All employers in the United States must comply with the regulations and wage laws set forth by the U.S. Department of Labor. However, individual states often have additional laws in place to regulate employment. Due to the multiple levels of regulation, it is important for workers to be familiar with both federal and California wage laws. Being knowledgeable is vital to protecting oneself and their livelihood, regardless of if one earns minimum wage or an exceptional salary. Furthermore, depending upon one’s type of employment, certain workers receive certain privileges, and everyone needs to know since this may impact how much they make.
Can an Employer Cut Wages Without Notice?
Generally, it is legal for an employer to lower one’s salary if they do not reduce it below the California minimum wage ($14 an hour). However, if an employment contract stipulates that an employee’s salary cannot decrease, it is unlawful. If an employer lowers it regardless, it is possible to file a lawsuit for breach of contract.
California law does not state how much advance an employer should give if they determine it necessary to lower an employee’s salary. In general, many recommend that employers provide notice of at least one pay period. The California Wage Protection Act states that if an employer lowers an employee’s salary, the employer must notify the employee within one week.
It is illegal for an employer to lower an employee’s salary because of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, national orientation, or disability. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, these characteristics are under the protection of federal labor laws. This regulation prohibits salary discrimination when an employer bases it on any of these categories. This law also makes it illegal to retaliate against a person because they complained about discrimination, a witness reported a case of discrimination, or otherwise was part of a protected activity.
As per the Equal Pay Act of 1963, an employer cannot legally pay employees that do the same work, have the same skill set, and uphold the same responsibilities differently because of gender. Denying someone pay because of their gender goes against equal opportunity and access principles. Essentially, there must be equal pay for equal work. Therefore, if one suspects that their income is lower because of their gender, then it may be in their interest to contact an employment lawyer.
Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Employees under California Wage Laws
The Fair Labor Standards Act has laid out the following requirements for an “exempt” employee:
- Be paid on a salary basis
- Perform exempt duties
Exempt Employees under California Wage Laws
Exempt employees receive pay on a salary basis, so overtime pay and other wage laws do not apply. Employers may require an exempt employee to work over 40 hours without overtime. Furthermore, the exempt employee may not be eligible for breaks.
The U.S. Department of Labor states that job titles such as executive, professional, or administrative are generally exempt. However, do not exclusively rely on these titles to determine whether your job is exempt or non-exempt. For instance, someone’s job title may be “administrative assistant.” Job descriptions containing “administrative” do not automatically mean the position is exempt. This employee may receive pay at an hourly rate rather than a salary.
Furthermore, receiving a salary does not automatically mean that they are an exempt employee or exempt from California labor laws. Talk to one’s employer to determine whether the position is “exempt” or “non-exempt.”
Non-exempt Employees under California Wage Laws
A Non-exempt employee is typically paid by the hour. However, some non-exempt employees receive a salary or commission. The determining factor should always be set forth in the employment contract between employer and employee. Contrary to exempt employee’s, non-exempt employees must receive overtime pay and rest breaks. They are also subject to FLSA regulations.
Some examples of non-exempt employees include the following:
The Fair Labor Standards Act establishes the national minimum wage and overtime pay. Non-exempt employees must receive a minimum wage of at least $7.25 an hour. If they work more than 40 hours in one week, the Federal Labor Law allows them to pay overtime at a rate not less than one and one-half (1.5) times the regular pay rate. There is no limit on the number of hours an employee at least 16 years old may work.
California Wage Laws and Minimum Salary for Exempt Employees
California’s exempt employees must be paid at least twice the minimum hourly wage for a 40-hour workweek. The amount comes out to be $684 per week (or $35,568 per year). However, if a particular county has a minimum wage higher than $14, then the amount an exempt employee earns needs to be double that.
My Employer Took Me Off the Schedule Without Notice. Should I Try to Collect Unemployment?
If an employer removes someone from the schedule without firing them, and the employee has not quit, they may be eligible for unemployment benefits. California Labor Code 2922 stipulates that the state has an “at-will” employment rule. At-will employment entails that one agrees to work unless one of the parties determines otherwise. “At-will” work means that employment can end at any time and for any reason, as long as it is not discriminatory. So while it is an unfortunate circumstance, it is perfectly legal for an employer to stop scheduling an employee abruptly.
If your boss has unexpectedly taken you off the schedule, try contacting them to ask if you are still an employee. If they do not respond or the response is no, it is possible to collect unemployment checks. One can file unemployment claims here.
In California, I Work More Than 40 Hours Every Week. Am I Entitled to Overtime Pay?
Whether one is entitled to overtime pay depends on the type of job. If one is an exempt employee, they receive a salary and are not entitled to overtime pay. Some employers pay overtime to their exempt employees, but they are under no legal obligation.
Non-exempt employees in California may get overtime pay if they:
- Work more than 40 hours in one week
- Work more than 8 hours in one day
- Work six days consecutively
However, some restrictions do apply. For instance, if someone works 40 hours within one week but the time spans over two different work weeks, it may not qualify as overtime. For one to get overtime pay for working more than 40 hours, those hours need to all be within the same workweek.
Contact Pride Legal
If you or a loved one believes an employer has unlawfully lowered your wage or denied you appropriate benefits, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.