Employee rest periods and overtime are worker rights guaranteed in California by statute and overseen by regulators at the state’s Department of Industrial Relations. Although there are exceptions, most workers are guaranteed at least 10 minutes of rest for every 10 hours worked and must be paid overtime for every hour worked over 40. The laws are clear, and yet our employment wage and hour lawyers know far too many companies run afoul of them.
Some large banks in the country have been accused – and made to pay – repeatedly for failures in providing employees with rest breaks or pay overtime as required by law – in California and other states.
Recently, a federal judge in New Jersey approved a $35 million settlement to current and former employees at Wells Fargo & Co. who were made to work unpaid overtime outside normal hours. That lawsuit was initially filed three years ago, with the financial firm’s accused of not paying for all hours worked and/or not paying overtime. Workers were reportedly forced to work off-the-clock in order to meet unrealistic sales targets that would be impossible to achieve in a typical 40-hour workweeks.
That same bank had previously been accused of rest break violations.
In May 2018, California employees with the bank were awarded nearly $100 million – more than four times the settlement the bank had proposed – as the result of a class action employment lawsuit. While many issues were initially raised, the only that stuck were rest period violations under California law. However, the U.S. Ninth District Court of Appeal reversed after finding the plaintiff’s cause of action to be improper, noting the issue they’d asserted was that they weren’t being paid for rest breaks, not that they weren’t given them. Wages and hours may be closely related, but they aren’t the same thing, and the court noted plaintiffs had not pleaded it properly in their complaint.
The same year as the Wells Fargo verdict, Bank of America was slapped with a class action lawsuit alleging it misclassified salaried workers so that they would be exempt from receiving overtime hours for any worked in excess of 40 weekly. The workers alleged that under the Fair Labor Standards Act, they should have been receiving overtime pay because they spent more than half their time performing non-exempt duties, had no authority to make recommendations about hiring/firing employees, didn’t supervise at least two others, performed work unrelated to management and weren’t spending more than half their time off-site dealing with sales.
The workers also alleged they were denied 30-minute meal breaks, reimbursement for travel costs and itemized wage statements. The case was moved to a federal court in California.
Earlier this year, a class action employee lawsuit in Los Angeles was filed against yet another financial firm, OneWest Bank, for allegedly failure to properly file overtime for hourly employees and further denied workers mandatory rest and meal breaks.
Under California law, employees who work more than five hours in a single shift are to be provided with a meal break before the end of that fifth hour. A second meal break is to be provided for employees required to work 10 hours in a shift. Both of these breaks should be uninterrupted.
Workers can choose not to take their breaks in some cases. They aren’t mandatory. But when this occurs, the employer must pay the worker for that time – and the employer can’t compel it.
If you believe you have been wrongfully denied a rest break, contact our Los Angeles employment attorneys.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.
Rest Periods/Lactation Accommodation, California Department of Industrial Relations