Articles Posted in Meals

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The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) exists to protect all employees working in the United States. It mandates things like the minimum wage that workers can be paid, how long they can work before they are entitled to overtime pay, and how much overtime compensation they are entitled to. In addition to the federal law, most states have their own labor laws that govern the employees working in that state. These laws provide their own minimum wage and overtime regulations, but some states include provisions that do not exist in the FLSA.

California, for example, in addition to requiring overtime for all employees who work more than eight hours a day or forty hours a week, also mandates that employers must provide all hourly workers with breaks throughout the day. According to California Labor Laws, for every five hours worked, all hourly employees are entitled to an unpaid, uninterrupted lunch break lasting at least half an hour. For every four hours worked, an employee is entitled to a paid, uninterrupted rest break of at least ten minutes. For every day that one of these breaks is not taken, no matter what the reason, the employee is entitled to a full hour’s wages, in addition to all wages earned that day. Continue reading

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In addition to making sure that workers are paid fair wages, various federal and state labor laws have been implemented to ensure that all employees can enjoy a safe and comfortable work environment. These laws include bans on sexual harassment, and although we normally think of women as being the subject of sexual harassment, men can be targeted, too.

According to a recent class action lawsuit that was filed in California against Costco, the company allegedly failed to properly deal with reports of sexual harassment. Micah Ornelas, who filed the lawsuit, reported that a female coworker approached him claiming that their manager had sexually harassed and threatened her. When she went through the proper channels to report the harassment, she was allegedly dismissed. Ornelas brought this information to the attention of his supervisor, who allegedly told him that the offending manager would be reprimanded. Continue reading

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Ever since a group of women filed a class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart for allegedly discriminating against employees on the basis of gender, the retail company’s reputation as an employer has suffered. A slew of other labor lawsuits have been filed against the company since then. Recently, a group of warehouse workers settled a class action lawsuit against Schneider Logistics. Although Wal-Mart was not included as a defendant in the lawsuit, Schneider Logistics is one of Wal-Mart’s biggest contractors and the warehouse contained merchandise for Wal-Mart.

Schneider Logistics employs 568 workers at its warehouse in Mira Loma, which was contracted by Wal-Mart to handle merchandise sold in its stores across the nation. According to the lawsuit, Schneider allegedly denied its employees meal breaks and rest periods. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are required to provide workers with one unpaid meal break, lasting at least half an hour, for every five hours that the employee works. For every four hours that the employee works, the employer must provide a paid rest break of at least ten minutes. For every day that the employee does not take one of these breaks, the employer is required to pay the employee for one hour’s worth of wages.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of all 568 employees who worked at Schneider’s Mira Loma location for the past five years, during which time the employees were allegedly denied their federally mandated breaks. The lawsuit alleges that, in that time, Schneider routinely altered employees’ time cards in order to make it look as though the workers had taken their breaks, when in fact they had not. In this way, Schneider cheated its employees out of their rightful pay for hours that they spent working for the company.
Schneider Logistics and the class of warehouse workers have recently reached a settlement of $4.7 million. Although the amount that each class member can expect to receive has not yet been reported, labor leaders involved in the issue are calling it a victory for the workers. “We are pleased that hundreds of workers who moved merchandise in Wal-Mart’s largest warehouse complex in the Western United States have won back $4.7 million in stolen wages owed to them for years of honest work,” said Guadalupe Palma, the director of Warehouse Workers United. “The brave workers who came forward to expose a deep pattern of abuse and fraud in Wal-Mart’s largest contracted facility risked their jobs and their livelihoods, but today they are vindicated.”

A federal judge has reportedly approved the settlement, which means that the class members can expect to receive their share of the settlement shortly. Whether Schneider agreed to admit to any wrongdoing as a condition of the settlement has not been reported at this time, but it is unlikely. In general, defendants look to settle lawsuits in an attempt to avoid a long and expensive court battle without being legally required to admit to any wrongdoing. Nevertheless, spending millions of dollars to pay off a wage and hour lawsuit sends a strong message.

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Alleged violations of labor law are found everywhere, including well-known, high-end restaurants. One such restaurant is Urasawa, a sushi bar in California where a bill for two typically exceeds $1,000. Despite the high cost of eating there, a recent wage and hour lawsuit against the restaurant alleges that the employees do not benefit from the high tab the patrons are paying.

One such employee, Heriberto Zamora, is a Mexican immigrant who worked at Urasawa for five years. He started as a dishwasher and worked his way up to food preparation. However, when he was promoted to food preparer and given a pay raise to $9 per hour, he was also allegedly required to come up with $700 to buy his own set of knives.
The wage and hour lawsuit filed by Zamora alleges that the kitchen staff at the restaurant was required to work 12-hour shifts without any overtime compensation. According to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, all hourly employees working in the United States are entitled to one and one-half times their normal hourly rate of pay for each hour that they work in excess of eight hours a day or forty hours in a week. Zamora alleges that he regularly worked 60 hours a week, but that he was never paid for those extra 20 hours.

In addition to the violation of overtime wages, the restaurant also allegedly failed to provide its employees with the requisite meal and rest periods. According to the California labor law, employers are required to provide their workers with a paid 10-minute uninterrupted rest break for every four hours worked and an unpaid 30-minute meal break for every five hours worked. According to Zamora, he and the other kitchen staff were never permitted to take these breaks while working for Urasawa. Zamora alleges he had to pee in a sink which was designed to rinse floor mops because Urasawa (the owner and namesake of the restaurant) allegedly forbade Zamora from using the customer facilities during business hours.

Although the restaurant, which serves lavish dishes that include caviar and gold flakes, had a reputation for sparing no expense for its valued guests, the courtesy apparently did not extend to the employees. Zamora describes the disconnect between the guests and the staff in a quote to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “None of the employees were treated very well. We knew people were paying a lot to eat there, but for us, it was no different.”

One day, after having worked for nine hours straight, Zamora allegedly began coughing and to feel like he was coming down with a fever. He asked to take off sick and Urasawa allegedly fired Zamora on the spot.

Julie Su, the labor commissioner for the state of California, admits that such cases of taking advantage of low-level employees are not uncommon. “There are countless examples in which workers are taking home less than they’ve earned,” she says. Reports say that investigators wait outside to watch workers come and go. They then compare what they see to the employers’ time records.

The trial court ruled in Zamora’s favor, issuing a fine of $55,000 to Urasawa for failing to pay overtime and to provide breaks to Zamora and to three other employees. Urasawa appealed the ruling.

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Among the issues of overtime, this blog frequently discusses the problem of employers illegally withholding pay from their employees. Recently, more than 100 employees of a salon settled a lawsuit with their employer, Natalie Salon
The salon, owned by Natalie Phan and her husband, Bill Dong, allegedly refused to provide overtime compensation or meal breaks. According to California labor law, employers are required to provide at least a 30-minute uninterrupted meal break for every five hours worked and at least a 10-minute break for every four hours worked. If, for whatever reason, an employer does not receive these breaks in full, the employer is required to compensate the employee for one hour’s worth of their normal hourly wage for every day that a break is missed. If an employee ends up working more than eight hours in a single day or more than 40 hours in a week, the employer is required to provide one and one-half times the employee’s normal hourly rate for each hour of overtime they work.

In addition to allegedly failing to provide overtime compensation and meal breaks, the owners of the salon also allegedly withheld parts of the employees’ tips and deducted from employee wages for minor infractions, such as dropping nail polish.

The lawsuit has settled for $75,000. The next step is for the 125 employees to review the settlement and determine if they want to remain part of the class or to opt out and sue separately. At the next court date, set for June, eligibility and distribution will be decided.

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While companies may refuse to pay their employees overtime in order to increase their own profits, at least they never claim that the salaries the employees receive are “a favor”. Lady Gaga has said just that in a six-hour deposition she gave as part of an overtime lawsuit being filed against her by her former assistant.

According to the lawsuit, the assistant, Jennifer O’Neill, was allegedly on call to cater to the Diva’s every whim at every hour of the day and night for the 13 months she worked for Gaga. O’Neill was in charge of handling Gaga’s schedule, finances, food and clothing. Her alleged duties included everything from acting as an alarm clock to ensuring the promptness of a towel after a shower. Gaga allegedly required service everywhere including her Upper West Side duplex, “stadiums, private jets, fine hotel suites, yachts, ferries, trains, and tour buses.” There were allegedly no breaks for meals or, sometimes, even sleep, according to the lawsuit.

O’Neill’s salary was $75,000 a year and she is suing for $393,000 for more than 7,000 hours of overtime, as well as unspecified damages.

A Gaga spokesperson has said that the allegations are “completely without merit” and the pop superstar herself has said in her deposition that O’Neill was paid her salary “essentially as a favor”. Gaga also said that O’Neill “knew what she was getting into, and she knew there was no overtime.” Lady Gaga appears to be unaware that whether or not an employee is eligible for overtime is a matter to be decided, not by her, but by the law. The lawsuit was filed in a Manhattan federal court.

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As this blog has demonstrated, it is important for employers to make sure that all employees are being paid for all overtime worked. If employers fail to do this in an attempt to save money, the amount they end up paying in settlements and court fees later can far outweigh the temporary benefits. Obviously, the more employees are subjected to the unfair treatment, the more the employer will end up paying. In a recent settlement in California, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel has agreed to pay $2 million to resolve allegations that the resort violated state wage and hour laws.

The class consists of approximately 1,500 current and former employees of the Marriott International subsidiary who worked at three of the hotels in San Francisco, Half Moon Bay, and Lake Tahoe since November 2007. Allegedly, the plaintiffs were denied meal breaks, compensation for overtime hours worked, and payment for accrued vacation days. The lawsuit further alleges that employees were denied overtime pay unless they had attained prior approval for the overtime.

The settlement allows for all members to opt out of the settlement. For each member that opts out, a larger share of the $2 million will go to the remaining class members.
The Ritz-Carlton denies all allegations but agreed to the settlement in order to resolve the litigation.

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Another company in California has allegedly tried to get away with making employees work overtime without the proper compensation. The lead plaintiff (who prefers to use the alias “Trevor”) and his colleagues allegedly discovered that they had been misclassified as exempt from overtime compensation. When hired, he was allegedly told that he was ineligible for overtime compensation because the position was salaried. He was told he might have to work “some weekends” but, once he began working at the company, that allegedly turned into every other weekend. Allegedly, he and his co-workers had to do remote installations so they would be flown to customer locations, put up in a hotel, and made to work 20-hour days. Trevor estimates that, in the first year he worked for that company, he clocked more than 1,000 hours of overtime.

When Trevor checked the California labor laws and discovered that nothing about his job description qualified him for overtime exemption, he confronted his boss who said he would look into it. An HR consultant was brought in who confirmed that the IT employees were not exempt and were therefore entitled to compensation for their overtime hours. However, rather than paying his employees for the overtime hours they worked, the employer devised a system whereby employees would bank the overtime and take a day off every so often to reduce the “bank”. Yet Trevor alleges that he still has not taken a day off.

When Trevor started to dig a little deeper, he found that it was more than just the weekends he should have been paid for. According to California labor law, if a non-exempt employee misses a lunch break or a rest break, the law requires the employer to pay them their regular overtime rate for that missed time. It came as a shock to Trevor to discover that his employer also should have been paying him for the lunch breaks he missed. He also discovered that his employer has had two labor lawsuits filed against him before this, so he must have been aware of the applicable labor laws.

Although the employer has made a settlement offer, Trevor is uncertain whether he and his co-workers should accept it. It provides separate settlements for each employee and releases the employer from any claims.

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When making sure employees do not work overtime (or that they are being compensated for the overtime they are working) employers need to remember to account for breaks. AT&T Teleholdings, Indiana Bell, Ameritech Services, and AT&T Services are facing a class action lawsuit from eleven employees who allege they were required to work overtime.

The plaintiffs allege that they were given a lunch break of either thirty or forty-five minutes for which they were required to clock out. However, they were not allowed to leave their vehicle and, if they were assigned manhole work, they were required to guard the manhole and could not go farther than half a mile from the assigned route. The plaintiffs allege that this frequently made finding food very difficult, sometimes even impossible. If the employee had brought a lunch, then he/she was permitted to eat in their vehicle but, once they had finished eating, they were not allowed to leave or engage in personal activities.

The plaintiffs also allege that the company’s productivity requirements was a strong incentive for many technicians to work through their lunch break in order to get more done before the end of their shift.

While California has a requirement that employees be given a thirty-minute meal break for every five hours of work, Indiana has no such requirement. However, due to the length of the shifts (which are generally nine hours long, each) if an employee works through their lunch break, the result is that they are working more than eight hours a day and, in some cases more than forty hours a week. In such a case, the employees are owed overtime wages, defined as one and one-half times their normal hourly rate of pay.

A spokesperson for AT&T has come out with a statement insisting that they are in full compliance with all state and federal employment laws and have received “numerous awards for being an employer of choice.”

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This blog has discussed the issue of employers misclassifying certain employees as exempt from overtime payments when, in fact, nothing about their position or duties renders them ineligible for overtime. This is an unfair practice on the part of employers in order to make more money by taking advantage of their employees and it appears to have happened again at various Wells Fargo retail banking locations in California.

Bridgette Williams, who formerly worked as a salaried Loan Underwriter for Wells Fargo, filed suit against the bank for allegedly misclassifying her as exempt from overtime. She also alleges that Wells Fargo: had a consistent policy of encouraging or requiring its Loan Underwriters to work more than eight hours a day and more than forty hours a week; denying employees meal breaks and rest periods; failing to provide employees with accurate, itemized pay stubs; and failing to maintain accurate records of how many hours their employees worked and what they were paid.

According to California employment law, employers are required to provide their employees with a ten-minute rest period for every four hours of work, a meal break of at least thirty minutes for every five hours of work, and two meal breaks for every ten hours of work. If an employee fails to take one of these breaks, the employer is required by California law to pay the employee one hour’s wages for each day that the employee does not take one of these breaks. Allegedly, Wells Fargo failed to both provide these rest periods and to compensate its employees for the loss of these breaks.

The Complaint also alleges that Wells Fargo has failed to pay its employees, in a timely manner, their wages due upon termination or resignation. When an employee resigns, the employer has 72 hours from the time of resignation to pay the employee any wages due. If there are back wages owed to the employee, California law requires the employer to continue paying the employee’s wages until the back wages have been paid, or for thirty days. A number of employees who were terminated or resigned from Wells Fargo, including Williams, allegedly have still not been paid their final wages.

Wells Fargo has numerous retail banking locations throughout California and has employed hundreds of individuals in California in recent years as salaried Loan Underwriters. These positions do not meet any known test for exemption from overtime payment and/or the entitlement to meal breaks or rest periods. Therefore, the class could potentially consist of hundreds of members.

Allegedly, Wells Fargo was aware of the legal mandates and chose to ignore them, resulting in an unfair advantage over their competition and unjust treatment of their employees. It also allegedly concealed from its employees the magnitude and financial impact of its alleged illegal practices by allegedly failing to provide their employees with accurate itemized pay stubs.

As compensation, the plaintiffs are seeking lost wages from unpaid overtime hours plus interest, costs of bringing the suit, reasonable attorneys’ fees, and a court-ordered injunction against Wells Fargo to prevent them from continuing to or again entering into these illegal employment practices.

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