California’s Flat Rate Auto Workers Still Get Minimum Wage, Overtime, Breaks, and All the Stuff Other Workers Get!
Accurate as of January 12, 2012. If the minimum wage increases above $8.00 per hour, the dollar amounts discussed in this Guide will increase respectively.
Auto mechanics and technicians, like all other non-exempt employees, are entitled to minimum wage, overtime, rest breaks and meal breaks.
California’s Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) establishes wage orders that cover wages, hours and working conditions for all California employees, including employees paid a flat rate, piece rate, or a “per job" rate. The employer is required to post any deviation from the standard Labor Code requirements per Wage Order No. 4-2001. http://www.dir.ca.gov/IWC/IWCArticle4.pdf
What does it mean to be paid a flat rate and also get minimum wage?
A flat rate is the minimum amount an employee can be paid for the related work. For example, if the employer establishes $50.00 as a flat rate for an engine tune-up, the employee who performs the tune-up must receive at least $50.00 for performing that job. However, if the tune-up takes seven hours (for any reason), the employer must pay the mechanic at least $56.00 for the job. This is because California’s minimum wage is $8.00 per hour, and all employees must be paid at least the minimum wage: 7 hrs. x $8.00 = $56.00.
When does a flat rate employee get overtime?
Being paid a flat rate does not eliminate an employee’s right to be paid an overtime premium for long workdays or long workweeks, just like all other nonexempt employees. If an employee paid on a flat-rate basis works more than eight hours in one day, the employer must pay that employee the appropriate overtime premium. If the employee works more than 40 hours in one week, the employer must pay that employee the appropriate overtime premium.
Using the above engine tune-up example, the employee must be paid at least $50.00 for the job because that is the rate the employer established. If the tune-up takes nine hours, then the employee must be paid at least minimum wage for the first eight hours, or $64.00, plus the overtime premium for the work performed after eight hours. The employee worked one hour beyond eight, so is entitled to the overtime premium of 1.5 time the hourly rate for that hour, or $12.00 per hour. Therefore, in this scenario, the employee must be paid at least $76.00 for the nine hours of work.
What if a mechanic comes to work but has nothing to do?
If a technician shows up to work as scheduled but is not given any work, the employer must pay the employee at least one-half day’s pay. The minimum is two hours and the maximum is four hours. For example, if the employee is scheduled to work six hours, shows up but gets no work, then the employer must pay for half of the scheduled hours, or three hours. If the employee is scheduled for two hours work that day, shows up but gets no work, the employer must pay the minimum of two hours.
Do flat rate workers get any breaks?
Flat rate workers are entitled to the same rest breaks and meal breaks as all other non-exempt employees. If an employee works five hours or more in one day, the employer must provide the employee with at least one 30 minute unpaid meal break approximately halfway through the shift. The employer cannot require the employee to perform any duties during this break, including answering the phone, staying in the shop “just in case," or any other situation where the employer retains control of the employee’s time. However, if the employee works up to six hours in one day, the employee and the employer can mutually agree to waive the meal break. The employer cannot require the waiver; the employee must agree without coercion. If the employee works at least six hours, the meal break cannot be waived, even if the employer and the employee both want to waive it.
Flat rate employees are also entitled to at least one 10 minute paid rest break for every four hours of work; the break should be approximately halfway through the four-hour work period. Again, the employer should not require the employee to perform any duties during the break.
If an employer does not provide rest and meal breaks as required, the employer must pay the employee an additional hour’s wages for every day in which one or more rest breaks are missed, and an additional hour’s wages for every day in which one or more meal breaks are missed.
Can the employer require employees to provide their own tools?
An auto shop must provide all the tools, equipment and uniforms an employee needs to do the job. However, if the employer pays at least twice the minimum wage to an employee, then the employer can require that employee to provide her own tools. This means the employer cannot require an employee to provide his or her own tools unless the employer pays that employee at least $16.00 per hour (twice the minimum wage). If an employee is paid less than $16.00 per hour, the employer must provide the tools.
For more information on California’s wage and hour laws, please visit the website for the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) at http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/.
Employment / Labor Attorney