The term “wage and hour claims” can be confusing, seeing as it covers such a wide array of violations. To help California employers gain a better understanding of wage and hour law, Fishman, Larsen & Callister has put together this concise overview on the topic.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (and Its Impact on Wage & Hour Claims)
First, let’s address what the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) even is and how it lays the foundation for all wage and hour claims throughout the United States. Whether your company is public or private, the primary federal wage and hour restrictions it faces are dictated by FLSA. Enforcement of FLSA is left in the hands of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD). However, most states (including California) have their own departments of labor as well. This is the entity that enforces the state’s wage and hour laws.
For any employer to be fully compliant with wage and hour regulations, they will need to adhere to federal, state, or local laws. If any of these are violated, it is possible that the employer will have a wage and hour claim rightfully leveled against them. They may even face litigation. How Can Employers Avoid Receiving Wage and Hour Claims?
To minimize their chances of being faced with a wage and hour claim, there are some key pieces of information employers will need to be familiar with.
For instance, they will need to understand what time, specifically, is compensable. They will also need to have a clear understanding of how to accurately calculate overtime pay. In fact, one of the most common types of wage and hour claims involves being unreasonably compensated for overtime work. Although this is sometimes a deliberate act on the part of the employer, other times, it is a negligent error.
Further, employers will need to have a developed understanding of how to classify their employees. Another common form of wage and hour claim occurs when an employee is misclassified — for instance, a standard employee could be falsely classified as an independent contractor. This misclassification will have a significant impact on the wages they receive, the taxes they face, and the amount of break time they’re legally required to receive.
More specifically, the employer will need to know the difference between an exempt and a non-exempt employee and be able to classify everyone accurately. They will also need to accurately distinguish between trainees, interns, and volunteers.
Finally, for employers to successfully avoid wage and hour claims, they will need to abide by child labor laws.
What Are the Most Common FLSA Violations?
As we mentioned at the start, wage and hour claims come in many forms. There are, however, some iterations that are more common. Some of the most common FLSA violations are as follows:
Failing to Receive Required Rest or Meal Breaks
If a worker isn’t receiving their required allotment of rest and meal breaks, then they have the right to enact a wage and hour claim. Additionally, if that individual isn’t being paid appropriately for their break time, this is another reason for a claim. If an employee is made to work during their break time, they also reserve the right to be compensated for lost wages.
On occasion, an employer might offer an employee compensatory time off at a later date rather than providing them with necessary overtime pay. Although this might seem like a fair exchange, it is actually a direct violation of wage and hour laws. If this occurs, the worker could take their employer to court for lost overtime wages.
Unpaid Lectures, Meetings, and Training
It isn’t uncommon for employees to face required lectures, meetings, training, or similar events. In each of these instances, it’s necessary for the employer to pay their worker for attending these meetings or events. If they aren’t appropriately paid, this is a violation of FLSA and could result in a wage and hour claim.
Unpaid Work-Related Travel
If an employee is required to travel for work, they will need to be paid appropriately for their time. Whenever an employer fails to pay their employee for any work-related travel, they are violating FLSA.
Minimum Wage Violations
Another common cause of wage and hour claims occurs when an employer fails to pay their workers minimum wage. Firstly, keep in mind that the federal minimum wage is currently set at $7.25 — however, many states have a minimum wage that is higher than this amount, and that higher amount is what employers in that state must adhere to. Further, the state minimum wages in several locations are incrementally increasing over time.
For instance, in California, the current minimum wage for employers with more than 26 employees is $13 an hour. For employers with fewer than 26 employees, on the other hand, the minimum wage is $12. This has been the case since 2020, although between 2019 and 2020, each of these numbers was exactly one dollar less. As time goes on, the minimum wage in CA is increasing — this also means that the standard for minimum wage violations is changing as well.
Underpaid or Unpaid Overtime
Finally, a common cause of wage and hour claims is due to underpaid or unpaid overtime work. This is relatively straightforward; if an employee isn’t appropriately compensated for the overtime work they perform, then they are permitted to sue their employer for a wage and hour violation. FLSA states that if a non-exempt employee is working more than forty hours in one week, then the hourly wage they receive beyond that point should be 1.5 times greater than their standard hourly wage. If there’s a miscalculation error, or if an employer simply isn’t compensating their employee for overtime work, this is a clear FLSA violation.
Protect Your CA Business Against Wage and Hour Claims With Fishman, Larsen & Callister.
For your California wage and hour defense to succeed, it’s essential that you work with an experienced attorney. To get in contact with the skilled legal team at Fishman, Larsen & Callister, be sure to fill out the form on our website and schedule a consultation.
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