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How Much Can You Sue for Unpaid Wages?

Posted by Eric Kingsley | Feb 12, 2023 | 0 Comments

Federal and state labor laws require employers to pay workers a minimum wage as well as overtime wages. California has a higher minimum wage and some cities and counties in California have a higher minimum wage that the state. In these cases, employers must pay the higher local rate. Overtime rates should be paid at time and a half or double depending on the number of hours worked.

If your employer is not paying you the right amount, you may be able to file an unpaid wages lawsuit against you employer. You may be entitled to recover not just you unpaid wages, but also interest and penalties that are intended to punish your employer for breaking the law. An experienced California wage and hour lawyer will be able to guide you through the process.

Can I Claim Unpaid Wages?

You may have an unpaid wages claim if your employer has not paid you on time for work you have done. But, there are a number of different situations where you may actually be able to claim some or all of your unpaid wages. You can claim unpaid wages if you find yourself in the following circumstances:

  • If your employer fails to pay you the correct minimum wage or less than the minimum wage per hour
  • If your employer fails you pay overtime if you have worked overtime
  • Your employer does not pay you for each and every hour that you have worked
  • You are not allowed to have meal breaks or rest breaks during your workday as required by California law
  • You don't receive the bonuses or commissions you are supposed to get

How Much Can You Claim?

There are a number of different damages that could be added to your claim, which may include your regular pay, overtime pay and interest on unpaid wages. In order to recover the unpaid wages, the employee may either a file a civil lawsuit in court or file an administrative claim with the state's labor department. The amount of money you recover in an unpaid wages lawsuit against the employer is referred to as "damages," which could include the following:

  • You should be awarded the amount of wages that your employer did not pay you. This might include any overtime that you did not get paid. For example, if your employer only paid you your regular hourly rate for overtime hours worked and not time and a half, you should receive the difference between the regular hours you were paid and the overtime amount your employer should have paid you.
  • You can receive interest on unpaid wages – set at up to 10% in California. In some cases liquidated damages are paid. If your employer did not act in good faith and deliberately stole wages from you, they may be ordered to pay double damages as "liquidated" damages under federal law.
  • Under California laws, employers are also required to pay penalties to employees who are victims of wage theft in addition to the unpaid wages that are owed to workers. For example, California law required employers to pay a "waiting time penalty," which works out to be equal to 30 days of the employee's unpaid wages.
  • Workers may also be entitled to receive attorney's fees and other miscellaneous costs such as court fees.

How Can You Get Help with Your Unpaid Wages Claim

There are several steps you can take to make sure you are protecting your rights. First, report your unpaid wages to your employer and see if you can correct the problem get them to pay your unpaid wages without filing a lawsuit. Keep your pay stubs or obtain copies of pay slips, which show the discrepancy between your hours worked and how much you should have been paid.

Talk to your co-workers and see if they will corroborate your account helping you prove your wage theft by comparing pay slips. Retain the services of an experienced unpaid wage lawyer who will help you with your wage theft claim.


Can I get fired if I bring a claim?

No, California law protects workers who bring unpaid wages lawsuits against retaliation. Your employer cannot retaliate against you by firing, demoting or taking any other adverse employment action against you.

What if I got underpaid by just a few dollars?

It's worth talking to a lawyer even if you were shortchanged by just a few dollars. One reason is you may find out later that you are owed much more or underpaid more than you thought. Also, in some cases, you stand to get double damages. In addition, your court costs and attorney's fees could get covered. This means that you can often get more than what you were owed and have your employer pay attorney's fees and court costs.

Is it worth talking to a lawyer?

Absolutely. At Kingsley & Kingsley Lawyers, we offer a free consultation and a no-win-no-fee guarantee. This means we don't get paid anything unless we recover compensation for you. Call us for a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.

About the Author

Eric Kingsley

In practice since 1996, the firm's lawyer and co-founder, Eric B. Kingsley, has litigated complex cases and written numerous appeals in state and federal courts on behalf of the California law firm Kingsley & Kingsley, including More than 150 collective actions. Mr. Kingsley focuses his practice ...


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