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Orange County Employment Law Blog

Law changes break requirements for some petroleum workers

Workers in California have strong protections as part of state law, especially in regard to wage and hour issues. However, a law was signed into effect in September 2018 that affects the rest break requirements for certain safety-sensitive workers at petroleum facilities. Assembly Bill 2605 applies to unionized employees and exempts them from the requirement that they must have no duties at all during their rest periods. The law went into effect when signed and could be renewed in 2021 upon its expiration.

However, the law does not apply to all workers at petroleum facilities; instead, specific guidelines indicate which workers could be affected by the reforms in the law. It only applies to workers who have some reasonable connection to emergency response. For example, it affects workers who must carry radios, pagers or monitors and must be available to respond to an emergency incident. In addition, it affects only workers who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement and receive hourly pay of at least 30 percent more than minimum wage.

Breastfeeding mothers have a right to extra breaks while working

The legal rights of workers vary based on a number of different factors. For example, hourly workers receive different protections than salaried workers. Similarly, direct employees receive certain protections that do not apply to workers classified as independent contractors.

While some worker protections are universal, others vary depending on your age, gender or even medical condition. The legal protections extended to breastfeeding mothers are a perfect example. These protections apply to only a small portion of the working population, but they are incredibly important for equal rights under the laws.

Daylight Savings Time and wage laws

Employees in California and in other states get to wake up one hour later when Daylight Savings Time ends. Many people are skeptical about the benefit of changing the clocks considering it does not actually increase the number of hours of daylight. Employers must pay attention not to violate wage and hour laws when the clock rolls back.

Nonexempt employees who are on the clock when the time changes need to be paid for an extra hour of work if their shift is extended. The extra hour could me overtime pay for some workers. Employers who want to avoid this can alter the regular shifts for their employees on that date.

Man classified as independent contractor allowed to sue

In California, some workers who are classified as independent contractors may be able to bring wage and hour claims if they are able to show that the hiring company was really more akin to an employer than a contracting partner. A recent decision in California affirmed an earlier ruling, finding that the independent contractor determination "test" applies only to certain wage and hour claims.

In the case, a taxicab driver worked with a company called BTG Transportation Group for several years. One year after he stopped working with the company, he filed a lawsuit against it as well as two individuals for a variety of different wage and hour claims. The trial court granted a motion for summary judgment to the defendants, finding that the driver was an independent contractor and so could not sue for wage and hour violations.

DOL delays rules for overtime exemptions and joint employment

Employers in California will remain in limbo as the U.S. Department of Labor continues to delay decisions about overtime exemptions and joint employment. The agency recently announced that it will not publish proposed new regulations about overtime exemptions until March 2019.

At issue is the salary threshold that would create an exemption from the payment of overtime. The Fair Labor Standards Act currently allows employers to avoid paying overtime for workers earning a salary of at least $23,660. The Obama administration had proposed a new threshold of $47,476, but the Trump administration blocked that attempt.

Employers should taker a stand against customers who harass staff

Workplace sexual harassment materializes differently across industries. In technology, it might look like coworkers making fun of another employee's sexual preferences or experience. In an office, it could include a manager or boss who exchanges favors for flirtation (or more). For service workers, sexual harassment often involves customers instead of other employees.

For far too long, American consumers have operated under the impression they had the right to say or do whatever they wanted to individuals who work in the service industry. People often demand flirtation from service professionals.

Amazon workers in California warehouse get a raise

Workers at Amazon warehouses in California will see their hourly wage raised to $15 per hour, and the prediction is that this will put pressure on other area warehouses to do the same. There is also expected to be a surge of better business for supermarkets and other local businesses since the wage increase translates to about $2 more for workers.

Advocates for workers say it is the right step, but also urge caution. Amazon has come under fire for its treatment of workers, including what some say is an excessive amount of monitoring. The company has also resisted any worker attempts to unionize. Furthermore, most Amazon warehouse workers are part-time, so they will still struggle to live on the wages. There has been some criticism from workers about the company's decision to eliminate incentive pay and stock options.

The process of reporting wage violations

Many California employees are covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. This requires that they be paid at least the federal minimum wage and be paid an overtime wage. The overtime wage begins after an employee has worked 40 hours in a given workweek. If companies do not pay at least the prevailing minimum wage or provide overtime pay, they may have committed wage theft.

From 2010 to 2014, the state of California returned more than $1 billion in wages to workers. Employees who are covered by FLSA and don't receive a proper wage can file a wage and hour complaint report. This report will contain the details of the violation and when it occurred. It should also have an employee's personal data as well as the name of the company that is being reported for a violation.

When to compensate workers for sending emails

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), California workers and others who send emails or take phone calls after hours must generally be paid for the time worked. This is true even if the employer prohibits the performing of those or similar tasks during evenings or weekends. As long as the employer has a constructive knowledge of the work being done, workers must be compensated for those tasks.

However, the Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of the Chicago Police Department in a lawsuit brought forward by the department's Bureau of Organized Crime. The suit claimed that employees did work on BlackBerry devices given to them by the city. It also said that an unwritten policy resulted in workers not submitting requests for overtime pay despite the existence of a sufficient way to do so. Furthermore, the suit claimed that the city knew about work being done after hours and asked the court to impute constructive knowledge to the city.

Farmworkers' lawsuit challenges "voluntary" company transport

Many agricultural workers in California are strongly encouraged to travel to and from their jobs in company-provided buses. While the use of the buses is nominally voluntary, a number of farm workers have filed lawsuits seeking travel pay for their time on the vehicles. According to the workers' lawyers from California Rural Legal Assistance, employees are actually required to use these company buses to reach the fields. Under a 2000 ruling of the state Supreme Court, farm workers must be paid for their travel time to the worksite on mandatory company buses.

After the ruling in Morillion v. Royal Packing Co., many farmers and labor contractors began to declare that the company-provided transportation was actually voluntary. Language in the ruling noted that employers were allowed to offer transportation for workers as long as its use was voluntary. Language stating that the buses' use is not mandatory is often posted inside the vehicles or printed in an employee handbook. Nevertheless, the workers' lawyers say that agricultural workers, a marginalized, low-wage population, are forced to take these buses and that the real cost of refusing the transportation could be the workers' jobs.