I checked CA labor laws and understand that I qualify for overtime. My employer now wants me to sign a release of claims, and in exchange I will now get paid OT (some thing that I should already be entitled to). The company is aware that they owe me years in unpaid OT. There is no consideration on their end nor do I gain anything besides the OT. The contract states that my stock options and original T&C of my employment will remain the same. Question #1: If I don't sign, can they fire me? My employer gently reminded me that CA has an "at will" employment. Question #2: If I sign then can I still file with the Dept of Labor? Contract says I can't file with state and federal administrative agencies. Question # 3: If I do sign, is the whole contract unenforcible?
As the other attorneys have noted, your situation is complicated and warrants consultation with a local employment law attorney. That said, courts are extremely reluctant to find wage claim waivers enforceable and generally will only do so where (a) there is adequate consideration and (b) there is a bona fide dispute over whether wages are owed. See Chindarah v. Pick Up Stix, Inc., No. G037190 (Cal. Ct. App. Feb. 27, 2009).
Good luck to you.
I agree with Mr. Jackson. Your question raises MANY issues, sounding in both employment law and contract law, and the answers will depend largely on the facts of your specific situation. You would be well advised to seek the advice of an experienced California employment attorney. Many employment attorneys provide free initial consultations.
You are wise to inquire about this before signing anything. You may be entitled to more than your employer wants to pay you and you should not sign anything before consulting with an employment law attorney. There is a statute of limitations with overtime law, as all labor law. I believe it will be worthwhile for you to consult with an employment law attorney to review the agreement, analyze potential claims, waivers, risks, unlawful retaliation against you, etc. which you will probably waive if you sign, etc. for a small fee.
Glad to see that you're in Irvine. Hope these answers help:
Question 1: They can fire you, but it would likely be a wrongful termination in violation of public policy. That being said, you may be entitled to legal remedies but would be out of a job until your anticipated lawsuit settles or concludes through trial.
Question 2: You likely don't want to file with the Dept. of Labor. It takes much longer to process than a lawsuit or settlement via an attorney, and you may not get the full damages that you are entitled through via a vigorous adversarial process.
Question 3: Possibly, because it is likely that there is a lack of dispute as to overtime owed. However, you would be taking some risk in signing the contract, then trying to claim it is unenforceable later.
Suggestion: One possible alternative is to get an attorney to negotiate any overtime claims amicably with your employer. Through a tough but fair negotiation process, you can hopefully get the overtime that you are owed (note that you may have leverage in the fact that the employer may have much greater potential liability concerning penalties and disclosure), and still keep your job. Contact an employment attorney immediately; many offer a free and confidential consultation, so feel free to exercise this option and determine what works best for you. Good luck.
You really should consult in person with an employment lawyer to get a careful and thorough evaluation of your situation. This website is a good resource for general information, but you need much more. I would strongly encourage you to consult with an attorney before you sign anything. Your overtime claim may be more valuable that you realize. Good luck.