• Sasha Struthers

6 Easy Ways Los Angeles Employers Can Avoid A Wage & Hour Lawsuit in 2021

I can open this post with the million scary ways an employee can sue you alleging you are just bad at math (*cough* PAGA *cough* DLSE). The truth is, I am continually dumb founded by California's employment laws and the draconian punishment that comes with them. Nevertheless, there are 6 straightforward steps employers can implement right now to either avoid a wage and hour lawsuit, or at the very least curb the liability of one going forward.

1. No More Rounding- I saw this with Universal Studios Hollywood's theme park. It was a bad idea when I worked there in law school and many a year later it was a bad idea when it got them into a class action lawsuit. Pay employees based on the actual time they worked. Again, if you don't love math, there are softwares out there for virtual time clocking. Do not round up or down. It just leaves room for error.

2. Give Meal Breaks Earlier than Later- On the same topic of meal breaks the law requires the meal break be given by the end of the 5th hour of work. However, you should always give it earlier. Not too early because that really annoys employees, but aim for around the 4th hour.

3. Over Compensate with Meal Breaks- The law requires a 30 minute unpaid meal break if an employee works over 5 hours. A second meal break is required when an employee works over 10 hours in a day. Everyone knows this by now. What everyone does not know is the 30 minute meal break is hotly contested by employee attorneys are insufficient and interrupted. I suggest giving at least 45 minutes to 1 hour unpaid meal breaks. In this instance giving more will give you less headaches.

4. Strict Meal & Rest Break Policies- Many of my clients buy handbooks and feel they have set themselves apart from the rest of those lazy employers in Los Angeles. Then I have to give them the reality check, a handbook is only as valuable as the employer who not only enforces it but actually knows what it says. Here is what an employer needs to do (1) establish written and compliant meal, rest break and "no off the clock working" policies; (2) train employees on these policies and keep written record; and (3) enforce these policies by writing up employees who do not follow them.

5. Update Your Handbook- If you have an employee handbook or any written rules you should have an attorney review it every year. Employment laws in California change at least once a year and most employee handbooks are out of date. An out of date and unenforced handbook does not help an employer in any lawsuit.

6. Avoid Meal Break Waivers- A meal break waiver is an agreement by an employee that they waive their unpaid meal break and want to work straight through. Often employees are motivated by the idea of getting out of work early. However, these agreements are thin and many times employees later say they were coerced into signing them. It becomes an employer said/ an employee said game of credibility. Better to schedule shifts that are 5 hours or less or schedule in the meal break.

Bonus Tip: Don't forget you are the boss. As much as we all want zen like work environments, there is a hierarchy in the workplace. Often my clients get sued because they were too nice and when it came time to enforce rules an employee sued them. It is better to follow your own rules equally with all staff all the time than to beg for forgiveness later when a lawsuit arises. Check out my post here on a further look at the this dynamic.

I say this a lot and feel no shame, Los Angeles employers should talk to an attorney when they don’t know what to do or sense something is off with an employee. If you are a proactive small business or an employer in Los Angeles call or email me about specific employee issues 818-306-0686 | sasha@struthers.legal

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The information in this post is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this post should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.