Employee Wage Rights


Unpaid Wage Settlement Calculator

Posted by Eric Kingsley | Apr 16, 2024 | 0 Comments

Tired of being shortchanged by your employer? You're not alone. In California, wage theft is a big problem. But with the right tools and know-how, you can fight back and get the money you're owed.

That's where a California unpaid wage settlement calculator comes in handy. It can help you figure out exactly how much your employer owes you for things like unpaid overtime, missed meal breaks, and more.

Unpaid wage settlement statement

Ready to take control of your paycheck? Let's break down what you need to know.

Table of Contents:

Understanding California Overtime Laws

California has some of the most protective overtime laws in the nation. If you're an employee in California, it's crucial to understand your rights when it comes to overtime pay. In California, overtime is any hours worked over 8 in a single workday or 40 in a single workweek. So if you work 10 hours in one day, those extra 2 hours are overtime. And if you work 45 hours in a week, 5 of those hours qualify for overtime pay.

Overtime Pay Rates

Here's where it gets interesting. California doesn't just have one overtime rate - it has several, depending on how many hours you work:

  • Hours worked over 8 but less than 12 in a day: 1.5x regular rate
  • Hours worked over 12 in a day: 2x regular rate
  • First 8 hours worked on 7th consecutive workday in a week: 1.5x regular rate
  • Hours worked over 8 on 7th consecutive workday: 2x regular rate

So if your regular rate is $20/hour, you'd earn $30/hour for those extra hours up to 12 in a day, and $40/hour for any hours over 12. That can add up fast.

Exemptions to Overtime Laws

Not everyone is eligible for overtime, though. Certain employees like executives, professionals, and outside salespersons may be exempt from overtime laws if they meet specific salary and duties requirements. But the majority of hourly workers in California must be paid overtime according to state law.

Calculating Unpaid Wages in California

If your employer hasn't been paying you proper overtime, you may be owed unpaid wages. But how much? It depends on a few factors. First, you need to figure out how many overtime hours you actually worked. This includes any time you were required to be on duty, even if you weren't actively working the whole time. It also includes time spent putting on required uniforms or gear at work.

Applying the Correct Wage Rate

Next, you need to make sure you're using the right regular rate to calculate overtime. This isn't always just your hourly wage. If you earn bonuses, shift differentials, or other compensation, those may need to be included when determining your regular rate. For example, let's say you earn $15/hour and worked 50 hours in a week, with 10 of those being overtime. If you also earned a $100 bonus that week, your regular rate for overtime purposes would be $17/hour ($800 total compensation / 50 hours worked). So your overtime rate would be $25.50/hour (1.5 x $17), not just $22.50.

Including Overtime and Meal/Rest Break Violations

Don't forget to account for any meal or rest break violations too. In California, if your employer doesn't provide uninterrupted 30-minute meal breaks or 10-minute rest breaks as required, they owe you one extra hour of regular rate pay for each workday the break was missed. So if you had two meal break violations in a week, that's two extra hours of pay to include in your unpaid wages calculation.

Penalties for Wage Violations in California

On top of actual unpaid wages, California employers can face some serious penalties for wage violations. If your employer willfully fails to pay all wages owed at the time of termination, they may owe waiting time penalties. These are basically your average daily wage for each day payment is delayed, up to 30 days. So if you normally earned $160/day, your employer could owe an extra $4800 in waiting time penalties.

Wage Statement Penalties

Employers must provide accurate, itemized wage statements. If they don't, they can face penalties of $50 for the first violation and $100 per employee for each subsequent violation, up to a total of $4000 per employee.

Penalties for Failure to Pay Minimum Wage or Overtime

If your employer fails to pay minimum wage, they may owe liquidated damages equal to the unpaid wages plus interest. And for unpaid overtime, employees can recover the unpaid overtime compensation plus interest, and potentially even double damages if the violation was willful.

Filing an Unpaid Wage Claim in California

If you believe you're owed unpaid wages, you have a few options for pursuing a claim. First, be aware of deadlines. In California, the statute of limitations for filing most wage claims is three years from the date of the violation. For oral contracts, it's two years. So make sure you file on time or you could lose your right to recover those wages.

Steps to File a Wage Claim

You can file an individual wage claim with the California Labor Commissioner's Office. Their website has details on the process and the forms you need. You'll typically attend a settlement conference first, and if the issue isn't resolved, you'll have a hearing before a deputy labor commissioner.

Working with an Employment Attorney

For larger or more complex cases, you may want to consult with an employment attorney about filing a lawsuit instead. Our unpaid wage lawyers can help you navigate the process, gather evidence, and argue your case in court if needed. Don't be afraid to get help - California's wage laws are complex and an experienced attorney can be your best advocate.

California Minimum Wage Laws

Even if you're not owed overtime, your employer still has to pay at least minimum wage for every hour worked. And in California, that minimum is higher than in a lot of other states. As of 2024, the statewide minimum wage in California is $16/hour for all employers, regardless of size. That's more than double the federal minimum of $7.25/hour. And it's set to increase every year based on the Consumer Price Index.

Local Minimum Wage Ordinances

Some cities and counties have even higher minimum wages. For example, in San Francisco, it's currently $18.07/hour. In Los Angeles, it's $16.78/hour for employers with 26 or more employees. Always check your local laws - if they're higher than the state minimum, your employer has to pay the higher amount.

Scheduled Increases to Minimum Wage

California's minimum wage is set to keep increasing annually. After 2023, it will be adjusted each January 1st based on the US Consumer Price Index. So even if you're earning minimum wage now, you may be entitled to a raise each year.

Meal and Rest Break Requirements in California

In addition to getting paid for all hours worked, California employees also have a right to meal and rest breaks. If you work more than 5 hours in a day, you're entitled to a meal break of at least 30 minutes. And that break must start before the end of your 5th hour of work. If your shift is 10 hours or longer, you get a second 30-minute meal break too. These breaks are unpaid, but only if you're relieved of all duties and free to leave the premises. If you have to stay on-site or on-call, it counts as paid work time.

Rest Break Durations and Timing

You're also entitled to a paid 10-minute rest break for every 4 hours worked (or major fraction thereof). These should fall in the middle of each 4-hour work period if possible. And unlike meal breaks, you should be paid for this time even if you're not working.

Penalties for Meal and Rest Break Violations

If your employer doesn't provide proper meal or rest breaks, they owe you one extra hour of pay at your regular rate for each workday the break was missed. These premium payments can add up quickly, and they're considered wages owed. So if you missed one meal break and one rest break in a shift, that's two extra hours of pay for that day. Over the course of a year, that could be hundreds or even thousands of dollars in premiums.

Key Takeaway: 

Understanding California's overtime laws can put extra cash in your pocket. Overtime kicks in after 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week, and the pay rates are generous. Don't overlook meal and rest break rules either; messing these up means more money owed to you. And if things don't add up? File a claim but watch those deadlines closely.


Calculating your unpaid wages in California can be tricky, but it's worth the effort. With a California unpaid wage settlement calculator, you can get a clear picture of what you're owed.

Remember, your employer is required by law to pay you for all hours worked, including overtime and missed breaks. Should anyone ignore these laws, rest assured, you're fully backed up in taking matters into your own hands.

So don't let wage theft slide. Arm yourself with the knowledge and tools you need to get the money you've earned. Your hard work deserves fair compensation.

About the Author

Eric Kingsley

Eric B. Kingsley is a 2023 "Best In Law" Award winner and has litigated over 150 class actions. He is also an AV peer rated attorney and a prolific speaker at various seminars on employment law.


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