In California, employers who violate wage and hour laws can be slapped with severe penalties.
In any type of action against your employer for unpaid wages, you will be seeking monetary compensation for the wages you should have been paid or the wages you were rightfully owed by your employer for the work you did.
These amounts are considered "damages" rather than penalties.
They are intended to compensate workers for the losses they have suffered. If you performed a job, you should be paid for it, as the law states.
In addition to damages, employers may be slapped with additional penalties or fines for violating your rights as an employee.
Such penalties are intended not just to punish the employer, but also to deter then from engaging in such illegal activity in the future.
If you believe you have not been paid the wages you are rightfully owed, it is imperative that you contact an experienced Los Angeles employment attorney who has successfully handled unpaid wage lawsuits to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.
Types of Unpaid Wage Violations
There are a number of ways in which employers in California shortchange their workers or blatantly violate wage laws.
Here are some of the most common types of wage violations our employment attorneys see on a regular basis:
Minimum wage violations
It is illegal in California to pay employees anything less than the set minimum wage.
In 2020, the statewide minimum wage in California is $13 per hour or $12 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees.
In California, the minimum wage will increase every year between 2017 and 2013. However, many cities and municipalities within the state of California have set minimum wages that are higher than the state minimum.
For example, in the city of Los Angeles, the minimum wage in 2020 is $14.25 for employers with 26 or more employees and $13.25 for those with 25 or fewer employees.
Therefore, if you work in the city of Los Angeles, your employer is required under the law to pay the higher local minimum wage.
If your employer violates California's minimum wage laws, you can recover the money you are owed by filing a wage and hour lawsuit or by filing a class action lawsuit.
Under state law, employers are required to pay non-exempt employees overtime for work done over eight hours in a single day; more than 40 hours in a single workweek; or more than six days in a single workweek.
Employees are entitled to minimum overtime pay at one and a half times their regular hourly rate of pay.
Also, the law states that anyone who works more than 12 hours in one workday or more than eight hours on the seventh day of a workweek should be paid double the regular rate of hourly pay.
Rest and meal breaks
Non-exempt employees are also entitled to meal breaks and rest breaks.
Under California's wage and hour law, employees must receive a 30-minute meal break if they work more than five hours a day. Employees who work more than 10 hours a day are entitled to a second meal break.
If an employer does not allow workers to take meal or rest breaks, the employer must pay the employee one hour's wages for each break the employee was not allowed to take.
Unpaid Wage Lawsuit or Class Action?
If your employer has violated California wage and hour laws and has not paid the wages you were rightfully owed, you may be able to recover these unpaid wages by filing an employment lawsuit against your employer.
You may file such a lawsuit if your employer failed to pay overtime; required you to work off the clock; did not provide the required rest or meal breaks; misclassified employees as "exempt" or as independent contractors to pay such wages; failed to pay the minimum wage; or pays wages late.
In many cases, an employer may have violated the state's labor laws against a number of employees.
In such class action lawsuits involving wage issues, a large group of employees sue as a group. A class action lawsuit would make sense particularly if an employer were violating California labor laws with regard to multiple employees or a large group of employees.
There are certain advantages to class action lawsuits.
First and foremost, these types of lawsuits increase the amount of time and resources an attorney can devote to the case. In wage and hour lawsuits, the attorney fee is a percentage of the total amount recovered in the case.
When the number of plaintiffs is larger, the damages tend to be larger as well. A class action lawsuit also raises the stakes for employers.
What this means is that employers are more likely to arrive at a settlement to pay employees their unpaid wages rather than go to court and expend money and resources on a potentially lengthy trial.
Compensation Received from Unpaid Wages Lawsuits
The amount of damages (compensation) available in an unpaid wages lawsuit will typically depend on the nature of the labor law violation.
In minimum wage lawsuits, employees may be able to seek back wages, interest on unpaid wages, attorney's fees and court costs.
If you did not receive required meal or rest breaks, you may be eligible to receive one hour's wages for each break you were not given. It is important to remember that employees in California cannot be retaliated against for exercising their rights under California wage and hour laws.
Employees cannot be fired or face any adverse actions such as transfers, demotions or denial of training opportunities because they filed an unpaid wages lawsuit.
Contact an Experienced California Employment Lawyer
If you have been denied wages that you are rightfully owed by your employer, or if you have been misclassified as a contract worker or "exempt" employee so your employer can shortchange your overtime and other wages, you may be able to seek compensation for your losses.
The experienced Los Angeles wage and hour attorneys at Kingsley & Kingsley are passionate about pursuing justice and fair compensation for our clients. Contact us at 888-500-8469 for a free, comprehensive and confidential consultation.