If you’re an employee in California, state law normally protects your right to a healthy working environment.
One of the ways California law protects you is by requiring your employer to give you rest and meal breaks.
If your employer doesn’t let you take your breaks, they have to pay you a premium.
But even if your employer appears to follow this law, there’s a chance that they’re not paying you enough.
The Supreme Court of California’s recent decision in Ferra v. Loews Hollywood Hotel, LLC makes clear that sometimes employees need to ask for more from their employers when their rights are violated.
The Meal and Break Rules
For many employees, an employer has to give one or more 10-minute rest breaks after an employee works more than 3.5 hours in a day.
At a minimum, an employer also has to give one or more 30-minute meal breaks for many employees who work more than five hours in a day. Breaks have to be uninterrupted. And an employee has to be relieved of all their work duties during meal and rest breaks.
If you don’t receive a required break, your employer has to give you an extra hour of pay. The Ferra v. Loews case clarifies what that extra hour of pay should look like.
How Ferra v. Loews Affects the Meal and Break Laws
In Ferra v. Loews, the Supreme Court of California settled a dispute between an employee and a Loews Hotel in California (the employer) about how much an employer should pay for a missed break.
The Ferra employee didn’t receive proper breaks and filed suit against her employer. The employee’s regular wages included an hourly pay rate and additional incentive payments.
Ferra Says Your Employer Might Have to Pay You a Higher Amount Than They Thought When You Don’t Receive Proper Breaks
Section 226.7(c) of California’s Labor Code states that an employer has to give an employee “one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation” for each workday that a break isn’t given.
The employer in Ferra argued that the regular rate of compensation meant just the employee’s hourly rate. The employee argued that the regular rate of compensation included her hourly rate and her incentive pay.
The Ferra employee’s argument pointed out that when Labor Code Section 510 requires an employer to pay one-and-one-half to two times an employee’s “regular rate of pay” for overtime, the regular rate of pay includes an employee’s base rate and any non-discretionary payments they receive.
Non-discretionary payments are extra payments that come from an agreement between an employer and an employee. There are many kinds of non-discretionary payments, including commissions, bonuses, and incentive payments.
The Ferra employer argued that the California Supreme Court shouldn’t calculate the regular rate of compensation for missed breaks the same way it calculates the regular rate of pay for overtime.
The employer said the two are not the same because the sections of the law use different words (“pay” instead of “compensation”). Using the history of the relevant laws, the California Supreme Court agreed with the employee.
The California Supreme Court held that the regular rate of compensation for missed breaks should include the employee’s base hourly rate and her incentive pay.
If your employer hasn’t allowed you breaks, you need to make sure that you receive proper payment based on a complete wage history of your total compensation.
Your Employer’s Obligation to Pay You a Higher Amount for Missed Breaks Applies to Past and Future Mistakes
The California Supreme Court decided Ferra v. Loews on July 15, 2021, and they ruled that their decision applied retroactively.
This means that an employer might have to pay a regular rate of pay, including the base rate and non-discretionary compensation, for missed breaks that occurred before July 15, 2021.
If you’re an employee who did not receive proper breaks before July 15, 2021, you could be leaving money on the table if you don’t claim proper payment for that time.
Sometimes these amounts can be hard to calculate. An experienced wage and hour attorney can make the right calculations for you.
Contact an Attorney Today to Fight for All You Deserve
Your time is valuable, and your employer should pay you accordingly. At the Workplace Rights Law Group, our attorneys are dedicated to winning employees full remedies when an employer has violated their rights.
We want you to win every cent your hard work earned. We have the experience to go toe to toe with your employer, and we customize our approach to your needs. We care about your story.
Contact us online or call us at 818-925-1572 for a free case review.