Do California Fast Food Workers Deserve Overtime Pay?

by Norman B. Blumenthal on July 10, 2017

blumenthal nordrehaug & bhowmik, southern california employment law, southern california employment law attorneys, overtime pay, overtime compensation, california overtimeThe oft-repeated mantra of McDonald’s fast food workers back in 2014 was, “Every nickel, every dime! We deserve our overtime!” It’s a phrase that is now trending once again, but the crowd has expanded to include other fast food giants in the area: Chipotle Mexican Grill, Ministry of Taste LLC, and Red Dog Restaurant. All of the restaurants/fast food giants listed have been accused of violating California overtime pay requirements. 

According to a proposed class action lawsuit that was filed June 8th, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. has not provided overtime wages to thousands of its employees, which is in violation of both federal law and California labor laws. The lead plaintiff in the case is Carmen Alvarez. Alvarez worked 50-52 hours each week. Initially, the hours were completed without overtime pay because her weekly earnings exceeded the federal overtime threshold in place at that time. Alvarez was classified as an “apprentice.” She claims that she was switched to a “management training program” that came with a change from hourly wage to salary, she suddenly began working over 40 hours per week. She was, literally, preparing food for the company without extra pay.

Alvarez filed her claim in New Jersey, but the effects are far reaching as Chipotle has outlets nationwide – with thousands of their workers living and working in California. Additionally, this overtime rule could affect overtime pay for over 4 million US workers because it could have a ripple effect out and into the fast-food/restaurant industries (including the many franchises).

The issue at hand is the federal rule that expands overtime pay. The Labor Department rule at issue was finalized under the Obama administration. According to the rule, the income threshold would more than double. This means that salaried workers making as much as $47,476 annually were eligible for time-and-a-half. Previously the cut-off for overtime had been set at $23,660.

While a judge did ban the Labor Department from enforcing the regulation, attorneys in the New Jersey case representing Chipotle employees argue that the overtime rule still took effect December 1st as scheduled because the court that ordered the injunction never issued a final decision or repealed the regulation. Also included in the lawsuit is the claim that the injunction has a narrow application to the Labor Department and doesn’t block other parties, such as workers/employees, from enforcing the rule through the legal system.

In April 2017, an employee filed a class action lawsuit in San Francisco County Superior Court against Ministry of Taste, LLC, Red Dog Restaurant and a number of related individuals. The suit alleged California labor code violations/failure to pay overtime.

The McDonald’s saga also continues. As of last month, reports indicated that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ann Jones ruled that McDonald’s corporate-owned stores’ practice of assigning all hours in an overnight shift to the day in which the shift started meant that workers who had an overnight shift followed by a daytime shift often completed more than 8 hours on the job in one 24-hour period without any overtime compensation. This leaves the fast food giant in violation of overtime laws.

Between the various fast food giants facing similar allegations, millions of fast-food workers could be owed millions of dollars.

If you need to discuss overtime pay or if your employer refuses to provide you with overtime compensation, please get in touch with the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.

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