Black Friday Employee Abuse? Learn About Wage Laws in California

women lining up during black friday to buy clothes

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Did you know that retailers are dependent on Black Friday for 20-25% of their annual revenue? As we head toward Black Friday, workers in retail stores, restaurants, and other businesses are preparing for long hours and back-to-back shifts.

If you’re putting in extra hours during the Black Friday shopping season, knowing your rights as a worker is essential. Whether you want to know how much overtime you deserve or how to file a wage and hour claim if your employer doesn’t pay you properly, this blog is for you. 

Do Employers Have to Give Workers Paid Holiday Leave on Black Friday?

No. Many employers offer incentives to employees who work on holidays such as Thanksgiving or Black Friday, such as extra pay similar to overtime pay (often called “holiday pay”). However, employers in California have no obligation to offer holiday pay to employees, or to give employees Thanksgiving and the day after off (with or without pay).

Events such as Black Friday (and the holiday season in general) are infamous among employees for long hours and stressful or even dangerous shifts. To maximize profits, many employers commit labor law violations over the holidays. 

California Minimum Wage, Overtime, & Meal Break Laws

Even if they don’t have to offer holiday pay on Black Friday, employers do need to comply with state and federal labor laws for salaried and non-exempt employees. In California, that means employers with less than 25 workers must pay employees $13/hr., and those with 26 workers or more must pay $14/hr. In Los Angeles County, the minimum wage is $15/hr. 

Additionally, employers must pay non-exempt employees 1.5 times their regular pay rate if they work over eight hours in a day, or over 40 hours in a workweek. If an employee works over 12 hours in a day or over eight hours on the seventh day of a workweek, they get two times their regular rate in overtime pay. 

Employees are also entitled to meal and rest breaks. Employees who work more than five hours in a day must receive at least one thirty-minute meal break, or two meal breaks for working ten or more hours. Workers must also receive a ten-minute rest period for every four hours they work. 

Employers cannot legally ask employees to work unpaid overtime or to perform duties without clocking in, even on Black Friday. 

How Do Employers Violate Labor Laws on Black Friday?

If your employer violates state or federal labor laws, you could file a wage and hour claim against them or sue for wage and hour violations. Common wage and hour violations that occur during the holidays include:

  • Pressuring employees to work through meal or rest breaks;
  • Refusing to pay the correct amount of overtime pay;
  • Asking employees to make preparations for events such as Black Friday off the clock;
  • Wrongfully classifying workers as “exempt” employees or independent contractors to avoid paying overtime or minimum wage;
  • Keeping tips (digital or physical) that workers earn over the holidays.

It is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who report wage and hour violations, or who file a wage and hour violation claim or lawsuit against them. Common examples of retaliation include:

  • Transferring an employee to a less desirable position or purposefully making their work more difficult (this includes assigning hours that the employer knows conflict with an employee’s prior commitments);
  • Demoting an employee;
  • Physically or verbally abusing an employee for reporting a labor law violation;
  • Reporting an employee to the authorities (including threatening to deport them if they are an immigrant);
  • Spreading rumors about an employee at work;
  • Treating an employee’s family members poorly or harassing them;
  • Holding an employee to a different standard than other workers;
  • Giving an employee poor performance evaluations as a form of punishment. 
  • Holding tips unless an employee reneges on their report, claim or lawsuit;
  • Withholding paychecks unless an employee reneges on their report, claim or lawsuit.
three calm shoppers looking for electronics on sale for black friday deals

What Is An Exempt Employee?

California wage and hour laws only protect non-exempt employees. As the name implies, overtime laws do not apply to exempt employees. Independent contractors similarly remain unprotected by minimum wage and overtime laws.

To qualify as an exempt employee, workers must:

  • Spend over half their time on intellectual, managerial, or creative work;
  • Earn a monthly salary equal to twice the state minimum wage for full-time employees;
  • Exercise creative freedom and independent judgment to perform their duties. 

Employees must meet these requirements to qualify as exempt. Even if you signed a contract stating you were an exempt employee, you are not legally exempt if you do not meet these requirements. Employers sometimes classify employees as exempt to avoid paying them overtime without violating California labor laws, which is illegal.

If you believe your employer has knowingly or mistakenly classified you as an exempt employee to avoid paying you overtime, contact an employment attorney. 

What If I’m Injured While Working on Black Friday?

Employers have a reasonable responsibility to ensure the safety of their employees. This includes utilizing caution, warning, and danger signs in the workplace to notify employees of safety hazards such as spills, as well as providing safe working conditions.

As we covered in an earlier blog, if you suffer an injury due to an employer or property owner’s negligence, you may be eligible to file a premises liability suit against them.

black friday shoppers trying to enter apple store but overcrowding front door

What Should I Do If My Employer Doesn’t Pay Me Overtime?

If your employer doesn’t pay you minimum wage, overtime, or commits other wage and hour violations such as refusing to let you take meal and rest breaks, keeping your tips, or asking you to work off the clock, you can file a wage claim or lawsuit against them. 

You can file a wage claim with the closest Labor Commissioner’s Office. This process involves providing the Labor Commissioner’s Office with evidence of the alleged wage and hour violation(s), such as paychecks, time records, notices of employment information, and employer-employee communications. After investigating the claim, the Labor Commissioner’s Office will take steps to ensure the employer faces appropriate penalties for any wage and hour violations they’ve committed. 

Alternatively, you can sue an employer for committing wage and hour violations. Suing an employer for wage and hour violations does not involve the Labor Commissioner’s Office. Instead, employers can settle with an employee out of court, or allow the court to decide whether the employer should provide damages to the employee.

If you win a wage and hour suit, you could obtain compensation for:

  • Unpaid wages your employer should have supplied you and interest on said wages;
  • Waiting time penalties equal to 30 days of your unapaid wages; and
  • Attorney fees.

If your employer retaliated against you for reporting wage and hour violations or filing a claim or lawsuit, you could be entitled to additional damages. 

At Wilshire Law Firm, PLC, our employment attorneys are committed to protecting employees and their rights. If your employer commits labor law violations, or retaliates against or wrongfully fires you for exercising your rights, we’re here to help. Give us a call at (800) 501-3011 or contact us online to receive a free consultation from our award-winning team!

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