Wage and Hour

Wage and Hour Claims

Are you getting all the rest and meal breaks you are entitled to by law? Are you misclassified as exempt, and should you receive overtime pay?

The Law Office of Frank S. Clowney III, based in San Diego, has advocated for employees’ rights to meal breaks and overtime wages since 1990. I am dedicated to resolving pay issues and advising clients about their required meal breaks and overtime pay. Call me for a free phone consultation to get advice for your specific situation.

California’s Labor Laws

California has several labor laws that apply to employers and employees within the state. Some of the key labor laws in California include:

  • Minimum wage. California has a higher minimum wage than the federal minimum wage. Effective January 1, 2023, the minimum wage in California is $15.50 per hour for both businesses with 26 or more employees and businesses with 25 or fewer employees.
  • Overtime. California requires employers to pay overtime to employees who work over eight hours in one day or 40 hours in one week. The overtime rate is 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate of pay.
  • Breaks for rest and meals. California requires employers to provide meal breaks of at least 30 minutes for employees who work over five hours in a day and rest breaks of at least 10 minutes for every four hours worked.
  • Paid sick leave. California requires employers to provide paid sick leave to employees who have worked at least 30 days in a year. Employees are entitled to accrue at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
  • Discrimination and harassment. California law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on certain characteristics, such as pregnancy, race, gender, and age. The law also prohibits employers from allowing a hostile work environment based on these characteristics.
  • Unemployment insurance. California provides unemployment insurance benefits to workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own.

These are just a few examples of the labor laws that apply in California. Both the employer and the employees need to be familiar with these laws to ensure compliance and protect their rights.

What Does a Wage and Hour Attorney Do?

A California wage and hour attorney is a lawyer who specializes in representing employees in cases involving wage and hour employment violations. These violations can include issues such as unpaid overtime, minimum wage violations, and misclassification of employees as independent contractors.

If you are an employee, San Diego wage and hour attorneys can help you if you have not been paid the wages you are owed or if you have been treated as an independent contractor and are not receiving the benefits and protections you are entitled to. In addition to representing employees in individual cases, a California wage and hour attorney may also work on class action claims on behalf of groups of employees who have experienced wage and hour violations.

If your rights as an employee have been violated, a San Diego employment lawyer can work with you to navigate the legal process and advocate for your rights. An attorney can also negotiate with your employer to try to resolve wage and hour disputes and can be with you in court if necessary.

Common Wage and Hour Violations in California

There are a number of common forms of wage and hour violations, such as:

  • Unpaid overtime. California law requires employers to pay overtime to employees who work more than eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week. If an employee is not being paid the overtime they are owed, it may be a wage and hour violation.
  • Minimum wage violations. California’s minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage. If an employee is being paid less than the minimum wage, it is a wage and hour violation.
  • Misclassification of employees as independent contractors. Employers may try to classify employees as independent contractors to avoid paying certain benefits and protections. If an employee is misclassified as an independent contractor, they may be entitled to the benefits and protections that they are not currently receiving.
  • Off-the-clock work. Employers are required to pay employees for all hours worked, including time spent on work-related activities outside of normal business hours. If an employee is required to do work off the clock and is not being paid for this time, it may be a wage and hour violation.
  • Failure to provide meal and rest breaks. California law requires employers to provide meal breaks of at least 30 minutes for employees who work more than five hours in one day, and rest breaks of at least 10 minutes for every four hours worked. If an employer is not providing these breaks, it may be a wage and hour violation.
  • Improperly calculated overtime. Employers are required to pay overtime at a rate of 1.5 times the employee’s regular pay rate. If an employee is not being paid the correct overtime rate, it may be a wage and hour violation.
  • Employee misclassification as exempt from receiving overtime.

These are just a few examples of common wage and hour violations in California. If you believe you have experienced a wage and hour violation, it may be helpful to consult with a San Diego employment lawyer to understand your rights and options under employment law.

Employers Must Respect Meal And Rest Breaks

In California, you are entitled to a 30-minute meal period per five hours of work. This time must be unencumbered, or time free from your duties, or you should be paid plus the penalty. You are also permitted one 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked. Breaks increase as you work overtime.

However, some employers may have an incentive to push workers to work longer with fewer breaks. If your employer denies you the uninterrupted break time that you deserve by law, I can step in to hold them accountable. I will be professional, respectful and committed when standing up for your rights.

Unpaid Wages

As an employee in California, you have the right to be fairly compensated for all of the time you work, including any duties pre-shift or post-shift, work performed during meal breaks, or administrative tasks. Your employer is not allowed to make you work without proper compensation and cannot require you to waive your rights to fair compensation, including the minimum wage. This means your employer must pay you the amount required by law, regardless of any agreements you may have made to work for less.

Vacation Time

Vacation time is also considered a form of compensation in California. As you work, you accrue vacation time, and your employer cannot implement policies that would allow them to take away earned vacation time that wasn’t used. Even if you are terminated, you should still be paid for any of your earned vacation time you didn’t use. It is illegal for your employer to waive or forfeit your earned vacation time.

Balance The Scales For Unpaid Overtime

Hours worked in excess of eight in a day or 40 in a week must be paid at overtime rates. Double time rates apply in certain situations. Certain types of workers are exempt from overtime pay.

However, employers often misclassify workers as exempt, either by ignorance or by design. Employers may call employees independent contractors to avoid overtime pay. They might give a grand-sounding title, like Manager, and pair it with exempt status to an employee who really does the same job as hourly workers.

In many unpaid overtime cases, I have been able to identify which workers are legitimate nonexempt employees rather than independent contractors or actual managers. I will look at the specific nature of the work you do and the time you spent on extra work. I can work hard to resolve your pay issues and restore fairness.

How Much Do San Diego Employment Lawyers Charge?

San Diego employment attorneys generally charge an hourly rate for their services. The hourly rate can vary widely, depending on the lawyer’s level of experience, the complexity of the case, and the location of the law firm.

On average, employment lawyers in California charge anywhere from $150 to $350 per hour. Some employment lawyers may charge a flat fee for certain types of cases, such as simple severance negotiations or drafting an employment contract.

In some cases, employment lawyers may be willing to work on a contingency basis, meaning they will only charge a fee if they are successful in obtaining a settlement or judgment on behalf of their client. In these cases, the lawyer will typically take a percentage of the settlement or judgment as their fee.

It is important to carefully consider the costs associated with hiring an employment lawyer.  The Law Office of Frank S. Clowney III takes pride in offering transparent pricing about our hourly rates and other fees that may apply before you make the final decision to use our services.

PAGA Claims in California

The Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) allows employees to hold their employers responsible by being able to file claims for workplace violations. PAGA claims are different from regular wage claims because they allow employees to seek damages for all of their employer’s workplace violations, not just those that affected them personally.

To file a PAGA claim, you must be an “aggrieved employee” who has experienced at least one workplace law violation. PAGA claims can be for any violations of California labor laws, safety and health regulations, or other labor law violations. The amount of time you have to file a PAGA claim is one year from the date of the last violation.

When you file a PAGA claim, you are not seeking unpaid wages. Instead, you’d be seeking civil penalties which would be split between all workers affected by the violations. The state of California would get any remaining amount of the penalties. If you are looking at filing a wage claim in San Diego, it is best to consult with an expert who is familiar with San Diego unemployment law to determine if a PAGA claim is appropriate for your situation.

How Do I Know If It’s Time to Hire a Lawyer?

We understand that you may feel hesitant to speak up about wage and hour violations for fear of retribution from your employer. However, it’s important to remember that employer retaliation is illegal in California. This means your employer cannot take any negative action against you for exercising your rights, such as filing a wage and hour claim.

If your employer does retaliate against you, they could be subject to additional legal penalties. You may be able to recover even more damages based on the severity of your employer’s misconduct. At The Law Office of Frank S. Clowney III, we are here to support you and protect your rights as an employee.

You may be frustrated by your inability to collect overtime pay and your home life may be suffering. I try to put myself in your situation and experience it through your eyes. I stress the importance of personal attention because it takes a lot of time and effort to determine what is best in your particular situation.

Contact An Experienced Employment Law Attorney

Contact The Law Office of Frank S. Clowney III for advice about your rights regarding overtime and meal breaks, and any additional questions you may have regarding California employment law. Our office has years of experience working directly with clients to make sure their employment concerns are addressed and that they are adequately represented both in and out of the courtroom. I can be reached by phone at 619-557-0458.

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