Overtime Court Battles Wage in California, Nationwide

A class action overtime lawsuit involving Los Angeles mechanics who alleged they were unfairly denied overtime pay by their employer has been settled for $3.5 million, meaning each claimant can expect to receive between $9,000 and $10,000. notmuchmoney

Our Costa Mesa wage and hour attorneys know that cases like this are becoming more common, as workers become more and more educated about their rights.

It helps that there are a number of recent cases in which workers have won big in these cases. That’s encouraging, but it’s also natural that workers want to fight for themselves and fair wages.

The Federal Judicial Center reports that there have been an estimated 7,700 wage and hour lawsuits filed in the U.S. so far this year. That may seem somewhat low, but it’s worth noting that it’s a figure that has shot up dramatically in recent years. In fact, there was a 400 percent increase in the number of wage and hour cases from 2000 to 2011. And already so far this year, there has been a 10 percent increase over what we saw last year total.

There are a number of reasons why these lawsuits have risen. One, as we mentioned earlier, is worker education and confidence. We live in the information era, and workers are taking full advantage of this information sharing.

But beyond that, employers are consistently improperly classifying workers. In doing so, companies are exempting workers from receiving overtime when in fact they should be receiving it.

A prime example would be someone who is labeled a professional, thereby earning them a salary. However, if they are conducting non-professional duties and not receiving overtime for those actions, the employer could be in violation of the law.

The Fair Labor Standards Act, passed in 1938, governs work rules in the U.S. This is the agency that dictated the 8-hour-a-day, 40-hour-a-week work schedule. It also mandates minimum wage for workers and time-and-a-half for overtime. The agency also determines who should be classified for overtime pay.

One example of a worker who wouldn’t be paid overtime is what we would call a “highly compensated worker.” That is, someone who works in an office, doing non-manual labor and is paid a total annual compensation of $100,000 or more.

Still, there is a lot of gray area in this field. For instances, sometimes secretaries are classified in this sector, and in other companies, they are not.

The sagging economy has also complicated matters. Companies have shifted responsibilities so that so-called managers who are salaried (and therefore exempt from overtime) are doing the work of hourly employees, but not getting paid for it.

In the case of the approximately 200 mechanics from the Los Angeles area, the allegations were that the crews routinely worked 11-hour shifts four times weekly. However, there was no valid alternative workweek schedule, and employees weren’t paid overtime for those days in which they worked more than eight hours inn a given day.

In addition to this, workers weren’t given a second meal break or time to take additional rest breaks during these longer days.

Alternative work week schedules are allowed under California Labor code, which means there are instances when workers could be required to work more than eight hours over a 24-hour time frame. However, there are still overtime requirements in these situations. The defendant in this case failed to follow those requirements.

Costa Mesa employment lawsuits can be filed with the help of the Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

Court Battles Heat Up: ‘I Want Overtime Pay’, June 17, 2013, By Mark Koba, CNBC

More Blog Entries:

Race Discrimination at California Target Stores Alleged, July 13, 2013, Costa Mesa Employment Lawyer Blog