What to watch out and is there any illegal activity in this workplace?

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What to watch out and is there any illegal activity in this workplace?

Our workplace is in the U.S. but our owners are from China. I believe we are at-will and full-time, earning less than $20 per hour. We discuss salary in hourly pays, but I believe they treat us like full-time exempt and at-will. We have people who have to help them with their personal problems – picking up from airport, help with their house since they are in China, etc. – during our own time or off hours but with no extra pay or compensation. Also, they start meetings 15 minutes before work hour ends and go on for 1 hour or more with no extra pay because we are salary base. I believe they don’t even compensate for using our own car unless requested. There is no contract other than non-disclosure, nor is there an employee handbook. Now recently, they decided to reduce an employee hours from 40 to 32 a week also.

Asked on November 4, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Some of what you describe is legal; some is not. Labor law is based on the law of *where the employment is*--that is, where you work--not based on where the company is owned. So if your workplace is in the U.S., U.S. law and the law of your state (e.g. CA) governs. That means:
1) You can be instructed to help management with "personal" issues (laundry, travel, house, etc.) since management decides what is and is not part of your job, BUT if you are hourly, you must be paid for all hours worked, including for overtime as applicable. If you are salaried, your weekly salary is all you get.
2) Again, they can set your hours and have you start early or end late, but must pay you for all hours and possibly overtime if hourly; if salaried, you can work extra hours for the same salary.
3) The above said, even if you are salaried, you *may* be due some additional compensation (overtime) if you don't meet the test(s) to e exempt from overtime--it's not up to the employer whether you are exempt or not, but depends if you meet the criteria. To be exempt, your job duties & authority must meet one or more of the "tests" for exemption (e.g. the executive or managerial test; the adminstrative employee test; the learned professional test), which can be found on the U.S.Dept. of Labor website *and* your salary must exceed a certain minimum. Right now, that minimum is around $23k per year, but goes up to around $44k in December--you can find the exact amounts also on the DOL website. If you don't meet the criteria to be exempt, then if you are salariedand work more than 40 hours in a week, you don't get additional overtime, but you may be entitled to a premium for each overtime hour worked equal to 50% of your effective or equivalent hourly rate (i.e. if you divided the weekly salary by 40 hours, to find the equivalent you make per hour).
4) There is no law requiring reimbursement or compensation for using your own car--companies may compensate you, but don't have to. Track your work [non-commute] mileage though--you may be able to get a tax deduction for it.
5) Unless you have a written employment contract guarantying or locking in your hours, they can reduce your hours at will.


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