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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 117401
Experience:  JA Mentor -Attorney Labor/employment, corporate, sports law, admiralty/maritime and civil rights law
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I have been working at a private elementary, under

Customer Question

I have been working at a private elementary, under an at will contract for three years now. I started out as a teacher's assistant and was afterwards promoted to a teacher's position. Everything had been going ok at work until this year.
In September I received a salary cut because a new administrator was hired, reviewed my files and decided that my lack of diplomas devalued my position in the school. (My salary went from 35000 last year to 31000 this year).
A month later, there was a scheduling conflict and 2 1/2 hours work load was added to my weekly schedule, and no talk of financial compensation came about.
The school has a 24 hour paid sick leave policy. Once that amount of hours has been reached, the administrators take out an hourly rate from out paychecks. Just this month, I received my paycheck and $19.88 had been withdrawn from my monthly pay. I immediately asked the administrator how he had come to that hourly rate in an email. Following that, he realized that he had made an error, and that he should not have taken that money out, because he had added an extra hour to my sick time. I reiterated my initial question, which was "how did you get to the $19.88 hourly rate?" To that he answered that it was based on my monthly salary, and a 30 hour week. The thing is that I work 35 hours and not 30, and thus my hourly wage is lower than that.
Beyond the incompetence, the two administrators at school are strong manipulators and have been making my year (and many of my coworkers' year) very miserable in different ways (low pay and psychological pressure for example). I am afraid that they might be taking advantage of me and in this case I am not sure how to react.
Moreover, I have an at will contract which extends from September to September with a monthly salary on it (When my reviewed salary was discussed, a yearly amount was given, and then divided by 12 and inscribed on the contract). I am scared that they might not pay me for the two months of summer (which we have off). They gave me their word that I will be paid, upon school conventions, but have refused to give me a written confirmation of it. I have no trust and a weak understanding of my rights in this case.
I strongly appreciate any help or advice on how to use my rights to protect myself. Thank you in advance,
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.
Unfortunately, an at will employment contract is just that, it means you can be hired/fired at the will of the employer for no reason or any reason not solely based on your age/race/sex/disability/national origin. The at will employee is bound to do whatever work the employer needs done, even if there is additional work put on the at will employee. The employer does not have to give you more money to add more work on you unless your written contract says they have to do so.
If they are miscalculating your hourly rate, that is something that you can file a complaint to EDD wage and hour about, since you can prove you are indeed working 35 hours a week, which means your hourly rate should be lower. The employer can dock your pay for being out of work for personal reasons even as a salary employee and the employer has to correctly calculate your hourly rate though to do so.
So, your rights are to have your hourly wage properly calculated, which is your legal complaint you have in this matter from everything you stated above.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi,I thank you for your answer.I understand your answer about giving me more work hours. I would like to understand the summer vacation issue better though. I am not sure if they can get away with not paying me over the two summer months. I did not find any precise information about that in my contract and the administrators refused to give me a written guarantee. The school headmaster did tell me, between closed walls, that I could "take him to court" if he refused to pay me the summer months. Do you have any thoughts/useful information about that?Also, what would a claim like that assure me?Thanks a lot,
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Another question, I am not sure what the laws are about breaks and such, and I am unsure as to what hours should be counted in my weekly load, as some days I have longish breaks. Example: Mondays: I am at school from 8:30 to 5:45 but have 1h for lunch at 30mins break (time not spent with children, but working time nonetheless) from 3:00 to 3:30Thanks!
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your reply.
They do not have to pay you if you are not working. When a school teacher or school employee gets off for summer vacation, unless they took a reduction in pay during the year to get paid all 12 months, the employee is not entitled to get paid for time they did not actually work.
So if you are working during the summer or if you took a reduced pay to get paid for 12 months instead of 9-10, then you could sue them for the pay.
The employer does not have to pay you for lunch or breaks, but if you are working during the break time, then you have to be paid for that time.