Discouraging Workers from Taking Meal Breaks Cost Walmart over $6M

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Two Walmart workers filed a California class-action lawsuit alleging lost meal breaks due to mandatory security checks. The plaintiffs, Chelsea Hamilton and Alyssa Hernandez, contended that the required security search took a lot of time,  was intrusive and embarrassing.  Plaintiffs did not claim that Walmart prohibited them from taking their break, but they did insist they were discouraged. Discouraging employees from taking their legally protected meal break cost Walmart $6.1 million when the jury awarded Walmart workers in April.

Throughout the years, lawsuits filed by employees have resulted in rulings on what employers can do, what employers cannot do, and what employers are required to do in different legal areas. One of the most common disputed areas is rest and meal breaks. This case makes it clear that employers may not make it too hard or too much of a hassle for their employees to take their legally protected meal breaks. Some say that “meal break discouragement” theory could be an important new element of California labor law.

According to the California Labor Code, non-exempt workers are entitled to receive a 30-minute meal break if they work over 5 hours in one day. Employers are not required to pay employees for the meal break. Employees who work more than 10 hours in one day are entitled to additional meal breaks. Employers are also required to provide employees with 10-minute breaks every 4 hours on the job. Unlike meal breaks, employers are required by law to pay employees during their mandatory 10-minute breaks.

Employers who do not comply with meal and rest break law are required to provide employees who missed mandatory breaks with one additional hour of regular pay for each day during which a meal break violation occurred. Another extra hour of payment is required for each day during which a rest break violation occurred during their work shift.

Past lawsuits and findings of the court have made it clear that both rest and meal breaks must be free of job duties and uninterrupted (this includes running errands for the company/employer or being on call).  

If you are experiencing meal and rest break violations in the workplace or if your employer does not offer meal or rest breaks to employees, please get in touch with one of the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP can help. Find the employment law office nearest you: San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange or Chicago.

Southern California Car Wash Company Allegedly Cheated 800 Workers Out of Overtime Pa

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A southern California car wash mogul, Vahid David Delrahim, will pay back $4.2 million in back wages and penalties after allegedly cheating 800 workers out of overtime pay and destroying evidence. The decision followed a two-year court battle with federal authorities.

The Los Angeles native failed to provide workers at a dozen different California locations with minimum wage or overtime payment. The car washes were located in Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties. The consent decree was approved by the U.S. District Court Judge Fernando Olguin ordering Delrahim to pay:

·      $1.9 million in back wages

·      $1.9 million in damages to workers

·      $400,000 in civil penalties

The case is being called a landmark case as it sends a powerful message to employers that the Department of Labor will use powerful law enforcement and litigation tools to protect employees and level the playing field for law-abiding employers. According to the judgment, Delrahim ordered his employees (many of whom are Spanish speakers unfamiliar with U.S. and/or California labor law) to work off the clock at the start of each shift. He also ordered them to clock out when business was slow but remain at the car wash for when business picked back up. This resulted in many hours on site without payment.

The back wages ordered by the court cover a period from 2013 to the present. It’s possible that more workers will be added to the case resulting in more money as the identity of all workers at all 12 car washes is not currently known. Delrahim was told to provide more names, addresses and workplace records within 30 days. The info was originally requested by the prosecutors in the case in 2016. The judgment will result in the employees receiving over $10,000 in back wages.

If you have questions about off the clock work or overtime payment, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Coding School Agrees to $1M Settlement After Alleged Labor Law Violations

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A coding school, General Assembly Space, Inc., recently agreed to pay over a thousand of their current and past instructors $1 million in order to settle allegations that the school misclassified them as independent contractors rather than employees. As a result of the misclassification, the instructors were not paid minimum wage and overtime wages according to their complaint filed in California federal court.

The motion for preliminary settlement approval the plaintiffs’ counsel stated that they planned to request 1/3 of the settlement amount – approximately $333,333 for attorneys’ fees and another $15,000 for expenses in addition to regular fees. Plaintiffs’ counsel felt this amount was fair as it would allow each class member to receive around $28.35 for every qualifying week they completed on the job.

If the settlement deal is approved it would provide resolution for the 10-count complaint that was filed by John Marin, lead plaintiff in the case. The suit was filed in July 2017 against General Assembly Space, Inc., a New York based online school.

The lead plaintiff in the case, Marin, began working for the school as a lead instructor, full-time in June 2016. He taught three consecutive 3-month immersive data science courses in Lost Angeles, California.

According to Marin, he consistently worked 70-80 hour work weeks and was not given the meal and rest breaks required by law. He also claims he was not paid overtime for his hours over the standard 40 hour work week or given accurate/itemized wage statements. After he completed the instruction of the third consecutive course, he was terminated abruptly. The company then replaced Marin with an employee who was classified as exempt from overtime. Marin was denied unemployment benefits by the company, but California’s Employment Development Department later reversed this denial.

The original complaint asserted claims under the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) in addition to claims under California state labor law and the state’s Unfair Competition Law. He also made claims under the Private Attorneys General Act (allowing workers to sue in order to recover civil penalties on their own behalf and on behalf of other employees in their situation), and the state of California for labor code violations.

Marin later amended his complaint to add another former instructor, Keyan Bagheri, as a lead plaintiff. The district court cut the claims brought under FLSA and soon after, the two parties entered mediation. The parties notified the court that they had reached a settlement agreement in May.

If you have questions about overtime pay or if you are not receiving your meal or rest breaks in accordance with California state labor law and/or the Fair Labor Standards Act, please get in touch with the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.