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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 6816
Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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CA employment agreement states 60K/yr "based on a 32 hour week".

Resolved Question:

CA employment agreement states 60K/yr "based on a 32 hour week". However from day-one on, special CEO assigned tasks have push the hours EVERY WEEK to 40 hours. The agreement states that I am "exempt". The agreement was a result of clear expectations that I have continuing education and family needs. I accepted the pay rate accordingly. Now they are saying that because of my exempt status, I am not entitled to any additional compensation. I am a "Finance Manager" reporting directly to CEO who has hired a new HR person who is running interference by claiming a contract that she was not a party to. Nor was she ever around when the constant demands were placed on me in contrvention of the agreement.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 2 years ago.
Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question. I'm quite sorry to hear about your unfortunate work situation and can certainly understand your frustration at having to work more hours than you were previously told.

Can you please tell me if your employment contract guarantees employment for a specified period of time? Also, how would you have done things differently if you knew you would be working 40 hour weeks?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
There is no guaranty nor reference to employment duration. But the converse is not referenced either. If 40 hours was represented to me as a requirement, I would have simply up'd the salary requirement by the extra hours e.g. 80K instead of 60K. This would have covered the extra logistics/childcare costs I have endured. Additionally San Francisco has more even more intense laws protecting employees. Just don't know what they are.
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 2 years ago.
I completely understand your concerns. I hope you will appreciate a very direct answer to your question.

Even though an employment agreement states an obligation of 32 hours per week, an employer is free to require an employee to work more hours. This freedom stems from Labor Code section 2922, which provides that employment in the state of California is "at will," absent an agreement to the contrary. Courts have interpreted this to mean that, since an employer retains discretion to terminate employees for no reason, he or she also retains the authority to dictate the terms of employment and change them at any time.

This is why I asked if your contract was for a specific duration. Since it isn't, an employee in your circumstance is terminable at will, and so at least in theory, your employer could terminate you and then re-hire you with a higher weekly hourly commitment in writing. So, you can see that the hourly quota you have been given has no "teeth," so to speak, as it has no way to be actually enforced.

Of course you are still absolutely free to negotiate a higher rate of pay or walk away from the job--the "at will" employment doctrine works both ways.

The only potential exception to the above would be an equitable theory in law known as detrimental reliance. Essentially, it is what it sounds like. If an individual reasonably relies upon the representation of another party to his or her detriment, he or she can collect damages stemming directly from that reliance.

Thus, if for example you incurred moving expenses to take this job, you may be able to recover those expenses as they stem from your detrimental reliance on an employment offer which turned out to be on terms that are unacceptable to you.

Aside from this argument of detrimental reliance, an employer is unfrotuantely free to increase the hourly commitment of a job pursuant to Labor Code section 2922, as stated above.

I realize that the law is not particularly fair in this respect, and if I could change it I truly would. Of course, you are here because you want to know what the law says and not what my opinion of the law ought to be, so that is what I have provided.

My greatest concern is that you are satisfied with the answer I provide, so please do not hesitate to contact me with follow-up questions. Although I cannot always provide good news, I hope that my answer gives you a better understanding of the law and your rights so that you can obtain the best possible result under the circumstances. Also, please bear in mind that experts are not credited for unaccepted answers, so I greatly appreciate you taking the time to "accept" my answer and leave positive feedback.

Finally, none of the above constitutes legal advice nor is any attorney client relationship created between us.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
To what extent does the fact that IMMEDIATELY at commencement of duties the hours went straight to 40/week support an argument of "Detrimental Reliance"? Seems to me that they knew perfectly well of the work load and were not acting in good faith. Your answer was quite thorough and I will provide good feedback
***I stated "32 hours" when the contract states "30 hours". Any potential part-time vs full-time effect?
Over and out.
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for your reply and the nice compliment.

I certaintly understand what you are getting at, and in California there is an implied "covenant of good faith and fair dealing" between all parties to a contract. It would be quite a strain, but if an employee could demonstrate no intention to comply with the limitation on hours set forth in a contract and that this limitation was included for the purpose of deceiving the employee and inducing them to accept employment, a valid cause of action could at least in theory arise there from.

However, numerous judicial opinions have severely limited the implied covenant of good faith in the context of employment disputes.

See, e.g.:

"We therefore conclude that the employment relationship is not sufficiently similar to that of insurer and insured to warrant judicial extension of the proposed additional tort remedies in view of the countervailing concerns about economic policy and stability, the traditional separation of tort and contract law, and finally, the numerous protections against improper terminations already afforded employees."

Foley v. Interactive Data Corp.
(1988) 47 Cal.3d 654, 693

And:

"The covenant of good faith and fair dealing, implied by law in every contract, exists merely to prevent one contracting party from unfairly frustrating the other party's right to receive the benefits of the agreement actually made. The covenant thus cannot " 'be endowed with n existence independent of its contractual underpinnings.' " It cannot impose substantive duties or limits on the contracting parties beyond those incorporated in the specific terms of their agreement."

Guz v. Bechtel National, Inc. (2000) 24 Cal.4th 317, 349-350

You may wish to consult with a local employment law attorney to see if they would be willing to take your case on a contingency fee basis on the above theory (contingency fee means you only pay the attorney if you win and the payment is a portion of the settlement/judgment, typically 1/3) or on the theory of detrimental reliance if you can prove that you have suffered damage as a result of the representation that you would only work 32 hour weeks.

For attorney referrals, visit this link: http://apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/lris/directory/main.cfm?id=CA or visit http://www.martindale.com I particularly like Martin Dale because the site allows you to search attorneys by practice area and also provides attorney ratings.

Again, my number one goal is that you are satisfied with my answer. If you are, I would greatly appreciate your "accept." If you still require further clarification, I am happy to continue assisting you.


Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Satisfied Customers: 6816
Experience: Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
Patrick, Esq. and other California Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you

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