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Orange County Employment Law Blog

What work breaks am I entitled to in California?

If you are a worker in the state of California, you are entitled to certain breaks throughout the working day. These break entitlements are set by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to ensure that no workers face exhaustion or suffer due to being overworked. They also ensure that workers are able to eat and keep hydrated, especially during long shifts.

It is important that employees understand the rights that they are entitled to so that they can demand them if their employers are unaware or refusing to give in. If your employer is denying the adequate amount of paid and unpaid breaks during the working day, you can start to take legal action and potentially recoup damages.

Health care organization sued for overtime pay violations

According to a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of a group of California nurses, the health care system Dignity Health did not pay overtime pay to nurses working shifts longer than 12 hours. The lawsuit says more than 1,000 nurses were affected by the policy.

The culprit is alleged to be the timekeeping system that would not allow nurses to record shifts longer than 12 hours. This meant that many nurses were unable to include time spent prepping for and wrapping up shifts. Attorneys say this constituted working without pay. Around 50 minutes of overtime were denied for every shift.

Walt Disney World workers get pay raise

Workers in California and throughout America have been trying to make $15 per hour the new national minimum wage for several years. While that hasn't occurred yet, workers at Walt Disney World are going to receive that wage by 2021. That was the result of talks between the company and the Service Trades Council Union (STCU). In addition to a $15 per hour wage, employees are expected to receive a $1,000 bonus promised to them earlier in 2018.

Food service, custodial and park workers are covered by the new deal. Hotel workers are also going to receive the new higher wage that will grow incrementally until October 2021. Employees will also receive the greater of 3 percent or 50 cents per hour for all hours worked since September 2017. In July, Disney agreed to pay workers at Disney World $15 an hour after negotiations with union representatives for employees at that location.

Some independent contractors may really be employees

With the rise of the "gig economy," which now encompasses more than 16.5 million Americans throughout California and across the country, many questions have been raised about the way in which workers are designated as independent contractors. Higher education has always relied significantly on contracted workers, such as adjunct professors who often teach full-time schedules but receive limited compensation, benefits or job security.

Now, a number of online education companies also rely on this independent contractor system to make up their workforce. However, the determination of who is and isn't actually a contractor is a matter of law; a company cannot simply treat a worker as an employee while labeling him or her a contractor for the purpose of benefits and taxes. One class-action lawsuit case that was recently settled was filed by two former instructors against General Assembly, an education company based in New York. Because they were classified as contractors, they did not receive overtime pay or paid breaks as required under state law.

Movie theater workers file class action lawsuit

Movie theater employees in California are moving forward with a class-action lawsuit against cinema chain Cinemark, alleging that the company failed to comply with state law that requires overtime pay rates to be made explicit on pay stubs. Across the state, there are at least 843 people eligible to become part of the lawsuit, said lawyers working on the case. Their statements were based on Cinemark's disclosures in the case about the number of incorrect statements issued to workers. On August 16, a federal judge agreed to certify the class-action lawsuit, requiring the theater company to provide the names and contact details for workers who could have received incorrect pay stubs.

Unless they choose to opt out, affected Cinemark employees will receive an eventual share of a payment that could result from a win at trial or a settlement out of court. The state law in question in the case is designed to help workers protect themselves and ensure that they are receiving proper compensation for their hours when they work overtime. While federal law does not require this level of disclosure, California's labor code provides additional protection for workers.

If you work in the USA, know your rights as an employee

There are several important laws you should know and understand as an employee in America. You're protected by the federal government in many ways, so you shouldn't let your bosses or employers take advantage of you or discriminate against you.

Did you know that the Fair Labor Standards Act guarantees you with a minimum wage for your work? Every state has a different minimum wage, even though there is a federal minimum. California's minimum wage is $11 per hour, although certain cities my have higher minimums.

How to create a more equitable workplace

California workers may be treating their male colleagues different than their female colleagues without even realizing it. For instance, a person may interrupt a woman in the middle of a sentence but not do the same to a male. This is referred to as a "micro-inequity'. Other such inequities include a lack of eye contact or signs of boredom when talking with a woman while being excited to talk with a male.

There are ways that employees can be proactive in making the workplace a more equitable place to be. Those who feel that they are being treated differently based on their gender should not dismiss that feeling. If necessary, an individual should call attention to the behavior in a friendly manner. In some cases, the person who interrupts in meetings or fails to introduce workers of both genders in the same way isn't engaging in intentional discrimination.

EEOC prioritizes fight against disability discrimination

People with disabilities in California and across the United States often face discrimination in the workplace. However, there are laws that protect the rights of disabled workers, including the right to take medical leave. Several major corporations have recently settled large lawsuits after they strictly limited the amount of time off disabled workers could take or required them to be cured of their disabilities before returning to the job. The latest settlement with the federal government was concluded by Mueller Industries.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought a lawsuit against Mueller Industries because it failed to provide proper leave as a reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities. In addition, the EEOC said that the company had fired workers for using disability leave or exceeding limits imposed by the company on how much leave could be taken. The EEOC has identified these blanket maximums on leave taken as one of its major national enforcement priorities to combat disability discrimination in the workplace. It has taken up this enforcement priority after years of warnings to corporations that these policies risk discriminating against workers with disabilities.

Tech workers facing retaliation for pointing out workplace abuse

A recent survey of tech industry employees found that 41 percent of respondents who reported workplace abuse were retaliated against by management. The survey, which was conducted by a company developing an anonymous app for reporting abuse, showed that Airbnb had the most reports of retaliation. Tech giants Google and Facebook also made the Top 12 list. Workers in California should understand that the results from the survey mirror data gathered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2017.

Due to these surveys and other information coming from whistleblowers and reporters, tech companies are facing more scrutiny than ever to improve their workplace abuse policies. Traditionally, human resource departments have worked to protect the company first, meaning a victim would have to get lucky that their interests coincided with the company's when making a complaint. In a popular blog post, a former engineer from a ridesharing company claimed that her HR department blamed her for abuse occurring rather than doing anything about the problem.

Is a mandatory waiver of claims anticipatory retaliation?

Workers in California have a right to be free from retaliation when they seek to protect themselves from discrimination, sexual harassment or other kinds of unlawful workplace conduct. Sometimes, retaliation can take the form of a wrongful termination or being passed over for promotions, perks and appropriate performance bonuses. One federal district court is also embracing the position expressed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, that waivers of an employee's right to pursue discrimination claims are a form of retaliation in advance.

The EEOC has long held that these waivers are invalid and unenforceable but also a form of anticipatory retaliation prior to a claim being made. In one recent case, the federal district court cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision that noted that a "materially adverse action," which is necessary for a retaliation claim, includes something that would discourage a reasonable worker from filing a claim. The EEOC and the court noted that signing a waiver of the right to make a discrimination claim in order to keep a job would fulfill this description.