Every worker in an organization, whether they are employees or independent contractors, both have certain rights that must be respected by their employees. Other than being paid promptly for the services they deliver, workers have the right to rest and meal breaks in between their work schedules. The health and safety of workers are mainly determined by the kind of treatment they get in their workplaces.

Workers Compensation Attorney Law Firm in Los Angeles, advocates for the rights of independent contractors as far as meal and rest breaks for 1099 workers are concerned. If you feel that your rights have been violated and you deserve some form of compensation, we will take you through the process. We will also represent you when you decide to file your claim.

Understanding Independent Contractors

Not every worker in an organization is an employee; some are there as volunteers and others as independent contractors. Employers do not classify all their workers as employees so that they can avoid paying payroll taxes, minimum wages, and overtime. Independent contractors will also not require employees to comply with the law requirements on wages and working hours. For example, providing rest and meal breaks or reimbursing employees for every expense they incur while performing their duties are avenues some employers avoid. Most employers do not want to take responsibility for covering all their workers under the Workers' Compensation insurance. This explains why we have more independent contractors in organizations than employees.

Even so, independent contractors have rights too. There are state agencies in place, which ensure that various rights of independent contractors are respected. The Employment Development Department, for instance, is concerned with all taxes related to employment. The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, on the other hand, is the agency that is concerned with the wages, working hours, and workers' compensation insurance.

Generally, employees will not have much control over the kind of work and duties they will be assigned. However, employees are the ones that enjoy more benefits as well as the stability of being in full-time employment. An employee on the contractor will not be entitled to any benefits from their employer, including healthcare and tax benefits. If an independent contractor uses their tools or materials to get the job done, they can only deduct those expenses from their yearly taxes.

A contractor is not entitled to any benefits from an employer. Independent contractors do have more benefits when it comes to taxes. If they use their tools or materials for the work that they do, they can deduct those expenses from their taxes each year.

Differences between Employees and Independent Contractors

Employees and independent contractors have different work schedules. An employee's work schedule is organized by their employer or immediate supervisor, while independent contractors plan their work schedules.

Employees have to follow a specific guideline to complete the tasks assigned to them. However, independent contractors create their guidelines since what is required of them is the end product, and not the process used to produce the results.

An employee will take on all the tasks assigned to them by their employers. Independent contractors only take on the work that they choose. They may even turn down a job if it does not match their area of specialization or if they do not have enough time to finish the tasks. 

The employer supplies all the necessary tools and equipment employees need to finish their tasks daily. Independent contractors have to buy their supplies. They invest in the tools and equipment they need to accomplish the tasks they get from their employers.

Some employers list their employees down as independent contractors, while in the real sense, they are employees. In doing so, they can avoid tax obligations and other labor laws requirements, as explained above. You are entitled to employee benefits and allowances if either of the following scenarios is true:

  • You are listed as an independent contractor but work under your employer's supervision, or
  • You handle tasks similar to other employees

California Law on Meal and Rest Breaks

California Law directs that every employer must provide a paid lunch and rest break for all its workers, whether employees or independent contractors. The rest break should be paid and should be at least every four hours of working. The meal break can be unpaid but should be provided at least every five hours. Every rest break should be at least 10 minutes each, and every lunch break should be 30 minutes on the minimum.

Failure to comply with this provision is viewed as a significant violation. The action could see the employer being required to pay a one hour's wage for every day the rest break was not given. They will also pay an additional hour for every day the lunch break was not provided. If your employer has never provided you with a rest or meal break, the state's labor laws allow you to file a claim. The claim is worth 2-days' worth of wages for the past three years.

The general rule is for every worker to get at least a 10-minutes rest break for every four hours they work. If that is the case, then what will happen to an employee who does not work four straight hours in one day? If, for instance, you work 7 hours in one day, you are entitled to two rest breaks even if the last section of your shift has just three hours. If you work less than 3.5 hours in one shift, you will not be entitled to any rest break. Those who work for precisely four hours are entitled to one rest break. If you work more than four hours in one day but less than eight hours, you should get at least two rest breaks and so forth.

The general rule about lunch breaks is that employees are entitled to at least 30 minutes every five hours of working.  Even though meal breaks are unpaid, they should never be interrupted, and employees should be permitted to go out of their workplaces to have their meals. If your work-shift totals to 18 hours, for instance, your employer is expected to give you at least three meal breaks, one after the first five hours of working, another after the next five hours, and the last one after another five hours. Since you have spent 1.5 hours on meal breaks, you will be paid for only 16.5 hours every day.

Workers in California are, however, not obligated to take their rest and meal breaks. Some employees choose to continue working through their breaks. When you work during your rest break, there will be no monetary compensation to expect since the small breaks every three hours are already paid for. However, any employee who opts to work during their meal breaks is entitled to monetary compensation. The pay compensates the worker for the time spent working during the break.  Employees have the option of swapping the break for an early end of their shift.

Which Workers Are Eligible to California Rest and Meal Breaks?

The majority of workers in California are allowed rest and meal breaks in their workplaces. These are, for instance, professionals, technicians, clerks, mechanics, and similar jobs. Some individual employees may not fall under this category and will. Therefore, they are not entitled to standard lunch and rest breaks. These are mainly the exempt employees, employees in specific industries working under unions, and also independent contractors.

State laws on rest and meal breaks don’t apply to workers who fall under the category of independent contractors. Independent workers that have a special employment relationship with their employers are, however, protected by state laws on wages, meal or rest breaks, and other labor laws. If you have been hired as an independent contractor, but your employer exercises control over how you work, then you can be considered as an employee. This means that you are entitled to meals and rest breaks as provided under California labor laws, even if the terms of your contract do not provide for the same.

What this means is that every meal break that you work should be fully paid for by your employer. If your employer allows you enough time to take your meals, they will not be expected to pay you for the time you will be out on a break.

Can you be required to be on call during your rest or meal breaks?

The law prohibits employers from requiring their employees to remain on-call or continue working during their meal and rest breaks. Therefore, if your employer asks you to work or stay on-call during your break, their action is considered as denying you your well-deserved rest or meal break.

However, it is not the responsibility of employers to ensure that you are taking your rest or meal breaks. If you voluntarily opt to work during your meal break, for instance, your employer will not stop you. As long as the directive is not from your employer, they will not be held responsible if you do not take your meal or rest breaks.

There are instances, where employees may work through their meal and rest breaks. This is only permitted under the following circumstances:

  • If the nature of your job prevents you from being released from your duty. This will apply to employees working as security guards, or in instances where they are the only employees in that post.
  • If you agree with your employer and in writing that you will remain working even during your meal and rest breaks. Note that California labor laws allow an employee to revoke such an agreement in writing at any

California labor laws (labor regulations or Labor Code) enable you to sue your employer if your employer prevents you from taking your break. The most successful hour and wage class action litigations are those that involve employers' failure to provide rest periods and meal breaks as required by the law. An employer who denies their employees an opportunity to enjoy their rest and meal breaks will be required to pay for the violation with an hour’s pay for every break.

Filing a Lawsuit against Your Employer for Rest and Meal Break Violation

Employers are well aware that employees have rights that should be respected at all times. If you are working for an employer who makes you work throughout without sufficient rest and meal break, it is advisable to contact an excellent attorney.  A competent workers' compensation attorney will advise you on what to do. They will help you determine the total amount of money you are entitled to receive for all the lost breaks and then take you through the legal process.

A good attorney will first assess your situation so that they can advise you on the best available options you have to recover the lost wages. They will inform you of the opportunities that could miss if you took the matter on your own, with your employer. A competent workers' compensation attorney has dealt with such lawsuits in the past. They are, therefore, in a position to advise you on the best way out of the situation.

The best solution in such a case is to try and reach an agreement with your employer. Your attorney will know how best to approach your employer for a settlement. They are in a position to also put pressure on your employer if need be so that you can get what you deserve in the end. If your employer is not willing to settle the matter out of court, trust you, attorney, to represent your interests in court.

You can predict the exact amount of money you can get in a settlement or after a successful lawsuit against your employer. However, there are other types of compensation you might be entitled to, which an employee may not be aware of. These are:

  • The back wages for the time you spent working while you were supposed to be enjoying your meal breaks
  • Lost wages in case the employee is wrongfully terminated from employment for reporting a violation. Note that some employers will retaliate against the employee for reporting such an infringement. If that happens to you, you are entitled to more compensation.
  • If you have suffered emotional and/or physical ailments as a result of retaliation or harassment, you are entitled to suffering and pain damages. This could be a considerable amount of money and will take up the most significant part of your lawsuit against your employer. Suffering and pain could manifest itself in several ways, including depression, headaches, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, and other types of illnesses.
  • Though rarely, an employee may also be entitled to punitive damages. These are the types of damages designed to punish an employer and prevent them from violating employee rights in the future.

These compensable damages can result in substantial judgments, but they are not very easy to achieve. This is because employees will be required to prove that their employer acted in a fraudulent, malicious, and oppressive manner in each of the cases above. That is why it is advisable to work closely with a qualified workers' compensation attorney. A reasonable attorney will investigate each of the claims you have against your employer in detail. This move ensures that you have substantial evidence against them for a higher chance of a win in the lawsuit.

What Can Your Attorney Do For You?

Having a valid claim and filing the necessary documents in court on time is not a guarantee that you will win in the denied rest and meal breaks lawsuit. It is critical to understand that your employer is also working hard with the help of their attorneys to deny you the claims, a move that saves them money. It is, therefore, wise to plan, with the help of your competent attorney. Here are ways through which your attorney can help you win the case:

Gather Evidence

Many lawsuit cases against employers are lost because of insufficient evidence to back an employee's claim. Without enough evidence, it will be impossible to prove that your employer denied you A meal and rest break. Further, it will be difficult to determine that your employment was terminated because you pointed out the violation.

Experienced attorneys know very well the kind of evidence civil lawsuits require and will go out of their way to gather sufficient evidence to strengthen your case against your employer. They will interview past and current employees of the same organization and conduct an in-depth investigation to help prove your case.  If your employer continues to deny employees their rest and meal breaks, such acts will be used as evidence to win your case.

Structuring and Negotiating for Settlements

Negotiating for a settlement with an employer who is not ready to lose an extra dime to an employee is not an easy task. This is, in fact, something an employee cannot do successfully. An employer can even use tricks and threats to compel the employee to withdraw the lawsuit or to accept a smaller amount of money to settle the matter out of court. Negotiating with an employer for the benefit of an employee is something that a competent attorney can do so well. Workers’ compensation attorneys understand labor laws better than most employers and will, therefore, know what to do to get the employee what they deserve. 

If your employer agrees for a settlement, your attorney will be the right person to conduct the negotiations for a successful outcome. An experienced attorney will not be tricked or threatened and can use any of those to get even higher compensation.

Representing you at the Hearings

If your employer does not agree to a settlement, your attorney will file a lawsuit against them on your behalf. This means that the case will be heard in a court and determined by a judge. Very few lawsuits end up in court because most employers prefer to settle the matter out of court. However, if your employer is not willing to resolve the issue, your attorney will file all the paperwork needed and ready for the upcoming trial. Your attorney will research the matter thoroughly, get key witnesses formulate winning strategies, and keep the court dates to help you succeed.

Guidance and other Benefits

There is so much an employee may not know about labor laws and what they can get from violation of their rest and meal breaks. Working with a competent attorney will ensure that you understand the law better to make even better decisions. Your attorney will also guide you through the process to ensure that you know the outcome of every legal process you will take to get your compensation. Apart from filing a workers' compensation claim, there may be other claims you are entitled to, as explained above. It is your attorneys' duty to take you through each of them and help you file successful claims.

Find a Los Angeles Workers Compensation Attorney Law Firm Near Me

California law is unambiguous on how employers should treat their employees and independent contractors. Some employers violate the rights of their employees for their gain. Denying employees rest and meal breaks is among the most common labor law violations in California, especially Los Angeles. If this has happened to you, and you want to pursue compensation, Workers Compensation Attorney Law Firm in Los Angeles can help you through the process.

Our competent attorneys will investigate the matter, advise you, and take you through the process. We will also try to settle the case out of court with your employer. Expect that we will do everything necessary to compel your employer to compensate you for the lost rest and meal breaks. Call us at 310-956-4277 if you are in Los Angeles, and let us get you the amount of compensation you truly deserve.