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Comparing state and federal wage and hour laws

The right of workers in California to receive paid overtime and other fringe benefits is guaranteed by two laws: the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the California Labor Code. Both laws govern wage and hour disputes between workers and employers, and their provisions are very similar. All workers should be familiar with the basic provisions of each.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938 as part of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. The law requires that all workers engaged in interstate commerce receive the federal minimum wage and overtime pay at the rate of 1.5 times their basis wage for hours worked in excess of forty per week. The statute contains a number of exemptions for professional and managerial workers, and the applicability of these exemptions generates most disputes about how much workers should be paid. Whether a worker is exempt from the FLSA depends upon the substance of their duties, not upon labels or categories established by the employer. The FLSA is enforced by the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor, but the statute preserves the right of employees to bring an independent lawsuit to recover unpaid overtime and other benefits required by the statute.

The California rules for paid overtime and minimum wage are set forth in Section 510 of the state Labor Code. The law requires all employees in the state to be paid the state-prescribed minimum wage (currently $10.00/hour) and overtime for all hours worked in excess of 40 per week and 8 per day (the federal law does not contain a requirement for daily overtime). The normal rate for overtime pay is 1.5 times the employee's basic rate of pay; the rate increases to twice the regular rate of pay for work performed in excess of eight hours on the seventh day of any week. The state law is enforced by the Labor Commissioner, but, like the federal law, employees have the right to bring private actions to enforce payment of overtime and minimum wages.

Anyone who feels they may be owed unpaid overtime may wish to consult a lawyer who specializes in such cases for an assessment of the case. An experienced attorney can provide an analysis of whether the federal or state law applies and which provides greater benefits, as well as an estimate of the likelihood of damages, punitive damages and attorneys' fees.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, "Wage and Hour Division (WHD)," accessed on Sept. 10, 2016

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