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Piece-rate compensation is based on an employer paying an employee a specified sum for completing a specific task or creating a specific item, rather than paying an hourly wage. In the past, many workers compensated on a piece-rate basis needed to file individual or class action lawsuits in order to recover compensation for rest and recovery periods, or for other nonproductive time. Recently enacted Labor Code section 226.2 establishes pay requirements for California workers. It also allows a short window within which an employer may make back wage payments to workers for previously uncompensated rest and recovery periods in exchange for relief from paying penalties. The law is extremely complicated, and as a piece-rate worker concerned about your wages, you should consult the Los Angeles labor law attorneys at The Nourmand Law Firm for knowledgeable advice and representation.
Holding an Employer Accountable for Violating Labor Code Section 226.2
Labor Code section 226.2 went into effect in 2016. The law governs the compensation of piece-rate workers for legally required rest and recovery periods, as well as any other work time that does not result in earnings (known as “nonproductive time”) for these workers. Labor Code section 226.2 does not change minimum wage or overtime compensation requirements, nor does it affect the already existing obligation to compensate employees for their hours worked.
Instead, the law provides that employees compensated by piece-rate during a pay period will be compensated for rest and recovery periods or any other nonproductive time separately from their piece-rate compensation. Employers must provide an itemized statement under Section 226. In addition to what is specified in Section 226, the employer must also separately specify the total hours of compensable rest and recovery periods, compensation rates and the gross wages paid during those periods in a given pay period.
Piece-rate employees are supposed to be compensated for nonproductive time like rest breaks at a regular hourly rate that is either the minimum wage or an average hourly rate based on dividing the total compensation for the workweek (without including compensation for nonproductive time and overtime pay) by the total productive hours worked that week, whichever is higher. For example, if you are a cucumber picker who takes your mandated rest breaks, you are entitled to either the minimum wage or the amount you earned picking cucumbers divided by the hours you spent actually picking, without including the amount of time you were resting, eating lunch or not picking.
The total amount paid to a piece-rate employee for a single day is not allowed to be less than what is due under minimum wage and applicable overtime compensation laws. However, employers that pay piece-rate compensation and also an hourly minimum wage for all hours worked are considered to be in compliance with the law.
Employers have nearly a year to make back payments to workers for previously unpaid or underpaid nonproductive time. If they make those payments, they have an affirmative defense to lawsuits for damages and other penalties related to a failure to pay compensation according to wage and hour laws.
If you are a worker whose employer fails to make back payments for previously uncompensated rest and recovery periods by December 15, 2016, you may be able to seek compensation for those amounts as well as penalties. However, if your employer made a good faith error when determining nonproductive time worked in a pay period, it will remain liable for that compensation. It will not be liable for civil penalties under Section 226.3 or liquidated damages, however, as long as the employer provides the required wage statement information and pays compensation due for the amount of other nonproductive time, as determined according to other specified legal requirements.
Retain an Experienced Labor Law Attorney in Los Angeles
If you have been harmed in a Southern or Northern California workplace, you may have more recourse to compensation as a result of Labor Code 226.2. At The Nourmand Law Firm, our Los Angeles labor law lawyers offer comprehensive representation to people who have suffered from violations of employee rights. We are available to assist employees who need a wage violation attorney in San Gabriel Valley, Van Nuys, Santa Ana, Anaheim, Palm Springs, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, or other cities throughout Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties. Call us at 800-700-WAGE (9243) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.