are integral to the employer-employee relationship. Numerous state and federal laws provide protections for hourly workers, including minimum wage, overtime pay, and mandatory meal, rest, and recovery breaks.  These rules also regulate pay stubs, tips, and shift scheduling. Continue reading this article to discover your rights and learn how to take action if your employer is violating the law.  

Contact Astanehe Law today if you have any questions about wage & hour law or require legal representation to resolve a dispute regarding your pay or scheduling.

1. Minimum Wage

Although Congress mandates a federal minimum wage, California imposes a higher statewide minimum wage throughout the state. Effective January 1, 2019, California’s minimum wage for employers with 25 or fewer employees is $11.00 per hour. Employers employing 26 or more employees is $12.00 per hour. California’s minimum wage will reach $15.00 per hour in 2022.

Locally, employees have fared better as numerous cities have accelerated municipal minimum wage increases.  Under California law, employers must comply with the highest applicable minimum wage, which is commonly the amount set by the local government.

CityCurrent Minimum WageOther
San Francisco$15.00 per hour 
Oakland$13.80 per hour 
San Jose$15.00 per hour 
Emeryville$15.00 per hour for business with 55 or fewer employees; $15.69 per hour for businesses with 56 or more employees. 
Berkeley$15.00 per hour 
Richmond$15.00 per hour 
Daly City$12.00 per hourIncreases to $13.75 per hour on January 1, 2020.
Santa Clara$15.00 per hour 
AlamedaBeginning July 1, 2019, $13.50 per hour.Increases to $15.00 per hour on July 1, 2020.
Palo Alto$15.00 per hour 
Mountain View$15.65 per hour 
Cupertino$15.00 per hour 
Belmont$13.50 per hour 
Milpitas$13.50 per hourIncreases to $15.00 per hour on July 1, 2019.
FremontBeginning July 1, 2019, $13.50 per hour for business with 26 or more employees.  Beginning July 1, 2020, $13.50 per hour for business with 25 or fewer employees.Beginning July 1, 2020, $15.00 per hour for business with 26 or more employees.  Beginning July 1, 2021, $15.00 per hour for business with 25 or fewer employees.
Redwood City$13.50 per hourIncreases to $15.00 per hour on January 1, 2020.
San Mateo$15.00 per hour501(C)(3) nonprofits need only pay employees $13.50 per hour, but increases to $15.00 per hour beginning on January 1, 2020.
San Leandro$13.00 per hourIncreases to $14.00 per hour on July 1, 2019.
Los Altos$15.00 per hour 
El Cerrito$15.00 per hour 
Sunnyvale$15.65 per hour 

2. California Wage & Hour Laws

Both federal and state governments regulate employee shifts, scheduling, wage pay, and other employment relationship elements, collectively known as wage and hour law.  Several local governments may also regulate wage and hour rules, including San Francisco.  This article primarily covers the California Labor Code and Wage Orders from the Industrial Welfare Commission, which set forth the law governing wage and hours throughout the state.  Employers must comply with these laws and orders.  Further, employers must post wage orders where employees may easily read them while at work.  Typically, employers post a standardized poster printed by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement in break rooms.

i. Employment Records

Employers must maintain records of the names and addresses of all employees, the ages of employed minors, and all employees’ daily hours worked and wages paid.  California Labor Code §§ 226, 1174 – 1175.  Employers are required to maintain these records for at least two years.  Id. at 226(a).  Employers must keep records detailing wage deductions for at least three years.  Id. at 1174(d).  If you suspect your employer is not keeping adequate records, or need the records for a lawsuit or administrative hearing, you can request record inspection at any time.

ii. Overtime Pay

Federal and state statutes and wage orders set the standards governing overtime compensation payment. 29 U.S.C. § 207; 29 C.F.R. § 541.0 et seq.; California Labor Code § 510 et seq.; 8 C.C.R. § 11010 et seq.  Under California law, the most employee-favorable overtime pay law is applicable.

Overtime compensation is based on a multiple of an employee’s regular rate.  In California, employers must pay at least one and a half times the employee’s regular rate for hours worked over forty hours per week or more than eight hours per day.  California Labor Code § 510(a).  Additionally, employers must pay employees double their regular hourly rate for work over twelve hours per day.  Id.

Although employers are free to designate any day as the start of the work week for scheduling and compensation purposes, they are not permitted to do so to avoid the obligation to pay overtime.  Seymore v. Metson marine, Inc., 194 Cal. App. 4th 361, 371 (2011).

Contact Astanehe Law if you believe that your employer has failed to pay you overtime pay under the law, or has manipulated scheduling to avoid their obligation to pay overtime. Let us help you obtain justice.

iii. Paystubs

The state regulates your paystubs.  Employers are required to provide paystubs under the law.  California law requires employers to produce pay stubs containing the following information:

  •             The employer’s name and address;
  •             The employee’s name and the last four digits of their social security number;
  •             The inclusive dates for which the employee is being paid;
  •             The employee’s gross wages earned;
  •             The applicable hourly rate and total hours worked for hourly employees;
  •             All withheld deductions;
  •             The employee’s net wages earned; and,
  •             If the employer is a temporary agency, the pay stub must include the rate of pay and total hours worked for each temporary job the employee held during the pay period.

Where an employer pays an employee additional money to cover business expenses, the employer is obligated to reimburse the employee promptly.  The employer should separately identify the amounts for business expense reimbursement and labor performed.  California Labor Code § 226(a); Gattuso v. Hale-Hanks Shoppers, Inc., 42 Cal. 4th 554, 573 (2007).

Unsurprisingly, employers do not always comply with pay stub laws. If your employer has violated these laws, you may be entitled to injunctive relief, which generally engenders a court order to comply with the law. If your employer committed knowing and intentional violations, they may also be required to pay you the greater of either your actual damages or $50.00 for the initial pay period in which a violation occurs. If the violation continued over multiple pay periods, your employer may be required to pay $100 for each violation in the subsequent pay period. Total damages shall not exceed $4,000. The law also awards a successful employee their reasonable attorney fees and court costs. California Labor Code § 226(e), (g).

iv. Tips

Employees who earn tips should know that employers, which include managers, may not take any portion of tip money given to employees by customers.  California Labor Code § 351.  However, employers can institute a tip pool to include all employees.  Leighton v. Old Heidelberg, Ltd., 219 Cal. App. 3d 1062, 1068 (1990).

If your employer has misappropriated your tips, consider filing a claim at the IWC or initiating a lawsuit in court.  Contact Astanehe Law today to learn about your rights.

v. Shifts

The California Labor Code requires employers to pay employees who work a split shit an additional hour’s pay at minimum wage.  8 C.C.R §§ 11010 – 11150.  A split shift occurs when an employee’s schedule is interrupted by nonpaid work periods established by the employer.  This requirement applies to employees who earn more than minimum wage. However, these employees are only entitled to the difference between what they earn and would have earned had they been paid minimum wage for their entire shift plus an extra hour.  Aleman v. AirTouch Cellular, 209 Cal. App. 4th 556, 575 (2012).

The requirement to pay an enhanced minimum wage does not apply where an employee resides on the employer’s property.

vi. Standby or On Call Time

Standby and on-call time are compensable if spent, “primarily for the benefit of the employer and [their] business.”  Armour & Co. v. Wantock, 323 U.S. 126, 132 (1944).  The prototypical example of compensable on-call time is firemen on call at the fire station.  Courts utilize several factors in determining whether such time is compensable, including the nature of the parties’ agreement, and the degree to which the employee is free to engage in personal activities while on call or standby.

Certain local governments have passed laws regulating standby and on-call time.  San Francisco, for example, has detailed requirements regarding many aspects of on-call pay for full and part-time workers at “Formula Retail” employers.  Formula Retail employers are San Francisco businesses that have at least forty stores worldwide.  Most critical is the requirement that Formula Retail employers pay their employees for two hours’ wages where the on-call shift lasted four or fewer hours.  If the on-call shift exceeded four hours, employers must pay four hours’ wages.  San Francisco Police Code, Article 33F, 33G.

vii. Commuting

Although California employees spend record amounts of time commuting to and from work, travel time between home and work is generally not compensable. 29 U.S.C. §§ 251 – 262. Nevertheless, travel time may be compensable if the travel involves a special one-day assignment in another city, or at another job site, or for specialized training. 29 C.F.R. § 785.37.

viii. Job Set Up and Prep Time

Preparation activities that are an integral part of the employee’s principal activity are compensable as time worked.

ix. Seven Day Workweeks

Every employee is entitled to one day’s rest in seven.  To ensure employees receive their day off, the Labor Code prohibits employers from requiring employees to work more than six days in seven.  California Labor Code §§ 551 – 552.

x. 72 Hour Cap

Employers cannot terminate employees who refuse to work more than 72 hours in a single week.  8 C.C.R. § 11040.  However, an employer can require an employee to work more than 72 hours during periods of emergency.

3. Meal, Rest, and Recovery Breaks

Every employee is entitled to meal, rest, and recovery break periods.  8 C.C.R. §§ 11010 – 11150.  Employers must provide paid rest periods lasting at least ten minutes of rest for every four hours worked.  Where an employee’s shift is fewer than four hours, the employer must provide a ten-minute rest period after three and a half hours.  Id.  To the greatest extent possible, employers must provide rest periods in the middle of an employee’s shift.  Id.

Employees who work outdoors are afforded a recovery break to cool down and prevent heat illness. California Labor Code § 226.7(a). Employers must allow and encourage recovery breaks.  Id.  These breaks must be at least five minutes long.  Id.  

Employers cannot require employees to be on-call during rest and recovery breaks.  California Labor Code § 226.7(b), (c).

Where an employer fails to provide a rest or recovery period, the employee is owed one additional hour of pay at their regular hourly rate for each day that a rest period was not provided.  California Labor Code § 226.7(c).

Employees have three years to bring a claim against their employer for failure to provide mandated rest and recovery breaks.  California Code of Civil Procedure § 338(a).  However, the statute of limitations increases to four years in certain situations.  Business & Professions Code § 17200 et seq.

If an employee works more than five hours in one day, they are entitled to a meal break of at least thirty minutes in length.  If the employee works more than ten hours in a day, they are entitled to a meal break of at least one hour in duration.  California Labor Code § 512(a).  Unlike rest and recovery breaks, meal breaks are unpaid.  8 C.C.R. § 11010 et seq.

Employers who fail to provide legally required meal breaks must pay one additional hour of pay at the aggrieved employee’s regular rate of pay for each day a meal break was not provided. California Labor Code § 226.7(c). 

If your employer has failed to provide legally required meal, rest, and recovery breaks, you may have a legal claim against your employer.  You have rights, and your employer may be liable for money damages.  Contact Astanehe Law to learn about your rights and your potential remedies.

4. Enforcement & Remedies

Aggrieved employees may obtain judicial relief by filing a civil action in court based on breach of contract or a statutory violation.  For wage and hour violations, the court does not require employees to exhaust their remedies, which would require the filing of a wage claim at the Labor Commissioner.  However, employees retain discretion to obtain such administrative redress.

Remedies for wage and hour claims include wages due and owed, other forms of compensation (commissions, bonuses, benefits, and vacation pay), statutory penalties, injunctive relief, interest, court costs, and attorney fees.  California Labor Code §§ 218.5(a), 1194(a).  However, attorney fees are not recoverable in an administrative proceeding to recover overtime compensation.  California Labor Code § 87.2(c).  Here, attorney fees are awarded only for a successful appeal of a Labor Commissioner’s order.  Punitive damages are not available for wage and hour claims.  Brewer v. Premier Golf Properties, LP, 168 Cal. App. 4th 1243 (2008).

Employees considering legal action against their employers should consider that a successful employer can get a fee award against the employee-plaintiff if the court finds that the employee brought the action in bad faith.  California Labor Code § 218.5(a).  Accordingly, do not initiate an action against your employer without contacting Astanehe Law for a free case evaluation first!  Let Astanehe Law assist you in mounting a winning case against your employer.