California labor laws regarding overtime pay and breaks for rest and meals are clear and unambiguous. That fact hasn’t dissuaded unscrupulous employers in the state from victimizing employees in the misguided belief that they can get away with violating those laws. Perhaps they think their workers won’t notice their illegal behavior or will be too intimidated to take action. After all, the employer in many cases is a major corporation, and their workers are, they believe, powerless to fight them. For employers who violate the state’s labor laws, that can be a costly mistake.
You’re In Good Hands (Not)
Jack Jimenez had a great job as a Claims Adjuster with an Allstate branch office in California. He had no reason for complaints, until that is, 2010, when he noticed he wasn’t being adequately compensated for the overtime he worked.
At first, he thought it was an honest mistake, until he started talking to other adjusters in his division. What he discovered was what looked like a pattern of not paying employees for overtime.
Jimenez decided to get to the bottom of this apparent violation of California law. What he found was a pattern of abuse in which Allstate managers had to stay within a fixed annual budget, a budget which gave them an incentive to minimize overtime pay.
Jimenez, with other employees, filed a class action lawsuit against Allstate. Allstate eventually agreed to settle for $120 million for violations over the eight-year period from 1997 through 2004. Adjusters who worked that entire period of time received on average $50,000 each.
Time for Employers to “Think Different”
When Brendan Felczer joined Apple’s Santa Clara operation, he discovered that for Apple workers, the company’s branded slogan of “think different” really meant “think illegal.” Felczer discovered, for example, that he wasn’t alone in working more than five hours without a break.
Felczer decided to act. Comparing notes with other employees, he discovered that Apple, in addition to not allowing breaks, was delaying final paychecks to employees leaving the company. To make matters worse, Apple retaliated against employees for discussing labor conditions in an effort to perpetuate their violations of labor law. Felczer and his coworkers filed a lawsuit against Apple and, in 2016, won a $2 million jury verdict against the company. The suit included more than 20,000 employees.
Know Your Rights, and Know the Law
You can’t defend your rights against employer abuses if you don’t know the law, and, in California, the law regarding overtime pay and breaks is clear:
- Overtime: the laws which cover overtime pay apply to non-exempt employees (those who are not exempt from overtime compensation). For these employees, any work in excess of eight hours a day (and up to 12 hours a day) or more than 40 hours in any work week is considered overtime and must be compensated at a rate of one and one-half times regular pay. Non-exempt employees who work more than 12 hours a day must receive compensation at a rate of twice their regular pay rate. Employees who work a seventh consecutive day in any work week must receive one and one-half times their regular pay for the first eight hours on that seventh day, and double their rate of pay for hours in excess of eight on that day.
- Meal Breaks and Rest Periods: employers are required to provide a meal break of at least thirty minutes following five hours of work. If the employee works ten hours in a given day, his employer must provide a second thirty-minute meal break. In addition, employers must provide a rest period of at least ten minutes in the middle of each work period unless the employee works less than three and one-half hours on a given day. The employer must also pay employees for rest periods.
California law regarding overtime, meal breaks and rest periods is complex. If you feel your employer is violating your rights, find out if other employees are victims of the same violation and seek the advice of a competent employment attorney.
Aiman-Smith & Marcy has won millions in settlements on behalf of California employees. We will work as a team and in close collaboration with you to defend your rights. If you need help because your employer is violating those rights, contact us today.