OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, SEPTEMBER 16, 2019 — The California Labor Commissioner issued an award of $110,878 to J.R.* after his employer, a Berkeley landlord, failed to pay him minimum and overtime wages and failed to provide rest breaks for nearly three years.  He worked six days a week cleaning and gardening at the Defendant’s rental properties and was only paid a flat rate each week. As a condition of employment, he was also required to live on-site at one of the properties in a basement room that likely violated numerous building and housing codes.  

J.R. was a registered nurse prior to moving to the United States.  However, because he does not speak English, J.R. has had to perform low-skill, manual labor to make a living. 

Mr. Rojas pursued this action out of principle.  “I think it is important to always seek out justice no matter the cause,” Mr. Rojas said through his attorneys in Spanish.  “To be respected is important, regardless of where we come from or who we are. The way I respect my employer is to take responsibility at work and to do my job well.  An employer who takes an employee’s work effort for granted does not respect the employee and must be challenged to make things right. There are workers’ rights laws in this country, especially in California, designed to prevent discrimination, physical and mental mistreatment, and humiliation.”

Daniel H. Galindo, an Associate with the firm Medina Orthwein LLP and Claire Wilkens, who originally counseled J.R. through the UC Hastings Community Justice Clinic, represented J.R. pro bono at his hearing at the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) of the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR).

“We are delighted with this result,” said Mr. Galindo.  “California’s robust labor laws, which tend to lead other states in enacting worker protections, are intended to ensure unscrupulous and abusive employers do not unfairly undercompensate hard-working employees like J.R.”  

“I first met J.R. at UC Hastings’ Individual Representation Clinic,” said Claire Wilkens, “and instantly liked him.  A year and a half later, his Berman hearing was finally scheduled, and the Clinic asked if I would like to represent J.R.  I was thrilled to maintain continuity with him and his case, while bringing in Daniel, who now works in employment law.” 

The award amount reflects overtime wages, rest break premiums, waiting time penalties, liquidated damages, and interest.  While California has a state-wide minimum wage law currently set at $12.00 an hour, cities and counties may enact higher minimum wages that may change over time.  For all non-exempt employees in California, the law requires overtime compensation for hours worked in excess of eight hours per day or 40 non-overtime hours in a workweek.  Overtime rate of pay per hour is calculated by dividing the weekly salary of an employee by 40, and then multiplying that amount by 1.5. For example, an employee earning $12.00 per hour for non-overtime hours is owed $18.00 per hour for each overtime hour worked.  In J.R.’s case, he worked over 2,000 overtime hours that were never paid at all. 

On September 18, California enacted Assembly Bill 5, which clarifies who properly falls under the category of an independent contractor versus an employee.  This law will extend to hundreds of thousands of employees the full protections of California’s DIR Wage Orders and Labor Code. “This case demonstrates how important it is for employers to know and abide by employment laws, which include mandates to inform employees about their workplace rights,” added Mr. Galindo.

Current and former hourly employees or misclassified independent contractors who have been denied meal and rest breaks, minimum wage, overtime compensation, and/or business expense reimbursements are encouraged to contact Medina Orthwein LLP at 510-823-2040 or email admin@medinaorthwein.com. 


* Our client’s name has been abbreviated to protect his privacy.


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