A California non-profit wage theft lawsuit was settled recently for $170,000, according to Palo Alto Weekly. The organization is responsible for providing street cleaning services in communities around the Bay area. The class action claim was filed by a former employment specialist at the group, who alleged that she and others were routinely denied fair wages.
According to the wage and hour lawsuit, the workers were not paid for overtime, denied break and lunch time compensation, and received late wage payments post-termination or resignation. Additionally, workers alleged employee misclassification, categorizing some workers as salaried and thus “exempt” from overtime pay under the California Labor Code. The pay rate for “salaried” employees, plaintiffs asserted, fell below the statutory level that would qualify them as exempt employees.
As our Los Angeles wage and hour lawyers can explain, California labor laws do apply to non-profit agencies, unless the individual in question is a volunteer, not an employee. As of Jan. 1, 2021, the statewide minimum wage in California is $14 hourly for companies with 26 or more employees and $13 hourly for those with 25 for fewer. However, some local ordinances set forth higher minimum wage rate than state law. For example, the minimum age in Los Angeles is $15 hourly for companies with 26 or more employees and $14.25 hourly for those with fewer. Where local minimum wage rates higher than state rates, employers must comply with the local law.
Non-profit employees are entitled to these protections as well. This include federal and state anti-discrimination protections for employees as well. Volunteers are exempt from wage and hour laws, but given their voluntary role, employers can’t compel them to work hours longer than they wish. Additionally, non-profits are still required to follow state safety regulations, and cannot deliberately or negligently endanger volunteers.
In the case against the Bay area non-profit, about six dozen employees were affected by alleged pay disparities. It should be noted that under California law, employees:
- Who do not take a meal/rest break are entitled to be paid for a full extra hour.
- Who works in excess of eight hours daily or 40 hours weekly (with few exceptions) are entitled to receive 1.5 times their regular rate of pay. If they work more than 12 hours in a day, they’re entitled to double their regular pay.
- Who works eight hours on the seventh consecutive day is entitled to double pay.
The allegations of wage theft in this case was reported to have alleged millions in losses, so a settlement of $170,000 appears to fall far short of what is rightly owed. The organization denied the allegations, but said it agreed to settle because there were discrepancies in employee hour reporting. The organization has said it plans to carefully review its records to determine whether other employees were improperly compensated and to develop a better system of clocking in and out and ensuring breaks.
If you have been denied fair wage or breaks in California, our dedicated Los Angeles employment lawyers can help.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Newport Beach, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.
Downtown Streets Team settles wage theft lawsuit for $170K, Aug. 19, 2021, Palo Alto Weekly