Employers in California are required under the law to pay non-exempt or hourly workers a wage or regular rate of pay. When employees work more than the standard number of hours in a workday or workweek, they must be paid overtime wages.
California also has laws requiring employers to provide meal breaks and rest breaks. When employers violate these labor laws or cut corners shortchanging workers their earned wages, employees may be able file an unpaid wages claim to recover the money they are owed.
Workers can pursue unpaid overtime settlements, unpaid wages and interest on the amount they were not paid. There are also scenarios where the law requires employers to pay additional penalties for unpaid wages.
It is unjust for employees to have to lose money they have earned. If you believe you have an unpaid wages claim, the experienced Los Angeles unpaid wage attorneys at Kingsley & Kingsley Lawyers can help you better understand your legal rights and options.
Do I Have an Unpaid Wage Claim?
The best way to determine whether or not you have an unpaid wage claim is to consult with a California wage and hour lawyer who can evaluate your situation.
You may be able to file an unpaid wage claim if your employer:
- Failed to pay you minimum wage
- Failed to pay you overtime wages
- Did not provide the legally required meal breaks and rest breaks
- Did not give you the tips and commissions you earned
- Made illegal deductions on your paycheck
These are all unlawful actions, which violate your rights as an employee in California. You have the right to bring an unpaid wages claim against your employer to receive those wages due and other compensation.
Common Types of Damages in Unpaid Wages Settlements
Damages are essentially monetary compensation paid to workers who have been wronged by their employers. The amount of money or damages you can recover in an unpaid wages settlement against your employer typically fall into the following categories:
Unpaid wages: First and foremost, you will be entitled to the wages you have not been paid. If you are successful with your unpaid wages claim, you will receive the amount of unpaid wages that the employer failed to pay you. This may include any overtime premium wages that your employer did not pay you. If your employer paid you the regular rate for the hours you worked overtime instead of time and a half or double your wages, you will be awarded the difference between the regular rate and premium rate, which you should have been paid.
Interest: You will also be entitled to receive interest on the unpaid wages at a rate that is set by state law. You may be able to recover "liquidated damages," which are money amounts set in advance by law awarded to employees in lieu of interest. If your employer deliberately withheld the wages that were due to you, they may be required to pay you double the unpaid wage amount as liquidated damages under federal law.
Penalties: State law also requires employers to pay some type of penalty in addition to the unpaid wages that are due to the employee. For example, under California law, employers must pay a "waiting time" penalty, which is equal to 30 days of the employee's unpaid wages.
Attorney's fees: Your employer must also pay your attorney's fees if you win your unpaid wages case along with the costs of pursuing the case.
Filing an Unpaid Wages Lawsuit
Regardless of the type of wage and hour violations, employees in California have three years from the date of the most recent violation to bring an unpaid wages lawsuit.
The experienced wage and hour lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley Lawyers know that when employees are not paid the wages they are due, they undergo significant financial as well as emotional stress.
If you are not sure how to sue for unpaid wages our legal experts can help to ensure you receive a maximum recovery. The statute of limitations or the time limit to bring a California wage and hour lawsuit is three years from the date of the most recent violation.
Here are a few examples of situations that often give rise to unpaid wages lawsuits that lead to settlements:
- When employers misclassify hourly workers as "exempt" employees or independent contractors in order to avoid paying them overtime wages or providing them the required meal and rest breaks.
- When employers don't follow California's overtime laws and require employees to work off the clock.
- When employers don't provide workers with the required meal or rest breaks, or require/encourage them to work during their breaks.
- When employers don't pay the correct minimum wages due to employees.
Can My Employer Retaliate Against Me for Bringing an Unpaid Wages Lawsuit?
Under California law, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who bring wage and hour claims or file complaints about wage and hour violations.
When an employer fires a worker for asserting his or her rights under the state's labor laws, it is considered wrongful termination.
Other forms of retaliation in the workplace that don't rise to the level of termination such as passing up the employee for a promotion, cutting their wages or preventing them from availing of training opportunities, are also unlawful.
If your employer retaliates against you for filing an unpaid wages lawsuit, you will have an additional cause of action against them, such as a workplace retaliation claim.
How a California Unpaid Wages Lawyer Can Help
If you believe your employer has not paid you due wages, an experienced California employment lawyer can help fight for your rights and help you secure compensation for your losses.
At Kingsley & Kingsley Lawyers, we work on a contingency fee basis, which means you don't have to pay us any fees until you collect damages in your case.
Also, in most cases, employers will be required to pay attorney's fees, which means your total recovery would not be reduced.
California unpaid wages attorneys representing plaintiffs can also help bring class action lawsuits on behalf of a large number of employees. Call us today to find out how we can help fight for your rights.