A. Wage and hour laws are part of the regulations established both by Federal and California statutes regulating the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees. This part of the law governs the minimum pay for the time worked by an employee. It covers such topics as: minimum wage, overtime, computing hours worked, rest and lunch breaks, tips, commissions, expenses, severance, vacations, when the employee must be paid, and other related issues
A. A person’s work frequently goes a long way to defining who they are as a person. It defines their dignity. Meaningful work satisfies a basic human need. We exchange our labor for compensation to pay for the necessities of life. When that bargain is violated, the client suffers both financially and emotionally. I endeavor to restore to the client what is rightfully theirs.
A. Wage and hour claims are not limited to any group. Any employee at any time can suffer from an employer who wrongfully denies an employee the rights he or she is entitled to under the law. In this time of shaky employment, many employees fail to report abuse because they’re afraid of losing their job, but if they are fired for that reason, there is another area of employment law that protects them.
A. This type of discrimination occurs for domestic workers, restaurant employees and construction workers. The rights of workers employed as independent contractors, however, are sharply limited. Anyone who is an employee in the eyes of the law—regardless of the type of employment relationship defined by the employer—has rights under the Federal and California statutes. The Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) has 17 separate wage orders, so employees working within that field are regulated regardless of what the employer says.
A. Unfortunately, there are as many signs of abuse as there are unscrupulous employers. The merit of the employee’s claim depends on the type of claim being made. For instance, overtime claims by employees that are classified as “exempt” under the law (usually these employees are “white collar” positions and are excluded from certain employer requirements) may be viable because that person was wrongfully classified. Sometimes employees are denied overtime pay, or paid at the wrong rate. Sometimes employers try to avoid paying overtime by calculating the amount incorrectly or “rolling over” the hours. Sometimes employers try to get away without paying their employees, giving “comp time” instead.
A. One must always consider the financial aspects of pursuing any claim for damages. While I would never minimize the emotional aspect of any claim by any person wrongfully denied his or her wages, the more modest claims are frequently resolved by making a claim through the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (commonly known as the Labor Commissioner).
A. There are many factors involved, depending on the claim. These would include such things as failure to properly calculate and pay for overtime, failure to provide written, itemized wage statements, failure to properly document rest breaks and meal breaks.
A. A common misconception is that employers are more willing to settle than fight. In my experience, settlement of any claim depends on the circumstances of the claim and the size of the claim. Additional factors, such as the employer’s ability to pay and the existence of supporting witnesses and documents, play a factor in the likelihood of settlement.
Another misconception concerns the wronged employee’s attorney’s fees and potential exposure for costs. In California, the prevailing employee is entitled to have their attorney’s fees paid by the employer, but not vice versa. Thus, with the right case, the wronged employee can have the best lawyer at no expense.
A. Anytime a claimant strays from the absolute truth by exaggerating or fudging the amount of the claim, he or she faces an uphill battle. No judge or jury rewards a liar or a cheat. Therefore, any claim in a wage and hour dispute must be scrupulously accurate.
A. Retaliation, such as firing the employee for making a claim for unpaid wages, subjects the employer to an entirely different type of damages—a claim for wrongful termination.
A. Yes. However, it might be extremely awkward, depending on the size of the claim.
A. Yes, at times, many co-workers have been subject to the same abuse and an individual employee. Depending on the circumstances, each of the co-workers may have their own separate claim, or the matter may turn into a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of all others similarly situated.
A. There are many factors that go into considering the length of any legal claim. If handled properly, the wronged worker’s attorney will undertake a good faith effort to document the merits of the claim and provide an accurate measure of the damages. Settlement is always considered before filing a lawsuit, because this saves time and energy. Nonetheless, when settlement negotiations break down and litigation is the only alternative, in most cases a trial takes place within 18 months of the initiation of the lawsuit.
A. Compensation for the wronged employee is the goal, and it always depends on the type of claim being made. The law also provides penalties on top of the compensation not paid. The amount of penalty varies within the types of claims.
A. Both the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and California Labor Code require the employer to pay attorney’s fees to the prevailing employee. Therefore, many lawyers take these cases on a contingency basis (if there is no recovery, there is no fee, and if there is a recovery, the attorney takes an agreed-upon percentage of the recovery as fees).
A. The vast majority of these types of claims settle, but the speed of resolution depends on the merits of the claim and the skill of the attorney presenting it.
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