Many employees suffer low wages or work overtime without compensation because they are afraid their employers will lash out against them if they speak up, but some wage and hour violations do have happy endings.
Li Xiu Z. worked as a cook at Yank Sing, a dim sum restaurant in San Francisco. She was paid San Francisco’s minimum wage ($12.25 per hour) for eight hours a day, but she allegedly worked 11-12 hours most days.
Although she does not speak English, Li had more knowledge of and experience with wage and hour violations than many of her English-speaking counterparts. She had had a similar experience working for a previous employer and had won back pay to make up for the earned wages she had not received.
Li met with other employees of Yank Sing and they decided to issue a formal complaint against the restaurant.
The California Labor Commissioner investigated the complaint and found that, not only were workers not getting paid for working overtime, but managers were also keeping tips for themselves and forcing employees to work off the clock.
Henry and Judy C., the owners of Yank Sing, were surprised by the result of the investigation. They responded by replacing three quarters of their management team and implementing a system to make sure employees now receive proper breaks (in accordance with California wage and hour laws). They also now use time sheets to track the number of hours employees work and offer to pay for employees’ health insurance in full.
The owners also provided compensation for their employees’ back pay for the past five years. The total settlement amount was more than $4 million.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) protects all employees working in the United States. It regulates things like the federal minimum wage (which is currently set at $7.25 per hour) and overtime (which is defined as all time spent working after eight hours a day or eighty hours a week. Under the FLSA, all hourly employees who work more than a standard business week are entitled to one and one-half times their normal hourly rate for all overtime worked.
In addition to the FLSA, each state has its own labor laws that regulate all employers conducting business within the state. All businesses hiring workers in the United States need to make sure they’re abiding by all state, as well as federal, labor laws.
California, for example, has a higher minimum wage than the FLSA (and San Francisco’s minimum wage is even higher). California labor law also requires employers to provide all hourly workers with breaks throughout the day. For every four hours an employee spends working, she is entitled to one paid, uninterrupted rest break lasting at least ten minutes. For every five hours worked, employees are entitled to one unpaid, uninterrupted meal break lasting 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 and tips earned that day.
Li now works as a consultant who educates employees in other restaurants on their rights and helps them work together to speak out against unfair working conditions.Our Elgin and Aurora 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.