There are different methods companies can use to pay their employees. Although many people are familiar with the hourly wage and salary options, some employees get paid piecemeal – or per job – regardless of how long it takes them to complete that job. Although it is not illegal to pay workers a piecemeal rate, employers who choose to do so must make sure they are still abiding by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Act states that all employees working in the United States are entitled to at least $7.25 per hour, with a lower minimum wage for tipped workers.
Regardless of how employees are paid, the FLSA requires employers to provide all workers with accurate itemized wage statements. By law, these statements must define a pay period and detail the hours worked or jobs performed by the employee in that pay period, how much she was paid, and how much was withheld for things like health insurance, taxes, etc. Providing these statements allows employees to make sure they are paid fair wages for the work they perform, and to keep a record of what they have been paid.
The federal FLSA governs all employers conducting business in the United States, but each state also has its own labor laws. California, for example, has a higher minimum wage than the FLSA and requires employers to provide workers with regular meal and rest breaks. Under California labor law, for every four hours of work, an employee is entitled to one paid uninterrupted meal break lasting at least ten minutes. For every five hours worked, an employee is entitled to an unpaid uninterrupted meal break of at least half an hour. For every day an employee does not take one of these breaks, for any reason, she is entitled to one hour’s worth of wages, in addition to all wages earned that day.
The problem with paying California workers by the job is it motivates them to work through their breaks. Employers may see this as a benefit, because they get more work out of their employees, but not allowing workers to take their legally mandated breaks (or pay them for the missed time) is against the law in California.
According to a recent wage and hour lawsuit against Sysco, the food distributor allegedly paid its truck drivers by the mile and by the load, rather than by the hour. This allegedly resulted in truck drivers missing their breaks. According to the lawsuit, when the mandatory breaks were not taken, Sysco allegedly did not compensate their drivers for the missed breaks, as required by California labor law.
The lawsuit further alleges the company provided employees with false wage statements as a result of this policy. Travon Jones, the lead plaintiff of the class action lawsuit, alleges he was not paid his full wages upon termination of his employment with Sysco, as a direct result of the company’s payment policy.
Sysco while denying all the claims or that it did anything wrong agreed to settle the lawsuit for about $1.95 million. Of that, Jones and the other lead plaintiff, Michael Sistrunk, will each receive up to $5,000 as an incentive award for filing the class action. Sysco has also agreed to pay up to $650,000 in attorneys’ fees, $15,000 in court costs, $17,000 for the costs of the settlement and administration, and $7,500 to the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency. The rest will be distributed among the 424 class members.
Our Havover Park and Elk Grove Village wage and hour attorneys and unpaid overtime lawyers and attorneys are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers misclassify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.
Nationwide Consumer Rights is based in Chicago and Oakbrook Terrace. We represent clients throughout the country who have not been paid for the overtime hours that they worked. If you believe that you are owed overtime wages, contact one of our Chicago class action attorneys by phone at 630-333-0333 or through our online form.