Practice Areas

Wage and Hour Law

Wage and Hour Disputes

We represent employees in disputes over wages or hours of work. This includes class actions, collective actions and individual lawsuits against employers. The firm has extensive experience in wage and hour law and has collected over three million dollars in unpaid wages and penalties for Oregon workers. We understand the injustice when a worker is not paid for his or her work and take seriously claims for even small amounts.

There is no charge for the initial consultation in wage and hour cases. Representation is usually on a contingent fee basis which means that the client is charged no attorney fees unless there is a recovery of back wages from the employer. Under the law, workers may be able to recover their back pay as well as a penalties in the amount of thirty day’s pay, liquidated damages in an amount equal to the amount of the unpaid wages, reasonable attorneys' fees, interest and costs.

The firm has extensive experience with wage an hour law representing individual employees as well as class actions. Common issues with which we have experience include the following:

Misclassification of workers as exempt from overtime

Some employers fail to pay overtime to anyone paid on a salary basis. To be exempt from the overtime law an employee must generally be an executive, an administrator or a professional. It is common for employers to try to fit employees into these categories even where the law does not allow for it.

Another common situation occurs when an employer treats the employees as an independent contractor even though the employer controls the way that employee does the job. The law provides that such persons must be paid overtime even if the employer tries to characterize them as contractors rather than as employees.

Failing to count all hours an employee works and allowing off-the-clock work.

Off-the-clock work must be paid for even if the employee has a policy prohibiting such work. If the employer knows that work is being performed, it must be paid.

All of an employees work must be paid for. This includes time normally deducted for a lunch break if the employee is not given a full thirty minute break during which he or she is relieved of all duties.

Other common examples of uncompensated work include:

  • travel time
  • time spent on an employer required medical exam or drug test
  • the time an employee spends waiting or on call to go back to work (answer a page) even though on a meal break or outside of normal work hours
  • time spent working at home including time spent studying company training materials or answering pages or monitoring email
  • attendance at mandatory company functions including training classes without overtime pay
  • time spent laundering uniforms
  • time spent safeguarding an employer’s property as when a police officer is required to care for a police dog
  • preparatory and concluding work activities such as time spent putting on safety gear, cleaning up after work, unlocking and disarming alarms, or booting up the company computer at the start of the day

Late Final Paychecks

It is common for some employers not to pay all wages due at the time of termination from employment. The law requires all compensation, including accrued vacation, to be paid in a timely fashion. The failure to give the employee timely payment can result in penalties of an additional thirty day’s pay.

Miscalculation of Overtime

This commonly occurs when an employer pays straight time for overtime, gives “comp time” or fails to include the value of performance related bonuses when calculating overtime.

Minimum Wage Violations

Minimum wage violations can occur not only when an employer pays at a rate below the minimum wage rate. Any pay period during which an employee’s actual pay falls below the minimum constitutes a violation of the minimum wage laws. This can happen, for example when an employer fails to reimburse the employee for business expenses including the cost of travel, mileage or lodging expenses. Other typical minimum wage violations occur when an employer deducts money from the employee’s pay for till shortages, breakage or bad checks; or requires the purchase of tools or a uniform when the cost is a major portion of the employee’s paycheck

Representative Cases

Some of the firms representative cases include the following:

Ayersman v. Carnation Co.: a collective action involving more than seventy plaintiffs. Settled after obtaining a written decision from the U.S. District Court holding that state wage and hour laws were not preempted by federal labor law.

Brown v. American Property Management: Obtained jury verdict for $400,000 in unpaid wages and penalties. On appeal obtained a decision holding that damages for emotional distress are available under Oregon law which prohibits retaliation because of a workers assertion of rights under the wage and hour laws; that an employee may bring an action under these statutes even where an employer was not motivated to retaliate against the employee; and that an employee may bring an action for breach of an implied covenant of good faith because of an employer's failure to pay wages.

Taco Bell litigation: Represented the workers in class and collective actions against Taco Bell and many of its franchisees in Oregon. The litigation lasted more than six years in Oregon trial courts and resulted in payment to the employees in excess of two million dollars. This included litigation against the Taco Bell Corporation (Bravo v. Taco Bell) for off-the-clock work which was resolved in favor of the employees after three jury trials.

Mathis v. Umatilla Housing Authority: Obtained summary judgment if Federal District Court on behalf of an employee who had been wrongly classified as an independent contractor and established that penalties under Oregon wage and hour laws are in addition to liquidated damages which may be awarded under federal law.


Paul L. Breed, P.C.
300 Powers Building, 65 S.W. Yamhill St., Portland, Oregon 97204