Farmworkers in California will soon see changes to the wage and hour laws that govern their employment. While most workers in the state must receive overtime pay if they work over eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week, farmworkers have long been exempted from these protections. However, laws are going into effect with the new year in 2019 that can provide some increased protections. California is the first state in the country to pass legislation requiring overtime pay for farmworkers.
For many years, employees who were not compensated correctly for their work had trouble getting judgments from their employers. In an attempt to remedy this situation, lawmakers in California passed the Fair Day's Pay Act. The law imposed personal liability for specific wage and hour violations committed by owners, directors, officers, and other people in management within a company. This means that any acting agent of a business who is proven to violate wage and hour laws could be personally liable.
Some employees in California might wonder how salary legally differs from overtime. Salary is financial compensation that an employee is paid regularly; it does not fluctuate. In contrast, overtime is paid to hourly employees when they work more than a certain number of hours or days.
The minimum wage is going to increase in California starting on Jan. 1, 2019. On that date, employers that have 26 or more employees will be required to pay workers no less than $12 per hour. Smaller companies will be required to pay workers at least $11 per hour. Eventually, the minimum wage in the state will rise to $15 per hour. Large companies will need to reach that threshold by 2022.
Uber drivers in California and Massachusetts were initially awarded $100 million in a 2016 settlement with the company. The claim asked that drivers be classified as employees as opposed to independent contractors. While it was thrown out by a federal court, drivers in New York were given unemployment benefits when it was determined that they were employees. Although incidents involving Uber may have gotten the most attention, it is not the only company that incorrectly classifies its workers.
Employees residing in California should be aware of examples of wage and hour disputes, which are especially common around Christmas. The push to get holiday shopping done in time results in employers pushing retail workers harder than ever to meet demand. Employees who complain or refuse to comply with their packed schedules may face retaliation. This leaves many employees feeling hopeless and choosing to not put up a fight, afraid their hours will be cut in response to their complaints. Some employees are even fired.
Confusion over issues such as overtime pay sometimes leads to actions by California employers that violate the Fair Labor Standards Act. Situations may be further complicated when workers perform on-call duties beyond their normal work hours. In one case involving this issue, a nurse working at a health center claimed she was due unpaid OT pay for working weekends on call. She was paid her standard pay rate for working her required on-call weekend hours. However, she contends she was not paid for what she considered overtime during the weekends when she was on call.
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.
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.
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.