Meal, Rest Break, and Non-Productive Time Class Actions for Truck Drivers, Agricultural Workers and Other Employees

In California and Washington, employers must by law provide an off-duty 30 minute meal period to employees on or before the fifth and tenth hours of work. In California, if an employer fails to provide the off-duty meal period, then the employer must pay the employee premium pay amounting to one hour of pay per day at the employee’s regular rate of pay. Employers in both states must provide 10 minute paid rest periods for every 4 hours of work. In California, rest breaks must be completely duty-free. If rest periods are not provided in California, premium pay is due in the same amount as for missed meal periods. In addition, rest periods must be paid time. Truck drivers, farm workers, and other employees who are paid on a piece-rate basis must be paid separately and hourly for all of their time spent on statutory rest periods in California and Washington.

The California Supreme Court has held that employees can seek back pay for missed meal and rest periods going back 3 years. Under California’s unfair competition law, this period of time is extended to 4 years. Similarly, employees who are not paid separately and hourly for their rest break time will likely have claims for unpaid back wages that can be pursued for the 4 prior years under California’s unfair competition law. In Washington, claims for unpaid rest breaks can be pursued going back three years. In addition, in both California and Washington, all non-productive time (inspection time, detention time, travel between fields, safety meetings, etc.) must be paid for separately and hourly and in addition to any piece-rate pay.

Our firm has amassed a significant amount of experience handling meal and rest period class actions and unpaid wage class actions on behalf of California and Washington employees, including truck drivers, agricultural workers and security guards, among others. Indeed, we have brought a number of meal and rest period class actions in Washington and California that have resulted in substantial recoveries for the class. In addition, we have recently begun to pursue a wave of class action cases for unpaid detention time, inspection time, and other non-productive time, on behalf of California truck drivers and Washington agricultural workers, and drivers paid on a piece-rate basis. Given the current law, which is very favorable to truck drivers and agricultural workers in these areas, we see these types of cases as a growth area for the next few years.

Expense Reimbursement Class Actions for Outside Salespersons and Other Employees

Under Section 2802 of the Labor Code, California employers who know or should know that their employees are incurring business-related expenses must reimburse their employees for these business-related expenses. Our firm has represented thousands of merchandisers, outside salespersons, account executives, territory managers, assistant managers, and truck drivers in class action and PAGA representative action cases alleging non-reimbursement of mileage-related and cell-phone related expenses. These cases often arise where companies pay a fixed monthly car allowance that does not cover all of the mileage expenses incurred; where companies reimburse employees at a rate lower than the IRS mileage reimbursement rate for their gas mileage expenses incurred; where employees with home offices are not reimbursed for their mileage expenses incurred to their first or from their last clients of the day; and/or where assistant managers or other employees are forced to perform inter-store transfers in their personal vehicles without receiving reimbursement for their mileage expenses. Under California law, employees who use their personal cell phones for work-related job duties should also be reimbursed for a reasonable portion of their cell phone bills. We continue to be very interested in representing workers seeking reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses incurred while performing their jobs. including unpaid mileage and cell phone bills.

Misclassification and Unpaid Minumum Wage and Overtime Class, Collective and PAGA Representative Actions

In California and Washington, employers must properly classify workers as employees, and they cannot misclassify workers as contractors to avoid having to comply with the Labor Code. In addition, employers in California must pay daily overtime after 8 hours of work at a rate of 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate of pay. Under both California, Washington, and Federal law, employers must pay weekly overtime for all hours worked by employees over 40 hours per week. Under federal law, employees who have not been paid overtime can recover their unpaid overtime pay, as well as liquidated (double) damages, and attorneys’ fees. Under state law, employees who have not been paid overtime can bring suit to recover their unpaid overtime pay, interest and attorneys’ fees incurred. Many overtime cases arise from misclassification of workers as “exempt” when, in fact, they are “non-exempt,” and, thus, entitled to overtime pay. We have successfully prosecuted unpaid overtime class and collective actions under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the California Labor Code. We have represented packers, loaders, call center workers, health care workers, and security guards, among others, in individual and class cases alleging claims for unpaid overtime and unpaid off-the-clock work.

Sexual and Racial Harassment and Retaliation Cases

Sexual harassment and Racial harassment are forms of sex and race discrimination that violate state and federal law. Unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following: the harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee; the victim as well as the harasser may be a man or a woman; the victim does not have to be the opposite sex; the victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct; sexual harassment may occur without any economic injury to or discharge of the victim; the harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome. Similarly, racial harassment occurs when the work environment is permeated with offensive racial slurs, cartoons, ridicule, comments or jokes.

Our firm represents dozens of victims of sexual and racial harassment each year. We represent victims of sexual and racial harassment, not only in California and Texas, but also in a number of other states where we work with, and provide mentorship to, highly-qualified local counsel attorneys. In 21 years of practice, Craig Ackermann has represented over 750 victims of sexual and racial harassment in cases around the country. We have found that sexual and racial harassment tends to occur more frequently in certain industries, including the restaurant industry, manufacturing facilities, medical facilities, hotels, auto repair shops and car dealerships. We look for cases where there is substantial corroboration of pervasive harassment, where documented complaints were made to management, and where the harassment persisted following the complaints. Our multi-plaintiff sexual and racial harassment practice continues to grow. It is a core value of our firm to pursue these cases. In addition, we vigorously pursue legal action when clients and potential clients are subjected to retaliation for raising complaints about illegal harassment, discrimination, and/or when they are retaliated against for bringing forward wage/hour complaints.