California wage and hour law: What every employee should know

The work has been piling up in your department and your manager asks everyone to stay late for a couple of weeks to get caught up. Perhaps you take some work home with you or spend a weekend preparing for a business launch or marketing presentation. However, when you try to submit those hours worked for overtime pay, your request is denied.

If this sounds familiar to you, you are not alone. The United States Department of Labor reports that in the fiscal year, 2008, 182,964 employees were awarded back wages for unpaid overtime. Despite the existence of clear guidelines and laws under the Fair Labor Standards Act, some employers still commit wage and hour violations.

Overtime and California law

Earlier this year a California warehouse was cited for withholding overtime to 865 workers, according to ABC News. The warehouse denied accusations of altering time cards to show that employees received a full lunch break. The California Labor Commission alleges that employees were denied their full break and had to stand in long lines to clock back in because there were only three time clocks available.

The California Department of Industrial Relations states that it is a violation if employers work their employees over eight hours a day or 40 hours a week unless they are exempt. This means that if a regular, non-exempt employee, works over the standard hours, then the employer is required by law to pay time-and-a-half for the extra time.

However, there are a number of exceptions to this rule and people in the following professions may not be entitled to overtime pay by law:

  • Professional actors
  • Drivers, including taxi-cab drivers
  • Student nurses
  • Children and spouses of employers
  • Outside salespeople
  • Executive, administrative and professional employees

If you are not an exempt employee, then you have the right to file a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner's Office or a civil lawsuit.

Taking legal action against an employer

If you are deciding whether to take action against your employer for a wage-and-hour violation, you will need a certain amount of information to support your claim. That documentation includes time records, proof of your current wage, copies of paychecks to show the discrepancy and a copy of the collective bargaining agreement if you are under a union contract.

It is important that you provide as much information as you can to prove your claim against your employer. Therefore you may want to acquire the help of an attorney. An attorney that is experienced in wage and hour violation can explain to you the legal process and help you prepare your case.