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California Employment Lawyer Discusses Wage & Hour Complaints

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Attorney Nathan Kased discusses wage and hour issues and how to file a complaint.

San Diego, CAIf your employer has taken advantage of you, consider speaking to an experienced wage and hour attorney. Nathan Kased’s clients are diverse: from blue collar workers who haven’t been properly paid to managers and sales people misclassified as independent contractors. “Overtime is the biggest issue, and wrongful termination is a close second,” says Kased.


Failure to pay overtime has become rampant, which begs the question: Why are large companies repeatedly caught underpaying—or not paying at all—their workers overtime? It appears that they prefer shelling out huge settlement amounts rather than comply with California labor laws. “Some sophisticated companies get hit with wage & hour complaints over and over and they have the resources to pay,” says Kased. “For instance, Starbucks, my former employer, has been sued over meal and rest periods despite its robust handbook that details lunch and rest break policies and despite employees agreeing to its policies."

There are reasons why mid-size companies are slapped with overtime lawsuits repeatedly. In the case of franchises, perhaps there is a rogue region, or managers with non-compliant behaviors. (Non-compliance is the result of an employee failing to adhere to the company rules and regulations outlined in the company policies. For example, non-compliance can mean showing up late, failure to wear proper PPE, harassing other employees, inappropriate dress, improper credentials/training for the task, and failure to complete responsibilities.) “In spite of all policies in place, there could be labor-budgeting issues,” Kased says. “A certain amount of labor is budgeted on forecasted sales and maybe there isn’t enough staff so managers cut corners.”

In the employer’s defense, some complaints are inflated. Kased doesn’t think that all companies deliberately cut corners. “Smaller businesses may find it hard to compete and paying overtime is expensive so they get hit with the occasional lawsuit and they’ll pay – it’s the cost of doing business,” he explains, “but wage and hour complaints are more prevalent with bigger, mid-size employers.”  

California in particular protects employees and doesn’t tolerate employers who fail to pay overtime, perhaps more than any other U.S. state. And salaried employees who aren’t entitled to overtime, in general, must make at least twice the minimum wage and perform certain high level duties that require independent judgment and discretion be exempt.

“But if a complaint goes forward, one employee may become a representative in an overtime complaint after getting terminated.  One former employee can represent an entire state of employees,” Kased adds.

Other Wage and Hour Complaints

“I get calls from workers in many industries who aren’t getting paid travel time, but from construction workers in particular,” Kased says. “In all fairness, the employer in construction is often confused about travel. Say you have to drive to a site two hours from home but the HQ is 30 minutes from home. You should be paid for an hour and a half hours travel time.” As for the retail and hospitality industry, meal and rest breaks are the big issue. For example, restaurant workers often don’t take full lunch breaks because they are too busy or they aren’t on time. And increasingly, Kased is hearing complaints from gig economy workers, like Uber drivers. After Assembly Bill 5 was passed, companies have found it difficult to have an independent contractor category – California protects the employee and California law views independent contractors as potentially being deprived of worker benefits. And it takes away payroll taxes.

He also hears from workers wrongfully terminated whose issues never got remedied. Typical complaints are about unlawful practices, like getting paid under the table, safety issues such as mold and all kinds of safety issues in construction. “Recently, an African-American gentleman told me he was verbally harassed by his boss – he was called the N-word,” adds Kased. Some issues are harder to work out with management than others.

Some workers who have been stiffed overtime pay may reach out for legal advice but many are too afraid of retaliation and losing their jobs. Kased explains the process, from the first phone call to filing a claim. “My first questions are whether you like your job and if you want to keep working. I encourage them to try to work something out. Then I will advise them to work with their manager and/or contact Human Resources as I want them to exhaust their remedies – I should be their last resort,” explains Kased. “But chances are, they are no longer working.    

“I generally don’t charge for a brief consultation as I typically know within 15 minutes or less whether or not you have a case,” says Kased. “Next up, I’ll file a complaint and depending upon the kind of case, say it’s a straightforward wages issue, I’ll request a copy of your employment records. Your employer has to produce these records in a certain amount of time and I will calculate the amount owed to you. “Usually, your employer wants to work it out but if there is a huge disparity in the relative positions of parties, it may make sense to file a civil complaint in court. Then we evaluate the case, get evidence and witnesses to support your case, and either settle or go to trial.”

Either or, it’s hard to predict: Kased says some years the majority of defendants want to settle early while others choose not to respond at all. But as a rule, the employer will come to the table after filing an employment lawsuit. And lots of wage & hour cases are subject to arbitration. “Depending on my client’s goals and reasonable expectations, their employer comes back with a good number and my client is receptive,” says Kased, “but about three out of ten cases accepted will go to court – cases where the employer has zero response or they offered an unfair amount.”

Wrongful Termination

Most people don’t understand the concept of wrongful termination and a fired employee may tend to misconstrue the issue – being terminated for a violation they equate with wrongful termination. But Kased will evaluate a termination claim and if you have been unfairly fired, a wrongful termination complaint is implemented. “With every wrongful termination claim, the main thing I look for is if you complained in writing to your boss or HR about something you believe is against the law,” says Kased. For example, you weren’t paid properly or you complained about a hostile workplace. If you didn’t formally complain, it’s easy for your employer to say, “I don’t recall this.”

“Sometimes an employee is afraid of losing their job so it isn’t in writing,” explains Kased. “I’ll ask if they are okay to lose their job and if so, if they are okay to be a target of adverse action: Once you write that report, it puts a target on your back. In my experience, it’s 50/50. They can quit and work elsewhere but the statute of limitations in California is ample—you have three or four years to file under the Labor Code and Unfair Competition Law, so they can leave their job and still bring a claim. You don’t have to do something right away; you can still support your family and bring a claim down the road.”

Kased can relate. He understands what it’s like, having “been in the trenches”. He sold women’s shoes at Macy’s and worked as a grocery clerk at convenience stores – with that kind of work history he certainly isn’t a stuffy lawyer. “Working retail is good experience and it paid the bills. And it helped me relate to my clients,” says Kased. And he is easy to talk to.

Nathan Kased is a reputable and experienced attorney and is among the top plaintiffs’ wage and hour lawyers in San Diego, California. His practice primarily focuses on employees who have been taken advantage by their employer, such as not paid minimum wage, overtime compensation or any of the above issues. He also assists first-level managers improperly classified as exempt, technology employees improperly classified as exempt, and inside and outside commission sales people who are misclassified as exempt and/or independent contractors.
Nathan’s passion for employment law is evident by his numerous accolades, awards, and former client reviews. Nathan was selected as a Rising Star Super Lawyer for Employment Litigation (only 2.5% of attorneys are selected to Rising Stars.)

(Here is a list of laws enforced by the Labor Commissioner that specifically prohibit discrimination and retaliation against employees and job applicants.)


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