Oakland Wage & Hour Lawyer
What Are Your Wage & Hour Rights as an Employee in California?
Wage and hour laws dictate, among other things, the lowest wage that an employee must receive, how the employee must be paid, what happens when an employee gets hurt at work, what information must show up on the employee’s paystubs, and what type of documents the employer must keep.
As an employee you depend on your paycheck to feed your family. This almost always gives the employer a tremendous advantage and bargaining power over you. This is why there are strict California and federal laws that protect the employee and regulate different aspects of this unequal relationship.
Both exempt and non-exempt employees are protected by laws that are often referred to as “wage and hour” laws. They dictate, among other things, the lowest wage that an employee must receive, how the employee must be paid, what happens when an employee gets hurt at work, what information must show up on the employee’s paystubs, and what type of documents the employer must keep. Non-exempt employees must also receive premium for overtime/double time compensation for certain hours they work and must receive certain meal and rest breaks.
California employment laws protect you when you work in California. There are parallel federal employment laws that protect you both in California and across the United States. You are protected by both California and federal employment laws regardless of whether you are working in this country legally or illegally and your residency status has no effect on your ability to pursue your employment remedies under the law.
The information on this website focuses on California rather than federal law because California law is more protective of employee rights. You also cannot agree to give up any of these state or federal employment rights no matter what you say or what papers you sign. Your employer also cannot destroy your employment rights by labeling you as an “independent contractor” or having you agree, orally or in writing, that you are an “independent contractor” or issuing you a Form 1099 for your pay.
There are some very limited exceptions that generally apply to highly paid professional or managerial employees (“exempt employees” or “salaried employees”) who have fewer employment rights but the vast majority of workers (“non-exempt employees” or “hourly employees”) are protected by strict employment laws described below. However, an employer cannot convert you from non-exempt to the less favorable exempt classification by having you agree to be a salaried employee and/or paying you a salary unless you fit into one of the limited exempt employee categories.
You must be paid for the time you have already worked.
Your employer must pay you whenever you perform work and cannot cut or reduce the hours you already worked when paying you. For example, your employer cannot cut your hours because you did not work quickly enough or did not do a good enough job or because the employer does not have enough money to pay you for all of the hours you worked.
The clock normally starts to run when you get to work and includes the time needed to organize for the day and the time to travel to and from customer locations. If your employer has not paid you for all of the hours you worked then your employer may owe you money going back up to four years.
If you are paid a salary (because you are an exempt employee), the employer cannot pay you less salary for the days you already worked because they are unhappy with the quality of your work or because you completed your work in less time than the employer anticipated.
You are entitled to be paid at least the minimum wage.
You cannot agree with your employer to work for less than minimum wage. The minimum wage is $9.00 per hour in California but there is a higher city minimum wage of $11.05 in San Francisco and $12.25 in Oakland. Your employer must pay you the highest applicable minimum wage.
If you work any overtime hours (see below for an explanation of overtime) then you must be paid at least one and one-half times (150%) the minimum wage. If you work double time hours (see below for an explanation of double time) then you must be paid at least double (200%) the minimum wage. If you have been paid less than minimum wage then your employer may owe you significant money and a penalty for violating minimum wage laws going back up to four years.
If you fit into one of the narrow exempt employee exceptions, then your yearly salary must be at least double California minimum wage which comes out to an annual salary of at least $37,440.
You must be paid overtime and double time when you work long hours.
You must be paid an overtime premium (150%) for any time you work more than 8 hours in a day, more than 40 hours per week, or seven days in a week. For example, if you work nine hours in any day and your normal rate of pay is $12, then you must be paid 8 hours of regular time at $12 per hour plus 1 hour of overtime at $18 per hour. You must also be paid double time (200%) for any time you work over 12 hours in any day or more than 8 hours on a 7th day in a week. For example, if you work 13 hours in any day and your normal rate of pay is $12 per hour then you must be paid 8 hours of regular time at $12 per hours plus 4 hours of overtime at $18 per hour plus one hour of double time at $24 per hour.
Most employees must be paid overtime and double time even if they agreed to work for a “salary” unless they fit into one of the narrow exempt employee exceptions. If you have not been paid overtime or double time then your employer owes you money for any overtime or double time you were not paid for going back up to four years.
You are entitled to 10 minute paid rest breaks and 30 minute unpaid meal breaks.
Your employer must create conditions that allow you to take a 10 minute uninterrupted paid rest break if you work at least 3.5 hours and a second rest break if you work at least a total of 7 hours. Your employer must also create conditions that allow you an uninterrupted 30 minute unpaid lunch break if you work more than 5 hours in a day and two such meal breaks if you work more than 10 hours per day.
This means that if you work an 8 hour day — your employer must give you a 10 minute uninterrupted paid rest break after about 2 hours of work, an unpaid uninterrupted 30 minute lunch break after about 4 hours of work, and another uninterrupted paid 10 minute rest break after about 6 hours of work.
Many employers don’t provide rest breaks, provide their employees shorter rest or meal breaks than required by law, and/or interrupt the meal or rest break with work duties. If in any day a full uninterrupted meal break was not made available to you, then you are entitled to an extra one hour compensation for each day this happened going back up to four years. Meal and rest break violations are significant source of recovery for employees.
Your employer cannot retaliate against you if you complain about pay violations.
Your employer cannot retaliate, or threaten to retaliate against you, because you complained about an unlawful practice. Sometimes employers claim that they will report an employee to INS and get him or her deported. This is also unlawful and, in the vast majority of cases, an empty threat. Some employers may simply fire you as revenge for bringing up violations of pay laws but such wrongful termination entitles you to additional money from the employer for violating your rights.
Your employer must cover you with workers’ compensation insurance.
Your employer must buy workers’ compensation insurance for you that covers you if you get hurt at work. You are entitled to get all of your medical care expenses and part of your lost salary while you are recovering from the work injury covered through this insurance. If your employer did not offer you workers’ compensation insurance, you can sue your employer for your injuries even if the work injury was mostly your own fault.
You may be surprised by the amount of money that your employer may owe you and how well the law protects your rights regardless of your immigration status.
We Can Help You
The law firm of Venardi Zurada LLP provides free consultations throughout the San Francisco/California. We are experienced employment lawyers who fight hard for our clients. If we are able to take your case, we pay all litigation costs. We only get paid our costs and attorneys’ fees if you receive compensation.
Get a Free Case Review
If you are an employee who feels their rights have been violated, or you need help negotiating or reviewing your employee contract, please call to speak to one of our expert Oakland wage & hour lawyers at 925-937-3900 or submit our form.
When litigation or mediation is involved, and we are able to take your case, there is never any fee or expense to you of any kind until you get paid! That means we pay all litigation costs which you will not be required to pay back, and we only get paid if you get paid.
You can be confident in relying on our zealous and effective Oakland litigators:
We have served Northern California for over 35 years.
Our attorneys have been honored with numerous accolades, including SuperLawyers, AV Rating, and Top 100 Trial Attorney Awards.
In our decades of legal service to the community, we have garnered a substantial reputation. We are respected by opposing counsel, feared by insurance companies, and followed by jurors.
We combine Big Firm experience with boutique office attention and care. Several of our attorneys have experience working for the biggest law firms in the country, including the most prominent maritime defense law firm. Our attorneys rely on that big-firm know-how but prefer the personal touch of a smaller firm, allowing us to provide individualized and attentive representation to each of our clients.
We’ve been through it, too. Attorney Mark Venardi had to personally deal with a medical malpractice injury he suffered at a time when he was working a blue-collar job on an offshore oil rig; he knows what it’s like to be a working man dealing with a personal injury. He built his way up to working for the biggest maritime defense firm in the country, before deciding to focus on helping people like himself who were hurt by negligence and mistreatment from others.
We like to fight for the underdog. Attorney Martin Zurada is an immigrant and the son of immigrants who tirelessly worked his way up through education and experience to attain the American dream. Even though he has served in large, high-level litigation law firms, he prefers helping clients directly, fighting against injustices, and securing victories for the little guy who has been wronged.
We win. We have secured multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. In our combined tenure, we have recovered tens of millions of dollars for our clients across our broad areas of practice.
We care first and foremost about our clients. We dedicate ourselves to serve each and every client personally, and we make ourselves available to our clients around the clock.
There is no cost to you until we win. If we don’t make a recovery for you, we will not collect a fee. And all initial consultations are free of charge.
Dedicated Areas of Practice
We offer a wide range of litigation services for Oakland personal injury and employment law clients. Specifically, our areas of dedicated practice span the following issues:
Employment Law. California employers must assure proper pay to employees and comply with a variety of rules and regulations to prevent discrimination and unfair treatment of employees. We represent victims of wage and hour violations, employment discrimination, workplace harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, and any other form of California workplace mistreatment. If you believe you were treated inappropriately at work, we can help.
Personal Injury. If you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence, you deserve compensation. That’s where we come in. As Oakland personal injury attorneys, we right the wrongs done to our clients. And we do it at our cost during the entire duration of your case. There is never any fee until we win. Give us a call if you have been hurt in a car accident, by a toxic spill or contamination, as a result of medical malpractice, due to abuse or neglect, in a maritime accident, by a vicious animal attack, or any other incident caused by someone else’s negligence.
The Sooner You Speak to an Attorney, the Stronger Your Chances for Recovery Will Become.
Contact the Oakland litigation attorneys at Venardi Zurada today, and let’s get started. We are available to talk any time, so whether you call, email or chat online, we’ll respond and set up an appointment to meet you. We have several Spanish speakers in the office and welcome the opportunity to cater our services to Oakland’s Spanish-speaking population. You pay no fee until we win for you, so you have nothing to lose by contacting our office for a free consultation. The sooner you call, the faster we can start getting results for you. Call 925-937-3900.