LOS ANGELES — A wage suit filed by workers against Old Country Buffet and HomeTown Buffet for violations of California state law was settled for over $2 million. The suit was filed by lead plaintiff Berta Martin Del Ocampo on behalf of 11,000 nonexempt employees, who will be compensated based on the number of weeks they worked during the nearly three-year period covered by the suit. Class counsel will receive an estimated $525,000 in fees and costs.
State Labor Code violations
The suit filed by Del Ocampo alleged that the buffet-style restaurants failed to provide state-mandated ten-minute rest breaks for every four hours worked. The suit also claimed the company failed to provide half-hour meal breaks within five hours of starting work. Additionally, the plaintiffs claimed that the restaurants required employees to take their own cars on work-related deliveries and pickups without offering reimbursement for gas mileage, failed to pay wages in a timely manner after termination or resignation, and didn’t provide accurate wage statements
Breaks Required Under California Code
California state law requires employers to provide employees with at least a thirty-minute meal break if they work more than five hours per day. If the employee works more than ten hours per day, then employers are generally required to provide a second thirty-minute meal period. During this meal period, the employer must relieve employees of all duties, relinquish control over their activities, and allow them a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted 30-minute break in which they are free to come and go as they please. If the employer fails to relinquish control and, for example, require employees to remain on the premises during the meal period, they are entitled to compensation for the meal period.
Additionally, employers in California are required to provide certain covered employees with a net ten-minute rest period for every four hours worked. This rest period must be in the middle of the four-hour work period. If the employer fails to provide this rest period, then he or she must pay employees one additional hour of pay for each workday that the rest period is not provided.
Mileage Reimbursements in California
Under California state law, employers must reimburse employees for “all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties, or of his or her obedience to the directions of the employer.” Employers must reimburse an employee for money spent or lost directly related to performing their duties or following employer directions. Where an employer fails to do so, the code allows an employee to recover, along with any unreimbursed expenses, interest from the date the expense was incurred, as well as any reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs incurred by the employee to enforce the rights granted by the statute.
Employers should not be allowing employees to shoulder expenses that they incur to be able to perform their jobs, as well as deprive them of breaks they are entitled to under state law. You should call (855) 754-2795 or complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form on the top right of this page if you feel your employee wage rights have been violated. Our top-rated team of wage lawyers will evaluate your situation to determine your best course of action. We will also determine if it is in your best interest to file a lawsuit against your employer. There are strict time limitations for filing, so it is important that you call our experienced attorneys today.