State vs. Federal Labor Laws: Navigating Employee Protections
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.