California Unpaid Wages
With offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles, the attorneys at The Employment Law Group® have substantial experience representing employees whose employer withheld wages, refused to pay overtime, or otherwise violated the employee’s rights. The federal government, California, and many states have enacted laws establishing a minimum wage and other regulations affecting wages, overtime payments, and other employment practices.
What kinds of employment practices are prohibited under the law? Back to top.
The most common violations include:
- Minimum wage violations
- Failure to pay overtime
- Failure to provide required meal breaks and rest periods
- Improperly pooling tips among employees
- Failure to provide proper information on employees’ itemized statements
Which federal law sets the national minimum wage and prohibits employers from withholding wages? Back to top.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets the national minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour as of July 24, 2009. The law also prohibits employers from withholding wages and regulates the calculation of overtime payments and other common employment practices.
How do California labor laws differ from similar federal laws? Back to top.
California labor laws generally provide better protections and benefits for employees. For example, as of January 1, 2008, the minimum wage in California is $8.00 per hour, a rate higher than the national minimum wage.
What forms of compensation are available to an employee when his or her employer violates California labor laws? Back to top.
A prevailing employee may be entitled to:
- Wages owed including overtime
- Meal and rest period penalties
- Waiting time penalties
- Attorney’s fees
Additionally, the Private Attorney General Act of 2004 (PAGAA) allows individuals to pursue fines for violations of California labor laws that normally only the State of California could enforce. Any fines recovered are split with 75% going to California and 25% going to the employee.
When is an employee entitled to overtime pay? Back to top.
Generally, an employee is entitled to overtime pay at 1.5 times the regular pay rate for any hours worked over 8 per day, over 40 per week, and on the 7th consecutive day worked. An employee is entitled to overtime pay at double the regular rate for any hours worked over 12 per day and over 8 hours on the 7th consecutive day worked. Only hours actually worked factor into the overtime calculation. For example, holidays or sick days would not count.
Also, employees classified as exempt under federal and California labor laws may not be entitled to overtime pay. Contact an attorney to review your classification and to determine if you are entitled to overtime pay.
Are salaried employees entitled to overtime? Back to top.
A salaried employee may be entitled to overtime pay depending on a number of factors, including the employee’s exempt status. Contact an attorney to review your classification and to determine if you are entitled to overtime pay.
Am I entitled to overtime pay if my employer classifies me as exempt? Back to top.
You may be entitled to overtime pay if your employer has misclassified you as an exempt employee. Contact an attorney to review your classification and to determine if you are entitled to overtime pay.
Is the employer required to pay overtime when the employer did not authorize overtime? Back to top.
Yes. Employers are required to pay overtime even though the overtime was not authorized.
Can employees waive their right to overtime pay? Back to top.
No. Employers are required to pay employees overtime and minimum wages even if the employee agrees to work for a lesser wage.
Can an employer require employees to work overtime? Back to top.
Yes, but the employer must pay the overtime rate.
By when must overtime be paid? Back to top.
Generally, the employer must pay overtime earned in one pay period no later than the payday for the next pay period. However, the employer cannot delay the payment of regular wages to the next pay period.
In addition to an employee’s wage, is the employee’s bonus used to calculate overtime? Back to top.
Nondiscretionary bonuses based upon hours worked, production, or proficiency should be used to compute the overtime rate. However, discretionary bonuses paid are not used to compute the overtime rate.
Are employees entitled to meal periods? Back to top.
An employee who works more than five hours per day is entitled to a meal period not less than 30 minutes, and if the employee works more than ten hours per day, the employee is entitled to a second meal period not less than 30 minutes. In some circumstances a meal period may be waived by mutual consent of both the employee and the employer.
Unless the employee is relieved of all duty during his or her meal period, the employee is on duty and the meal period counts as hours worked. An on duty meal period is permitted only when the nature of the work prevents the employee from being relieved of all duty and when the employer and employee agree in writing to a paid meal period. The employee can revoke the agreement at anytime to return to an off duty meal period.
Are employees entitled to paid rest periods? Back to top.
Employees are entitled to bathroom breaks. Additionally, nonexempt employees are entitled to a paid 10 minute rest period for each four hour period worked.
Can an employer require its employees to pool tips? Back to top.
A tip is money a customer leaves for an employee over the amount due for the goods sold or services rendered. Tips belong to the employee, not to the employer. However, an employer can require employees to pool tips with other employees who provide “direct table service.” For example, a waiter may have to pool tips with busboys and bartenders, but should not pool tips with management, dishwashers, or cooks.
Is an employer allowed to deduct credit card processing fees from its employees’ tips? Back to top.
No. The employer must pay the employee the full amount of the tip.
Is a mandatory service charge equivalent to a tip? Back to top.
No. A tip is voluntarily paid to an employee, while a mandatory service charge is a contractual amount paid to the establishment.
Are immigrants protected by federal and California labor laws? Back to top.
Yes. All immigrants are protected by federal and California labor laws from abusive employment practices regardless of their national origin or immigration status.
Must employers keep payroll records? Back to top.
Yes. Every employer doing business in California must maintain comprehensive payroll records on each of its employees. Employers must make payroll records available to current or former employees within 21 calendar days of their request or face a penalty.
Are employees entitled to an itemized statement? Back to top.
Yes. Regardless of how employees are paid, they are entitled to an itemized statement indicating, among other items, the gross wages earned and the total hours worked.
Are employers allowed to withhold wages from a terminated employee? Back to top.
No. Employers who withhold wages from a terminated employee may be assessed a waiting time penalty equivalent to the employee’s daily rate of pay for each day the wages remain unpaid up to the maximum of 30 calendar days.
Can an employer retaliate against an employee for reporting violations of federal and California labor laws? Back to top.
No. An employer cannot retaliate against an employee in any way for reporting federal or California labor law violations. Prohibited forms of retaliation include firing, demotion, suspension, harassment, threats, or any conduct that would dissuade a worker from reporting a violation.
What should I do if my employer is violating federal or California labor laws or has retaliated against me for reporting violations? Back to top.
Keep a detailed and contemporaneous log of the hours you worked and contact The Employment Law Group® law firm at 1-866-645-1307 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your potential claim.