Under California law, employers are required to pay hourly or non-exempt employees a fair wage. California has strong laws when it comes to paying workers a minimum wage as well as overtime pay when employees work more than the required number of hours in a workday or workweek. In addition, employers must provide meal breaks and rest breaks during a workday. However, our Los Angeles unpaid wage lawyers and Kingsley & Kingsley Lawyers often find that employers violate these wage and hour laws that are in place to help ensure that California's workers are paid fair wages on time.
If you believe that your employer has not paid you the wages you are owed, you can file an unpaid wages lawsuit against your employer seeking compensation. Your employer may also be required under the law to pay additional penalties for wage violations. Call us to obtain more information about your legal rights and options.
How Are 'Wages' Defined Under California Law?
In California, "wages" are defined as compensation for work or services rendered by an employee. Every worker receives a wage regardless of whether the pay is determined on time, task, piece, commission, or on some other basis. Wages may include your salary, hourly pay, commissions, bonuses, sick pay, vacation pay and other types of compensation.
When an employer fails to pay these wages or provide required benefits, employees may file a claim with the California Labor Commissioner or pursue a wage and hour lawsuit in court to recover unpaid wages, penalties and other damages and losses.
What Are The Common Types of Wage Violations in California?
There are a number of ways in which employers may violate wage and hour laws in California. Here are some of the most common wage violations:
- Failing to pay less than the minimum wage set by the local jurisdiction
- Not paying employees for every hour they have worked
- Not paying overtime wages
- Failing to pay employees for rest breaks or meal breaks during which they have worked
- Failing to pay bonuses or commissions employees have earned
- Failing to pay tips to workers that they have earned
- Withholding pay illegally or making illegal deductions from employees' paychecks
- Not providing employee with the final paycheck in a timely manner
Minimum Wage Violations
Under federal and state laws, California workers are entitled to the minimum wage. California's minimum wage is significantly higher than the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25. California's minimum wage as of Jan. 1, 2023 is $15.50 per hour. However, if the local minimum wage is higher, your employer is required to pay you the higher amount. For example, on July 1, 2023, the minimum wage in Los Angeles County will increase to $16.78 per hour. So, if you work in Los Angeles County, you are entitled to receive the higher minimum wage.
In order to calculate your unpaid minimum wage claim, take the difference between what you were paid per hour and what you should have been paid per hour. Multiply the amount by the total number of hours you worked. For example, if your employer paid you $11 per hour instead of $15 per hour for the first two weeks of full-time work, you would be entitled to receive an additional $4 per hour for each of your 80 hours of work, which would add up to $320.
Not paying employees properly for overtime work is one of the common wage violations we see in California. Under California law, employees are entitled to time and a half if they work more than eight hours in a day or 40 hours. They are also entitled to time-and-a-half pay for the first eight hours on their seventh consecutive workday. If you worked over 12 hours in a workday, you are entitled to receive double pay.
If your employer has failed to pay you for overtime hours worked, you are entitled to the difference between what you were paid and the amount you should have been paid. For example, if you are usually paid $20 an hour, you should receive $30 if you worked overtime, which is time and a half.
Rest and Meal Breaks
California also gives employees the right to a 30-minute unpaid meal break and a paid 10-minute break for every four hours worked. In order to calculate your unpaid break wages, add up how much time you spent on shorter breaks for which you should have received pay or breaks through which you had to work. Multiply this additional worked time by your hourly rate of pay. Breaks for which you should have been paid count as hours worked, which means this time could push up your total hours for the week above the overtime standard.
Penalties for Unpaid Wages
Under California law, the penalties for unpaid wage claims that could have an impact on your unpaid wages settlement include:
- One hour of pay for each day that you missed one or more meal periods.
- One hour of pay for each day when you missed one or more rest breaks.
- Liquidated damages, which is sum equal to the amount of your unpaid wages. These apply only to minimum wage violations.
- Paystub violations, which includes penalties for your employer's failure to provide required information about your wages and hours on your paystub.
- You are entitled to your average daily wage for each day your employer is late paying your wages, up to a maximum of 30 days.
Collecting Unpaid Wages in California
If your employer failed to pay you wages due, you can file a wage claim with the California Labor Commissioner's Office or file a wage and hour lawsuit in court. It is important to note that whether you intend to file a claim or lawsuit, prompt action is imperative. In California, you have up to three years time to file a lawsuit based on overtime, minimum wage or rest/meal break violation. The same statute of limitations applies to penalties for such violations. It is crucial that you contact an experienced California employment lawyer as soon as you learn that your employer owes you unpaid wages.
How a California Wage and Hour Lawyer Can Help
If you believe your employer owes you unpaid wages, a knowledgeable California wage and hour lawyer can help represent you by filing a claim on your behalf with the Labor Commissioner's Office or by filing a lawsuit in court seeking to collect your unpaid wages. Call Kingsley & Kingsley Lawyers to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.