Restaurant workers have staged rallies throughout the country calling for fair wages for tipped employees. The president of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United said that low wages leave servers vulnerable to sexual harassment from customers and co-workers. The organization wants all states to follow the example of California, where employers must pay a higher wage than the federally mandated $2.13 per hour for people who receive gratuities.
Many California employees are entitled to be compensated 150 percent of their normal wages when working overtime hours. Overtime pay is required when a non-exempt employee works more than 40 hours in a week. An investigation into a construction company determined that 112 workers were not paid the standard overtime rate for hours worked over 40 in a week. Instead, they were given $3 an hour in per diem pay when working at remote job sites.
In a state with a high cost of living like California, every dollar counts, and denial of overtime can strip workers of wages that they are entitled to under the law. A December 2017 ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has held that workers that make over $100,000 each year may be entitled to overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act despite the fact that they earn six-figure salaries. The case was prompted by a class-action lawsuit filed by two welding inspectors who were denied overtime pay.
A bill that prohibits most private sector employers from asking people who are applying for jobs about their criminal background has been signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown. The bill, which is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, applies to all employers with five or more workers. Public sector employers were prohibited from asking these questions by a previous state law. Another bill signed by the governor prevents both private and public sector companies from making inquiries about salary histories.
A Supreme Court case may mean that California employees will have a harder time taking legal action against their employers, depending upon the ultimate decision. At issue is whether employers can legally require employees to enter into arbitration to collectively settle overtime, wage and other claims. Oral arguments were heard on Oct. 2, and Justice Breyer has said that the case has the potential to undermine the New Deal.
Workers in California may, in certain circumstances, be difficult to categorize as employees or independent contractors. The distinction is an important one when it comes to things like taxes, insurance and retirement savings. Those who are classified as employees are more likely to be entitled to unemployment benefits and reimbursement of expenses as well.
California employees may be interested to know that a judge has struck down an overtime rule created during the Obama administration. The ruling was issued on Aug. 31 by the same judge who blocked the rule from taking effect one year ago. If it took effect, the new rule would impact about 4 million workers, and it would allow those making up to about $47,000 to be automatically eligible for overtime pay.
Many California workers who are required to make phone calls, send texts or write emails after normal work hours may be interested to learn that their employer may be responsible for paying them for this work. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are required to pay non-exempt employees for any and all overtime hours that they work, which could include any work done on mobile devices after normal work hours.