Legal Question in Employment Law in California

I am currently employed with an employer that I feel is not running their business or treating their employees ethically. The employer is a franchised business - with the owner's daughter being our manager. It is considered "at will" employment. Most employees are hourly. I am the only salaried employee. We employee front desk workers and massage therapists.

Currently the manager doesn't require our employees to take breaks. No one ever gets a break, or clocks out for a break, including me. Even when the employee works more than 6 hours. There are no breaks for 4 hour intervals. At the time of employment, massage therapists document that they need a 1 hour break for every 3-4 hours worked. Sometimes these breaks are not honored, and only a 30 minute break is given. Our manager manually goes into time clock system and clocks employees out of unpaid breaks that are never taken. For our front desk girls, she has threatened to deduct register shortages from people's paychecks. She has also threatened to deduct any accidental property damage (overfilling a water fountain) from employee paychecks. I have a photograph of the message in which she threatened this. Therapists are often promised free services for extending their shifts, only to have it deducted from their paycheck when they later take her up on the offer.

Employees are fired without proper documentation. I have seen over 15 people leave and/or fired in the past 6 months that I have been there. Almost all of these firings have little to no documentation. We have had several cases of job abandonment because employees are fed up. One male (a minority) was fired on the spot when a client alleged that he touched her inappropriately. No company policy was followed with his firing - he was simply let go. There is not even a record of the client in our database anymore. I have heard the manager tell other hiring managers "no" to minorities because the owner does not like them. I have also seen people fired simply because they were not liked, right before a $300 retention bonus that was promised to them.

Also, as an assistant manager I am required to attend a corporate training, funded by the franchise owner. Our owner will not send me. He says "No, not until we hire more therapists", and after that is complete "No, not until your sales numbers are higher." There is a always an excuse.

What are my rights here? What are our employees rights? I am fed up with this mistreatment.

Asked on 5/17/13, 10:41 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Charles Perry Law Offices of Charles R. Perry

There are a number of issues here -- and far too many to discuss in a response like this.

From a legal standpoint that affects you personally, it looks like there may be violations of California's break laws. It is impossible to say, without a more detailed review of your situation. The issue as to pay deductions also may give rise to claims. There may be a way to "bind" your claims and those of your employees together, possibly through a law called the Private Attorney's General Act (or "PAGA").

Quite frankly, your best solution is to make an appointment with an employee-side labor lawyer for an overview of your rights and remedies. You of course will also need to discuss a strategy about protecting your own job and finances.

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Answered on 5/17/13, 11:43 am

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