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Tools, Breaks, and Minimum Wage Can All Affect a California Mechanic’s Pay

Understanding Your Wages as A Mechanic

Your employer asks you to come into work early to help with a job. You come in, but there’s a lot of waiting around as you wait for the car to be lifted and the problem to be discovered. In the end, you performed about a half-hour of hands-on work, but your employer only paid you minimum wage for the early shift. How can you tell if you are owed more?

California’s state laws protect wages and pay rates for workers in the transportation industry, including mechanics. Under these statutes, mechanics must be compensated properly for their work under the following considerations:

Minimum wage.

California laws require all employees to earn at least $11 per hour (a rate that increases to ten dollars per hour on January 1, 2018) as long as the company has more than 26 employees. If the company has less than 25 employees, then the minimum wage is $10.50 an hour. The only exception to this rule are “learners,” or employees with no previous experience who are learning the trade. These workers must be paid at least 85 percent of the minimum wage (rounded to the nearest nickel) for their first 160 hours of work, and at least full minimum wage afterward.

Time spent at work.

If an employer requires a mechanic to report for work, but the mechanic does not have a full day of scheduled tasks or performs less than a usual day’s work, the employee may be paid at half his regular pay rate as long as the amount is not less than two hours or more than four hours at the employee’s regular pay rate.

Extra shifts.

Mechanics rarely work 9-to-5 hours, and may report to work twice in a single day. California labor laws allow any employee who works a split shift to collect one additional hour of pay (at minimum wage) in addition to a worker’s wage for the day. In addition, any employee who is required to report for work a second time in any one workday who is given less than two hours of work when he reports for the second time must be paid for two hours at his regular rate of pay. The only exceptions to these rules are if the employee reports to work but is unable to work due to loss of public utilities in the workplace (such as power, gas, or water) or there is a threat to the employee or workplace that prevents an employee from working.

Employee tools or equipment.

Any mechanic who uses his or her own tools or equipment on the job must be paid at a rate if at least twice the minimum wage. If an employer provides all necessary equipment, he or she is also responsible for the safety and upkeep of the tools and equipment. Any safety devices regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board that are required for work (such as protective eyewear or safety devices on tools) are required to be furnished by the employer.


Are You Getting Your Breaks?

You take pride in your work, so you don’t mind occasionally going over your hours or skipping a lunch break to get a job done. But what you may not know is that your employer is required to pay you for all of the time you spend on the job—even if you may have agreed to waive your right to a break.

Under California wage laws for transportation workers, employers are required to provide mechanics with breaks and locations to take them. If the employee does not take all required breaks (or if the employer does not offer them), he or she shall still be paid for time on the clock.

Mechanics must be furnished with the following under California law:

Meal Breaks 

Any mechanic in California who works for more than five hours is required to have meal break of 30 minutes. If a worker’s shift is six hours long, an employee can choose to waive the meal period with consent of the employer. If an employee works for longer than 10 hours in a single day, the employer must provide a second meal period of at least 30 minutes. If the employee works for 12 hours or fewer, the second meal period can be waived only if the employee was given a full first meal period. If the employee is not relieved of all work duties during a 30-minute meal period, then the employee should be considered on-duty and the meal period may be counted as time worked. If employers require mechanics to eat their meals onsite, the employer must provide a suitable place for that purpose. If the employer fails to provide adequate meal breaks, he or she must compensate the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate for each workday that a meal break was not provided.

Rest Breaks

Employers are required to provide 10-minute rest periods in addition to meal periods at regular intervals in a worker’s shift. In general, employees shall be granted 10 minutes of rest time for every four hours worked. Employees shall not be required to clock out for these rest periods, and shall be paid for the duration of the break. Employees whose shifts are less than three and one-half hours may not be granted rest breaks. Employers who fail to provide employees with mandatory rest periods may be ordered to pay the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate for each workday that a rest period was not provided.

Locker Rooms

Employers are required to provide lockers, closets, or cabinets to safely store the employees’ outer clothing while at work. If an employer requires a change of clothing, changing rooms with reasonable privacy must be provided. Locker rooms and break areas may be near, but must be separate from, toilet rooms, and must be kept clean.

Seating Areas

Employees shall be provided with an adequate number of seats for rest and work activities near the work area. If an employee is not actively engaged in work duties, he or she should have access and permission to use these seats as long as the performance of his or her duties is not affected.


You Could Be Owed Hundreds of Dollars in Back Pay

If your employer has been denying your meal or rest breaks or has not furnished you with workplace amenities, you could be able to hold him liable for unpaid wages. To find out more, read through a free copy of our guide to California wage and hour laws, The Ultimate Straight Talk Guide To Getting Your Hard Earned Wages Back.


Disclaimer: Please understand these discussions and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. This testimonial, endorsement and/or discussion does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation and/or this particular case/ situation. 

William Turley
“When I seek out professional advice, I don’t want B.S., I want it straight up. I figure you do also.”

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