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Hospital cleaners worked over 40 hours for years with no overtime

If you work over 40 hours per week in California, it's likely you get paid overtime. The vast majority of people should be, according to the Department of Industrial Relations.

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the California Labor Code, only a few types of employees are specifically exempt from overtime. These are executives, professionals, government workers, outside salespeople, unionized workers, hourly computer software workers, certain entertainers, commercial drivers and a few others who are either highly compensated or whose wages and working conditions are guarantee by other means.

Yet often enough, there are disputes about whether certain employees are entitled to overtime pay, meal and rest breaks, and other working conditions. The reason is often that the workers were misclassified, either as exempt workers or as independent contractors.

That's what seems to have happened to hospital cleaning workers hired for Kaiser Hospitals through Xanitos, a hospital services agency, according to a class action lawsuit that was recently settled. All of the workers were originally hired by Xanitos but were told that Kaiser controlled the terms of their employment.

According to the lawsuit, the class of hospital environmental services workers were routinely denied shift limitations, meal and rest breaks, and overtime pay because the companies had wrongfully classified most of them as independent contractors. The workers, who are in charge of sanitation at 13 California hospitals, often worked over 40 hours with frequent 12-hour shifts. Additionally, the classification meant they were denied payment of the employer's share of their payroll taxes.

Other workers, mostly supervisors, were misclassified as exempt because they were so-called administrative employees. This is troubling because not all administrative workers -- or even all supervisory workers -- are exempt from the FLSA and California Labor Code provisions.

After several years of litigation, the parties have agreed to settle the case for $500,000 and the back-payment of payroll taxes for the workers who were misclassified as independent contractors. The plaintiffs will receive $150,000 in attorney's fees and $2,500 in what is known as an "enhancement award."

If you've been told you aren't entitled to overtime pay, you need to understand why. If you have any concerns, don't hesitate to contact a lawyer with wage and hour law experience.

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