Wage and Hour Violations California

Employment law is a highly complex and detailed area of litigation. Our experienced labor lawyers focus on employment related disputes, with special emphasis on wage and hour lawsuits and wage and hour class actions.

California employers routinely disregard the extensive labor laws that protect employees rights. For instance, violations with minimum wage, misclassification of employees, unlawful wage deductions, and more.

California Minimum Wage Rates

In California, the minimum wage for all industries will be increased yearly. Almost all employers are required to pay their employees the minimum wage by state law. Below is the table of California Minimum Wage Rate, provided by State of California Department of Industrial Relations:

DateMinimum Wage for Employers with 25 Employees or LessMinimum Wage for Employers with 26 Employees or More
January 1, 2019$11.00/hour$12.00/hour
January 1, 2020$12.00/hour$13.00/hour

Note that there are some exceptions to minimum wage requirements, including for initial training periods, certain family members (spouses, children, parents), as well as for some kinds of positions like outside salespeople.

Misclassified Employees

For legal purposes, there are a variety of statuses, titles, and types of employees that may impact how taxes are withheld, as well as the benefits available to the position. If you are concerned that you have been misclassified, please schedule a consultation with our wage and hour lawyers as the examples below are not a detailed list.

  • Misclassifying employees as “managers” or “assistant managers”

A title of “manager” does not always disqualify an employee’s right for overtime compensation, rest breaks, or meal periods. Employees must fit very specific requirements to be exempt from overtime and rest / meal periods.

  • Misclassifying employees as “independent contractors”

California employers may improperly classify their employees to avoid paying payroll taxes, minimum wage, and overtime. There are also other employee rights involved with misclassification, such as meal breaks, rest breaks, expense reimbursement, etc.

There is no set definition for “independent contractor”. And the actual determination of whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor depends upon a number of factors. All of them must be considered, and none of which is controlling by itself.  Below, we have listed some commonly considered factors provided by CA.gov:

    • Whether a service rendered requires a special skill
    • Whether the principal or the worker supplies the instrumentalities, tools, and the place for the person doing the work
    • Method of payment, whether by time or by the job
    • The length of time for which the services are to be performed
    • The degree of permanence of the working relationship

These are just a few of the examples provided. Our experienced labor law attorneys can help you determine whether you are being misclassified as an independent contractor. Contact us today for a free consultation.

  • Misclassifying employees as “non-exempt”

Employers may classify employees as “non-exempt” and change their pay structure, without paying back wages and hours worked. This could affect an employee’s rights to minimum wage, overtime pay, and more. 

Common Wage and Hour Violations in California

Some of the most common types of wage violations our attorneys see are below:

  • Meal & Rest Breaks: Employers may not require employees to work through meal and rest breaks or deny their rest breaks. However, according to California Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), an employee is entitled to a 30-minute unpaid meal break for every five hours worked, and a 10-minute paid break for every four hours worked.
  • Expense Reimbursement: Employers sometimes make unlawful deduction from employees’ wages, for items such as pagers, cell phones, tools, or chargebacks. California Labor Code Section 2802, however, requires employers to reimburse employees for all necessary expenses incurred during his/her duties.
  • Commissioned Employees: Employers may fail to pay commissioned employees a minimum wage or overtime pay. If an employee makes no sales, he or she is still entitled to minimum wage and overtime for the hours worked. Note that there may be some exceptions applied, such as “outside salesperson”.

Other Common Wage Violations in California

Our employment attorneys also encounter wage violations upon termination:

  • Signing Void Releases

Employers can never force an employee to sign documents and releases. However, there could be situations where employees are asked to sign severance or any other releases. Beware of terms and conditions you are presented when signing, some releases may be void.

Our employment lawyers will help you look into all facts and evaluate your claim, such as the wording of the releases, California state law, and all other factors. 

  • Withholding pay after termination

Labor Code Sections 201 and 227.3 protect dismissed employees’ rights, including wages and accrued vacation time immediately upon termination. Employees who have been terminated are still entitled to their compensation for sick pay and vacation pay. Employers must pay dismissed employees on time, and in most cases accrued vacation time as well. 

Failing to pay wages owed upon termination will subject employers to additional liability, including “waiting time penalty”. Employers must pay employees a full day’s pay up to 30 days until the all unpaid wages are paid in full.

Before You File a Wage Claim

California’s labor laws protect all workers, regardless of immigration status. There are a few important tips to look out for before filing your claim:

  • Gather facts and documents for the claim

By law, California employers need to accurately keep track of employees’ hours worked. However, it is always a good idea for employees to keep track of working hours and pay.

There are various supporting and required documentation you could provide when submitting your wage claim. For instance, information of your employer, information of other responsible parties, records of hours worked, pay stubs, and more.

  • Make sure you file within 3 years

It is important that you file your claims before the statute of limitations. For instance, wage claims for violations of minimum wage, overtime, illegal deductions from pay etc. must be filed within 3 years.

Contact our experienced attorneys today who specialize in wage and hour claims. We will walk you through the filing process, ensure you have all supporting evidence and required documentation, and get the compensation you are owed.

Frequently Asked Questions About Wage & Hour Claims

  • I am an undocumented immigrant. Does the law still protect my right to fair pay?
    • Undocumented workers generally have the same wage and hour rights as other workers. The same Federal and California wage and hour laws that apply to authorized workers generally apply to employees who are working without legal immigration status. These laws establish employees’ right to minimum wage, overtime pay, breaks, tips, and other forms of wages.

An employer cannot refuse to pay you by saying that you should not have been working in the first place because of your legal status.

  • What is an employee misclassification?
    • Employee misclassification is the practice of mislabeling workers as independent contractors instead of employees. When employers misclassify employees, they use it to avoid paying overtime, giving lawful meal and rest breaks, and complying with other protections that California’s Labor Code provides for employees.

In addition, employers misclassify employees to avoid paying unemployment and other taxes on workers, and from covering them on workers compensation and unemployment insurance.

  • What happens if my company can’t make payroll?

California has several laws requiring employers to timely pay employees for all work performed: Generally, you must be paid at least twice during each calendar month.

    • California Labor Code Section 204(a). Work performed between the 1st and 15th of the month must be paid on regular paydays between the 16th and 26th of the month, while work performed between the 16th and end of the month must be paid between the 1st and 10th of the following month.
    • California Labor Code Section 204(a). Wages for overtime work must be paid no later than the next regular payroll wage.
    • California Labor Code Section 204(b)(1). If an employer fails to pay its employees all wages earned, it may likely owe its employees their wages and penalties.
  • Is it legal for my employer to not pay me overtime?
    • California’s general overtime provisions are that a nonexempt employee
      • 18 years of age or older, or
      • any minor employee 16 or 17 years of age who is not required by law to attend school and is not otherwise prohibited by law from engaging in the subject work,

shall not be employed more than 8 hours in any workday or more than 40 hours in any workweek, unless he or she receives one and one-half times his or her regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 8 hours in any workday and over 40 hours in the workweek (or double time under certain circumstances).

Whether an employee is entitled to overtime pay and the rate at which it is paid depends on the facts pertaining to the employee’s job, but if the employee validly earns overtime, the employer is legally required to pay it at the proper rate of pay.

  • How do I complain if my pay is less than California state minimum wage?
    • The best way to know if your employer is paying you at the correct minimum wage (which can vary based on several factors) and enforce your rights to be paid properly is to have an employment attorney investigate the way that you are being paid.

An attorney can easily assess whether you are being paid correctly by speaking with you and reviewing several of your wage statements.

These are just some of the wage and hour violation examples. If you believe your employee rights have been compromised, please call us or fill out our contact form.


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