Work occupies one-third of the average day for an adult. When you’re working, you have rights regarding time to have a meal or break. Los Angeles residents can also work overtime, with a few exceptions. The government also expects businesses to pay their employees a minimum wage for hours worked.
Sometimes, employers do not follow the rules that the city of Los Angeles, as well as the state and federal governments, put on them. In cases where a company violates an employee’s right to a meal break or overtime pay, attorneys can be involved to help protect your rights. You need an experienced attorney on your side to advocate for you and fight to protect your rights.
Employees are subject to federal and state regulations when determining their rights to meal breaks.
It surprises many workers to learn that the federal government has no requirements for employers to provide a meal break during the workday.
However, the federal government does have a few laws regarding meal breaks. If you have to work through the meal, such as being a receptionist answering phones or an office worker answering emails, the employer must pay you for eating. Otherwise, the federal government does not require a company to offer a paid meal break.
These rules only come into effect if the employer gives meal breaks in the first place.
California and Los Angeles laws differ from the federal government and offer more rights to workers. California has requirements for meal breaks, and residents of Los Angeles can take advantage of them.
Any employee working more than five hours has the right to an unpaid lunch break of at least 30 minutes in Los Angeles. Employees working six hours or less can skip the meal break.
An employee working for 10 hours or more in one day is entitled to a second meal break during the day. You may waive the second meal break if your day doesn’t exceed 12 hours. Employees are not permitted to waive both meal breaks in a day.
Like the federal government, the California labor code also makes exceptions for working lunches. The state only allows for working lunches in cases where the nature of the job prevents the worker from being entirely off-duty.
Instances of working lunches are rare in Los Angeles, and employers must pay for the time. Additionally, employees must agree to the working lunch in writing.
If the meal period takes place during the third shift, 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., the work facility must have a sufficient way for an employee to secure hot food during the work period. This could include having a method to heat food or providing hot meals for employees.
The laws covering Los Angeles are complex and filled with exceptions and unique cases. You may find that your industry has different regulations than others. A professional attorney knows all the loopholes and requirements that you may not be aware of.
Like meal breaks, federal law does not require rest breaks. State law, however, provides employees with the right to take rest breaks.
If an employee works more than four hours, the company must provide at least one paid break during that time. The break has to be at least 10 minutes long. Any employee working less than three-and-a-half hours is not entitled to a rest break, though an employer may still opt to provide one.
Employees earn another break for every four hours they work after the initial four-hour period. For instance, an employee working an eight-hour shift should have two 10-minute breaks. An employee on a 12-hour shift should have three periods of rest during the day.
Ideally, a company should offer these breaks in the middle of the four hours. If this arrangement isn’t practical, the employee should take a break whenever it is convenient.
Residents in Los Angeles are subject to federal and state laws regarding overtime. Employees working more than 40 hours a week may be eligible for overtime pay. Of course, some employers try to skirt these rules. You should consult an employment lawyer if you believe that you haven’t been paid fairly for your overtime work.
Federal law covers the 40-hour maximum for regular pay. Employees working any time over 40 hours in a week are eligible for overtime payments unless exempt. Any employee receiving overtime hours must receive payment at a rate of at least 150 percent of their base salary.
For instance, an employee who makes $20 per hour will make at least $30 an hour for any overtime work that they complete in a week.
California offers residents a few additional opportunities to collect overtime. State law covers the 40-hour-a-week maximum while providing two other scenarios where employees may be able to collect overtime payments.
The first scenario involves an employee working more than eight hours in a single day. The employee is entitled to overtime pay for any time worked over eight hours. The other scenario involves an employee working seven consecutive days in the same workweek. Employees may be entitled to overtime pay in either of these scenarios.
At first glance, it seems like California laws function similarly to federal regulations. After all, if an employee works more than eight hours in one day, they will likely end up working over 40 hours in a week. While that is sometimes the case, these laws seek to negate “comp time” tactics that companies use to avoid paying overtime.
Comp time occurs when an employer seeks to balance an employee’s hours when they’ve worked more than eight hours in a day. For instance, if an employee had a long day at the office and clocked in 11 hours, the company may ask the individual to come in late the next day and only work five hours. Or the company may instruct the employee to shave one hour off their workday the next three days to keep the weekly time under 40 hours.
While these tactics are effective in other states, Los Angeles residents won’t have to worry about them. Working any amount over eight hours entitles you to overtime pay instead of your regular rate. In this sense, California has some of the most friendly minimum wage laws for workers.
Employers using comp tactics to avoid a worker accruing over 40 hours in a week commonly happens when companies are not paying overtime when the law dictates that they should be. Anyone affected by comp time is eligible for overtime and should discuss the matter with legal counsel to determine if they can recoup the lost income.
Not every employee is eligible to collect overtime pay. Certain workers have exemption status from the state for collecting overtime payments. Some of these employees include:
Salaried employees also typically do not see overtime payments in Los Angeles. You are still eligible for overtime payments if you do not spend most of your time doing exempt work or if your employer pays you less than twice the minimum wage.
The minimum wage is the lowest hourly rate that a company is allowed to pay you in your state. Residents in any municipality are subject to the federal minimum wage, which sits at $7.25 per hour. Practically, the federal minimum wage does not apply to California companies, as they must pay the stipulated California minimum wage.
As of 2023, California increased its minimum wage to $15.50 per hour. Any Los Angeles resident should be making this hourly rate before taxes. Any company paying less than the minimum wage is liable for potential claims.
Most states allow companies to pay tipped employees under the minimum. These workers include wait staff and baristas. California prohibits companies from paying tipped employees less than $15.50 per hour. Ensure that your company is paying you fairly if you also earn tips with your wage.
Employees do not have to take a meal or rest break if they do not wish to. The worker must decide to not do so of their own volition, and companies cannot pressure anyone to cut a meal break out of their day. Some companies may let an employee go home early if they skip an unpaid meal break period.
There’s no practical advantage to workers skipping their 10-minute rest breaks. Per California law, an employer pays a worker for every rest break. Employees may still opt to skip these breaks if they desire.
Employers may not, under any circumstances, attempt to dissuade an employee from taking a rest or meal break. Employers cannot encourage workers to do any work during a break. Additionally, companies and management cannot pressure an employee to cut one of their designated breaks short.
Any company that violates these rules or attempts to pressure employees into skipping breaks faces penalties under the California labor code. The punishment for making an employee work during a break is the same as if they were not providing one.
Knowing the basics of the rules of meal breaks, rest breaks, minimum wage, and overtime can help one understand the penalties that companies and employers face for not following these guidelines. California has clear laws on Los Angeles overtime, meal and rest breaks, and minimum wage penalties.
Knowing your rights and the penalties for employers who violate them can make receiving any compensation you deserve easier when working with an attorney.
The general rule is that workers are entitled to one hour of additional pay for every meal break they missed. Workers may sue a company for meal break penalties within three years of the infraction. Several individuals have sued companies in class-action claims centered around the lack of meal breaks.
Employees have the right to a 10-minute rest break for every four hours they work. Companies that deny these rights are subject to fines.
The punishment for failing to allow your employee to take a rest break, or cutting a rest break short, is the same as missing meal breaks. The company owes the employee one hour’s pay for every rest break missed. This additional hour of compensation does not count toward weekly calculations for overtime.
Like meal break legal action, you must file any claims regarding missed breaks within three years of the infraction.
An intriguing legal gray area came when employees began to ask what happens when an employer denies a meal break and rest break during the same shift. Before there was any official ruling on the matter, some argued that it should count as only one penalty, while others argued that the violations should count separately.
Legal professionals got an answer with a high-profile case: United Parcel Service v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County. The 2011 case saw the court determine that an employee receives two hours’ pay if a company denies both breaks.
Los Angeles takes overtime violations seriously. The government obligates your employer to pay you on time and correctly for any work that you do. You may be entitled to payment or legal action for unpaid wages if your company does not pay you on time.
Employers who don’t pay on time face a potential penalty of $100 for the first offense and $200 for any additional wrongdoing.
If you believe that your employer isn’t correctly compensating you for your labor, you should begin by speaking with management. Show management any supporting documents and try to solve the issue without any legal action.
However, the issue is not always one that you can solve alone. In these cases, you should contact an experienced employment attorney to work with you to determine if the company violated the labor code in any way.
Employees who work a 12-hour shift are entitled to a second meal break during the day. The employee may waive the second meal break if they took the first one earlier in the day. The second meal break functions just like the first; it must be at least 30 minutes, and the employer must not require any work to be done during the period.
Occasionally, though, a second meal break may not be scheduled. You can take legal action if the company denies you your second meal break or your manager pressures you to return to work early during it.
Violations of minimum wage function similarly to a company not paying overtime or paying late. An employee is entitled to sue the company for missing wages. Companies face a penalty of $100 for the first occurrence and $200 for future violations.
Time theft is a vague concept that includes numerous situations. Time theft is thought of as any time that an employee is not actively working while on the clock. In essence, the employee is stealing time and wages from the company.
Time theft comes in many varieties. Some employees have coworkers clock them in early if they are running behind time. The inverse can happen when an employee has their coworker clock them out later if they leave early for the day. Others use company time to make personal calls or run errands.
Some companies may withhold payment if they believe that time theft is going on. This method is a poor route, as it opens a company to legal action from its employees. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 demands that businesses pay any wages owed. Even if you believe some of your time has been stolen, you cannot withhold payment.
There are no laws in Los Angeles that deal with time theft. You can work with accountants and attorneys to bring legal action against employees for any time theft issues. A company may also levy disciplinary action on the offending party.
Taking legal action against a company or former employer isn’t easy. Companies often have access to more money and resources than the average worker. If you believe that an employer infringes on your right to a break or overtime pay, you should seek professional counsel. An experienced attorney can explain your rights and act as an advocate for you in a court of law.
Park APC has years of experience dealing with labor and employment law. When you are taking on a company, our accomplished lawyers can provide you with professional care when taking on a case. Contact us today to get started with a consultation and advocate for fair payment.