Cheesecake Factory restaurants in Southern California were cited for $4.57 million for wage and hour violations and penalties by the Labor Commissioner earlier this week. What may come as a surprise to many is that the citation was based on alleged wage violations for employees of contractors hired by Cheesecake Factory, not its own employees. The investigation focused on the janitorial subcontractors who performed work at the restaurants. The Labor Commissioner found that the janitorial employees were not paid for all minimum wage, overtime, not provided meal and rest breaks, and not paid for split shifts.
The subcontractor janitorial company was Americlean Janitorial Services Corp., a Minneapolis company doing business as Allied National Services, Inc. The workers were managed by a San Diego-based company, Magic Touch Commercial Cleaning. The Labor Commissioner alleged that the workers had to work additional hours when asked to complete tasks or wait for approval of their work by the Cheesecake Factory managers. This Friday’s Five focuses on key takeaways for California employers from the Labor Commissioner investigation and citation:
1. Cheesecake Factory is being held jointly liable for the subcontractor’s wage violations under Labor Code section 2810.3.
Effective January 1, 2015, Labor Code section 2810.3 expanded the liability of “client employers” that obtain workers through temporary agencies or other labor contractors. The law requires that the client employer who obtains the workers through the agency must share in the liability for any wage and workers compensation issues. The law also provides that a client employer cannot shift all of the liability for wage and workers’ compensation violations. However, the law does provide that the client employer can seek indemnity from the labor contractor for violations. Therefore, it is important for employers who are covered by Labor Code section 2810.3 and who obtain workers through a labor contractor to ensure the labor contractor is meeting all wage and workers compensation requirements. The hiring company should also consider negotiating an indemnity provision in the contact with the labor contractor to protect itself should any liability arise.
2. Companies contracting for services need to ensure the subcontractors follow all applicable wage and hour laws and pay the employees properly.
With the joint liability created by Labor Code section 2810.3, companies contracting for labor at their establishments need to take steps to ensure that the contractors are following wage and hour laws. This may entail reviewing the contractor’s pay practices, and negotiating a contract with the company providing that the contractor indemnifies the hiring company for any wage and hour violations. The hiring company should also ensure that there are some assets or potential insurance that would be available should indemnity be required.
3. Review split shift policies to ensure compliance.
The Labor Commissioner found that the janitorial employees worked split shifts without being paid the split shift pay. A split shift is defined in the California IWC Wage Orders as:
…a work schedule, which is interrupted by non-paid non-working periods established by the employer, other than bona fide rest or meal periods.
See Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11040, subd. 2(Q). If the employee works two shifts separated by more than a rest or meal period, they are entitled to receive one hour’s of pay at the minimum wage rate in addition to the minimum wage for that work day. See Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, §11040, subd. 4(C). Any additional amounts over minimum wage paid to the employee can be used to offset the split shift pay due to an employee. Additional information about split shifts can be read here.
4. Review meal break policies to ensure compliance.
The California Supreme Court made clear in Brinker Restaurant Group v. Superior Court that employers need to provide an employee their first meal break “no later than the end of an employee’s fifth hour of work, and a second meal period no later than the end of an employee’s 10th hour of work.” The following chart illustrates the timing requirements for meal breaks:
Meal breaks must be recorded. Generally, meal breaks can only be waived if the employee works less than six hours in a shift. However, as long as employers effectively allow an employee to take a full 30-minute meal break, the employee can voluntarily choose not to take the break and this would not result in a violation. In Brinker, the Supreme Court explained that:
The employer that refuses to relinquish control over employees during an owed meal period violates the duty to provide the meal period and owes compensation [and premium pay] for hours worked. The employer that relinquishes control but nonetheless knows or has reason to know that the employee is performing work during the meal period, has not violated its meal period obligations [and owes no premium pay], but nonetheless owes regular compensation to its employees for time worked.
Employers should also establish a complaint procedure and provide that the company has a system in place to correct any violations. If during an investigation, the employer confirms that the employee in fact missed the break because of the rush of business or some other factor, the company should pay the employee the one hour “premium pay” penalty at the employee’s regular rate of pay. Also, the company should record these payments made to employees to be able to establish it has a complaint procedure in place to address missed breaks. The employee is entitled to receive up to two hours of premium pay per day – one hour for missed meal breaks and one hour for missed rest breaks. If the employee missed two meal breaks in one day, they would only be entitled to one hour of premium pay. The same applies to rest breaks. See UPS v. Superior Court.
5. Review rest break policies to ensure compliance.
In terms of rest breaks, the California Supreme Court held in Brinker that, “[e]mployees are entitled to 10 minutes’ rest for shifts from three and one-half to six hours in length, 20 minutes for shifts of more than six hours up to 10 hours, 30 minutes for shifts of more than 10 hours up to 14 hours, and so on.” The following chart sets forth the number of rest breaks employees are entitled to based on the number of hours worked:
The Wage Orders generally require that employers must provide a 10-minute rest period per every four hours worked and the break should, whenever practicable, fall in the middle of the work period. (See Wage Order 4, subd. 12(A). The rest period must also be paid, and the law does not require that employers record when the employee takes the rest period (unlike an employer’s obligation to record when 30-minute meal breaks are taken). The California Supreme Court made it clear in Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc. that employers must relieve employees of all work-related duties and they must be free from control of the employer during the rest breaks. For more information about rest breaks, see my prior post here.