For over a year I have been working by myself from 11:00PM to 7:00AM as a hotel night auditor. Since I am by myself (except for 1 outside security guard and a night houseman) I do not get a break. I am very nervous about losing my job if I pursue this legally. Do I have a case here or any recourse? Is this worth pursuing at all?
As a non-exempt employee, your employer has an obligation to provide you with a reasonable opportunity to take a ten-minute, on-the-clock, uninterrupted, duty-free rest period for every four hours (or major portion thereof) that you work. As a non-exempt employee you also must be given a reasonable opportunity to take a thirty-minute, off-the-clock, uninterrupted and duty-free meal period on any workday when you work more than 5 hours.
If you are non-exempt and you are not given the reasonable opportunity to take the rest periods described above, you are entitled to a penalty wage in the amount of one hour of pay at your regular rate for every day you were denied at least on such rest period. You are entitled to another hour of pay for every day you were denied the meal period as described.
In some jobs such as yours, the law allows the employer to make you take a working meal period where it would be virtually impossible to give you a duty free meal period. However you must be paid an extra hour of pay to compensate you for the fact that you must work through your meal period.
Whether it is worth it or not pursue your legal rights depends on many things that are personal to you. Being afraid of retribution from the employer is a real concerns, but know that if you are terminated for raising these issues you would have additional rights including a claim for wrongful termination.
It would be wise for you to locate and consult with an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible to explore your facts and determine your options. I would suggest you look either on this site in the Find a Lawyer section, or go to www.cela.org, the home page for the California Employment Lawyers Association, an organization whose members are dedicated to the representation of employees against their employers.
Most employment attorneys who practice this area of law offer a free or low cost consultation in the beginning and then, if the matter has merit and value, will usually agree to work on a contingency basis, meaning you can hire an attorney without paying any money until the matter results in a positive outcome for you. Many advance all the costs of the litigation as well. Do not let fear of fees and costs keep you from finding a good attorney.
Good luck to you.
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