California has some of the strictest labor laws in the country with respect to employee compensation, overtime, meal periods, and rest breaks. California’s labor laws of course apply to all of us here in Sonoma County, Mendocino County and Lake County California and are designed to protect California employees and to ensure that they are being fairly compensated. However, there are certain employees (“exempt employees”) to whom labor laws do not apply, and who are not entitled to overtime, nor meal and rest breaks.
In determining whether an employee in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Ukiah or anywhere in norther California is entitled to the benefits of the California Labor Code, one must first determine whether an employee is exempt or non-exempt. To make this determination, several factors are evaluated. An exempt employee is usually an employee who (1) performs office or non-manual work directly related to the management policies or general business operations of the employer or its customers; (2) customarily and regularly exercises discretion and independent judgment; (3) performs under only general supervision work along specialized or technical lines requiring special training; (4) is engaged in “exempt” activities at least 50 % of the time, and (5) earns twice the state’s minimum wage. Examples of exempt employees are typically highly-paid upper management personnel such as executives, professionals and administrators. Exempt employees are typically not eligible for overtime pay or meal and rest breaks. All other employees, whether paid by salary or by the hour, are “non-exempt” employees. These employees must be paid for meal and rest breaks and must be paid for overtime work.
Once it is determined that an employee is non-exempt, there are two options for an employee who has not been properly compensated for overtime or been given meal or rest breaks. The employee can file a claim with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (generally referred to as “the labor board”), which tends to be very employee-friendly, but has limitations on available discovery as well as restrictions on the type of damages that can be awarded, or a case may be filed in state Superior court, which is far more neutral in its evaluation of cases, but allows for greater discovery and the possibility of greater damages available, including emotional distress, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.
CONTACT A LABOR LAW ATTORNEY
If you are an employee and believe your employer owes you compensation, or if you are an employer who faces a labor claim, please contact the attorneys at Beck Law P.C. to discuss your legal rights.