State vs. Federal Labor Laws: Navigating Employee Protections

wage and hour labor laws

Although the federal government sets minimum standards for labor law, many states offer more protections for employees than those provided by federal regulations. Minimum wage, straight time, over time, rest breaks, meal breaks, and record keeping requirements are all regulated by both the federal and state governments. When federal and state laws conflict, employers are required to follow the laws that are most beneficial to the employee.

Minimum Wage Disparities

Minimum wage laws regulate the minimum rate of hourly pay an employer must provide to an employee as compensation for labor. The minimum wage in the U.S. is $7.25 per hour; however, the minimum wage in California is much higher, starting at $15.50 per hour. Additionally, some cities within California have a higher minimum wage than the state minimum. When determining wages, it is important to check federal, state, and city minimum wage requirements to ensure the hourly wage provided is compliant with all applicable minimum wage laws.

Unpacking Compensation: Straight Time, Overtime, and Double Time

Straight time pay is the total amount of money an employee earns over a pay period, usually a one- or two-week period. Straight time does not include overtime, double time, or paid time off. In other words, straight time is the total amount of pay an employee will be compensated for working a regular number of hours (up to 40 hours) in a work week. When an employee works over 8 hours in any given day or more than 40 hours in any work week, the employer is required to compensate the employee at a premium rate. Premium pay, or overtime, is 1.5 times the regular rate of pay. California also has a requirement that any work performed beyond 12 hours in a single day or beyond 8 hours on the 7th consecutive workday must be compensated at double time. Double time is the regular rate of pay times 2. You can read more about straight time, overtime, and double time here.

Ensuring Employee Breaks: Rest Breaks and Lunch Breaks

Employers are required to provide employees with adequate rest breaks and lunch breaks during the workday. An employee who works more than 4 hours is entitled to a 10-minute rest break and an employee who works more than 5 hours is entitled to a 30-minute lunch break. If an employer fails to provide an employee with the minimum required breaks for the hours worked, the employee is entitled to compensation in the amount of 1 hour of regular pay per day that a break was not provided. Our wage and hour dispute lawyers can help provide more insight on what you may be entitled to.

The Importance of File Retention in California

File retention is an essential requirement for an employer. Under federal law, an employer must retain general employment records for a period 2 years, and payroll records for a period of 3 years. It is important to note that an employer bears the burden of proof after an employee has demonstrated, by their own testimony, that they have not been properly compensated for their time. Employees are also entitled to review their employment records upon request, and failing to maintain adequate employment records could lead to fines and lofty legal fees for an employer.

Protecting Employee Rights: Legal Assistance

It is necessary for employers to follow all state and federal labor laws. If you believe your employer has failed to properly follow all labor laws, contact us. At TONG LAW, our employment attorneys are experienced in helping employees enforce their rights.

Author Bio

Vincent Tong

Vincent Tong is the CEO and Managing Partner of TONG LAW, a business and employment law firm located in Oakland, CA. Vincent is a fierce advocate for employees facing discrimination and wrongful termination. With several successful jury trial victories and favorable settlements, he has earned a strong reputation for delivering exceptional results for his clients.

In addition, Vincent provides invaluable counsel to businesses, guiding them on critical matters such as formation and governance, regulatory compliance, and protection of intellectual property assets. His depth of experience allows him to anticipate risks, devise strategies to avoid legal pitfalls, and empower clients to pursue their goals confidently.

Vincent currently serves as the 2021 President of the Board of Directors for the Alameda County Bar Association and sits on the Executive Board for the California Employment Lawyers Association. Recognized for outstanding skills and client dedication, he has consecutively earned the Super Lawyers’ Rising Star honor since 2015, reserved for the top 2.5% of attorneys. He also received the Distinguished Service Award for New Attorney from the Alameda County Bar Association in 2016. He is licensed to practice before all California state courts and the United States District Court for the Northern and Central Districts of California.

LinkedIn | State Bar Association | Super Lawyers | Google