The case of the Bloom Energy Corporation out of California is a word of warning to any employer looking to employ practices that violate labor laws. It’s a classic case of a business taking advantage of foreign workers by violating California minimum wage laws and California Overtime pay provisions in order to save money on wages.
You Must Still Pay Minimum Wage
Hiring foreign workers, specifically illegal immigrants, is usually a tactic employed by companies in order to save on wages paid to their employees. The idea is that illegal immigrants will work for much less than the minimum wage, as the American dollar is stronger than the Mexican peso. This practice is illegal; these employees still have a right to minimum wage pay. In the case of the Bloom Energy Company, the California-based company got into trouble when it was revealed that it had hired 14 workers at a rate equivalent to $2.66 an hour, much lower than the $8.00 minimum wage of California; and the USA.
The Government Will Make You Pay Up
Foreign workers are still protected under the laws that govern domestic workers and if an investigation yields wrongdoing, a company is liable to pay back damages to the affected workers. Bloom Energy was required to pay the affected employees $31,922 in back wages after a thorough investigation by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division. They ruled that the employer willfully violated minimum wage, overtime, and record-keeping provisions. This willfulness led the department to assess an additional $6,160 in civil penalties.
All Overtime Laws Apply
The case brought against Bloom Energy included violations to California Overtime Pay provisions, which are somewhat varied from federal overtime laws. California overtime laws are more protective of employees than federal laws and are designed to get more money for the employee while attempting to prevent overwork. For example, overtime in California is on a day-by-day basis; so while in New York, overtime is determined based on a 40-hour workweek, California bases overtime on an 8-hour day. So that means if you work past your eighth hour in California, you’ll be paid time-and-a-half for your overtime hours, regardless of how much, or how little, you work the rest of the week. Going even further, a California worker is owed double pay for all hours past the twelfth hour in a given workday.
Bloom Energy wound up having to pay what they thought they were avoiding, which was simply the pay that their employees had every right to, plus penalties.
It is important to know your rights as an employee, there are plenty of additional resources out there to familiarize yourself with in order to know the law and which applies to you. You may also seek legal counsel from one of the law firms specializing in employment law; they will guide in you in the right direction if you feel as if your right have been violated by your employer.
Either way, please stay informed, and know your rights.
Tony has worked for some of the largest immigration law firms in the California area, and wants to caution businesses to treat workers fairly.