Is My Summer Job Employer Committing Wage Theft?

Summer jobs are a rite of passage for many high school students, college students, and even vacationing teachers looking to make some extra money when classes are out of session. Sadly, some employers take advantage of these summer job seekers. They often hired seasonal help without providing the costs and coverage of full-time employees.  Some of the biggest brands in retail and restaurants have faced these claims and paid out millions, including Kraft/Heinz, Comcast, Walmart, PetSmart, FedEx, Sephora, and more. Some employers even knowingly violate the law with just a few subtle things that most seasonal employees don’t notice.

The Carter Law Firm, an employment law firm based in Orange County, wants you to know what to watch out for so that you can make sure you’re being paid what you’re owed. Some of the common ways employers could mistreat employees include the following.

Denying Proper Meal and Rest Breaks

In California, employers must provide a 30-minute meal break if you work more than five hours in one day. California workers are also guaranteed a 10-minute rest break for every four-hours they work.  Some bosses run through employees quickly as part-time help, and bend the rules hoping employees don’t know the breaks to which they are entitled. If your boss isn’t allowing you meal and rest breaks during your shift, they could be violating the law.

You may not think that’s a big deal, but under California law, employers could be forced to pay employees an extra hour of pay for every break violation.  It adds up.

Not Paying Overtime

California employers are required to pay employees 1.5 times their regular wage if they work more than eight hours in one day. Employers sometimes illegally misclassify employees as exempt from California overtime laws, even though only a handful of jobs fall under California overtime exemption laws.

Donning and Doffing

In many instances, if you have to put on any kind of official work uniform or special gear to do your job, you may have to be compensated for that time.  Many employers do not have their employees clock in until after they have placed on their protective gear and arrived at their respective work stations.  This often happens in factory warehouses and can impact thousands of employees.  It also may include employees suiting up for laboratory or medical positions.  , but it doesn’t have to be technical. Makeup seller Sephora faced this type of case when they do not compensate their workers for the time it took to apply their makeup.

If your boss made you come in early to prepare for a shift and didn’t clock you in upon arrival and for that prep time, your rights may have been violated.

Misclassifying Employees as Independent Contractors

When someone works as an independent contractor, a company paying the contractor doesn’t control what the worker does or how the worker completes his job. Conversely, an employee is someone the company directs and dictates how the worker does their job, and how they’re paid.  They typically also provide the worker's tools and supplies needed to do their job.

Often companies misclassify employees as independent contractors in order to dodge California minimum wage rates and overtime protections. They also typically deny these employees protection when injured on the job.  Misclassifying employees as independent contractors is illegal, and employees can sue their employers if they believe they’ve been misclassified.  If you are working in retail, at a restaurant, or for a company with regular hours, and using their equipment as part of the work, you’re most definitely not an independent contractor and shouldn’t be classified that way.

Do any of these situations sound familiar to you? If so, contact the Carter Law Firm to review your possible claim free of charge. Summer workers are often the most vulnerable to wage theft, and we want to make sure you’re being paid the money you’re owed. We can sometimes determine this by looking at your pay stub.