• JC Serrano

California Labor Law: What's Back Pay and Shift Pay?

Updated: Jun 5

Find A California Labor Lawyer for Wage Claims

When you consider filing a wage and hour claim, it's best that you understand the specifics of wage as it pertains to California Employment Law. Back Pay and Shift Pay are common terminologies used in unpaid wage claims. Of course, you can always hire a Labor Lawyer to help you understand the nitty-gritty aspects of your case.

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An employee may complete their work but not receive the compensation to which they are entitled. As a result, the employer will be forced to make up the lost time. The amount of money owed to an employee but not paid by the employer is known as back time pay. This can include raises, overtime, bonuses, and wages that an employee is entitled to but did not earn in the past. Back pay in California is equivalent to unpaid wage, except that back pay is normally measured after the employer has been found to have broken any wage or hour rules.

For example, if the employer measured the salary incorrectly, the employee could have been underpaid for previous jobs. The California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) will recalculate the amount the employee was entitled to, and the employee will be told that he or she may obtain back time. The employee may also become aware of the error and request back pay. Back pay could be calculated by multiplying the employee's gross unpaid hours by the hourly wage. Consider one of our prescreened California Lawyers in your California Attorney Search.

In California, back pay or back time refers to wage and hour law violations involving an incorrect or under-calculation of the amount owed to an employee. This may entail:

  • Food and rest breaks are not compensated.

  • Infractions of the overtime rule

  • Violations of the minimum wage

  • Misclassification as exempt

  • Sick leave that is not compensated

  • Reimbursements that have not been received

  • H2 deductions on the job that aren't legal

  • Job done "off the clock"

Understanding How Much Money Is Owed in Penalties, Interest, and Back Pay

The amount due for back wages and back pay varies depending on the employer's conduct and violation. If the back pay was due to a mistake and there was no deliberate misconduct, you might be entitled to:

  • Wages that have not been received as a result of a miscalculation

  • Unpaid salaries are subject to a yearly interest rate of up to ten percent.

For labor code breaches that resulted in back pay and unpaid wage, the employer could be liable for fines and damages. In this scenario, back time payment may include:

  • Wages that have not been received as a result of a miscalculation

  • Unpaid salaries are subject to a yearly interest rate of up to ten percent.

  • Your employer may owe you one hour's wages for each break you missed if you did not get rest or meal breaks

  • Court expenses and legal fees

If your employer knowingly underpaid you and the errors were not due to a good-faith mistake, you might be entitled to double damages.

Back Pay for Overtime

California has an overtime standard that allows employers to pay qualified workers for hours worked in excess of the usual eight in a day. Even if overtime was not allowed in the first place, the state mandates that it be charged. In California, the employer or boss has a right to know how many hours the employee works. It is also their responsibility to inform their employees when their work hours are up. As a result, employers are responsible for the unpaid overtime hours.

Employees are entitled to extra pay if they work for more than 40 hours a week. They are also often entitled to a time-and-a-half pay if they work for seven days straight during a workweek. On the seventh day, the salary should include the first eight hours of work. As a result, if your employer failed to compensate or count you for extra hours worked, your back pay bonus will include time and a half of your regular hourly rate for each hour worked overtime. If an employee works for more than eight hours for the seventh day in a row (or more than 12 hours in one day), they might be entitled to double pay.

Not all employees are eligible for back pay for overtime worked. Non-exempt hourly employees are permitted, but other types of workers are not. White-collar workers who do technical, high-level administrative, and managerial work are the most common exemptions. This means that unless the employer can prove you qualify for one of these exemptions, you are entitled to overtime pay.

Your employer could owe you the difference between what you should have been paid and what you were actually paid if you were not paid for overtime hours. In addition to your regular salary, you can earn half of your hourly wage in time-and-a-half back pay. If your daily rate is $12 an hour, for example, you can earn $18 in back pay. You'll be paying $24 per hour if you work double time.

Claims for Minimum Wage

If your employer wasn't able to pay you the minimum wage for each hour you work, you might be entitled to liquidated damages. Liquidated damages are intended to compensate for injuries that are difficult to quantify. According to California law, your employer's action or omission in failing to pay the minimum wage has caused you to incur additional damages. You are entitled to a liquidated list of damages equal to the sum of missed income if you were not paid at least the applicable minimum wage for the hours worked. For example, if you were legally entitled to $16 per hour but were only paid $13 per hour, you would be entitled to $3 in back pay for each hour worked. If you worked 85 hours in a pay period, for example, your employer would owe you $170 in liquidated damages plus $170 in unpaid wage.

Rest Periods and Missed Meals

Employers in California are required by law to give their workers a paid 10-minute break for every hour worked, as well as an unpaid 30-minute meal break after 5 hours. For workers who work more than 10 hours, another unpaid 30-minute meal break should be given. As a result, an employee is owed one hour of pay at their regular rate for each workday during which their employer fails to include a meal break. This maxim also applies to rest periods. For example, if you work an 8-hour shift without meal or rest breaks, you might be entitled to two hours of overtime, which includes one hour for missed rest breaks and one hour for missed meal breaks.

Violations of Wage Statements

Employers in California are expected to provide information to their employees about their paychecks, such as the hours worked, the hourly rate, taxes, gross pay, and so on. This detail is normally found on the pay stub of the employee. As a result, you could be entitled to wage statement penalties if your employer-provided incorrect information or completely refused to provide the necessary information. Your employer will be liable for $50 for the first breach of the wage statement and $100 for each subsequent violation.

Penalties for Waiting Time

If you're dismissed from a job in California, you have the right to collect your final salary at the time of termination. If you left and gave at least 72 hours' notice, you have the right to collect your last paycheck right away. If you leave without providing 72 hours' notice, your employer has 72 hours to provide your last paycheck. Pay for all unused, accumulated sick days, and reimbursement for all hours worked must be included in the final check. If your check arrives later than needed by law or does not contain all of your owed salaries, you might be subject to waiting penalties.

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Any day your employer withholds your salary, you are entitled to a full day's pay at your normal pace. For example, if your employer is 10 days late with your paycheck and you receive $80 a day, you might be entitled to $800 in waiting time penalties from your employer.

When calculating back pay, there are a few things to keep in mind.

When determining the amount of back pay you are due and the amount you can expect to earn, there are a few things to bear in mind. One factor to remember is that employers in California are forced to compensate their workers' interest on salaries that they have refused to pay. Although the DLSE will measure the total back pay and interest, it will still be limited to the state cap of 10%. Another consideration is the statute of limitations in California for cases of unpaid or underpaid wages. If you expect back pay, you typically have three (3) years to make a wage claim or file a lawsuit.

Employees in California are entitled to back pay.

Employees are classified as excluded or non-exempt under California's wage and hour laws. Employees who are not exempted are still entitled to back pay, whether they are hourly or salaried. They include people who work in scientific, vocational, mechanical, clerical, or similar jobs, regardless of the payment is on commission, by piece, time/hours worked, or any other rate. Exempt workers could be exempt from overtime and lunch break rules. Independent contractors, white-collar jobs, and commission-based employees can all fall into this category.


An independent contractor is an employee who works for another person in California. An independent contractor is a worker paid a set amount for a particular product, but he or she maintains the power of how the work is performed. Even if the worker employed is an independent contractor, the worker would still be considered an employee if the arrangement with the individual who has ordered the services is more of an employer-employee relationship. The worker will be safe as an employee under California labor, wage/hour, and lunch break laws in this situation.

White-Collar Workers

Individuals who normally serve in technical, managerial, executive, or administrative works are classified as white-collar work/jobs. In order to be considered as an exempt white-collar worker in California, a worker must meet certain criteria. These are as follows:

Taking Legal Action Against an Employer for Unpaid Wages

Suppose your employer has broken California employment laws. In that case, you have the option of filing a compensation claim with the California Labor Commissioner's Office or filing a case in court to recover back pay, interest, and fines. Employer lawsuits for wage and hour violations in California can include:

  • Employees are misclassified as self-employed

  • Overtime bonus is not paid

  • Failure to have adequate rest periods

  • Meal breaks not being given

  • Wage payments are late

  • Failure to pay the minimum wage set by the county or city

  • requiring an employee to work outside of normal business hours

  • Failure to pay the minimum wage in California

  • Employees are misclassified as exempt

Back pay can be reclaimed in a variety of ways. For example, if an employee was promised a promotion that would have resulted in a higher salary, but the employer failed to deliver, the employee would obtain back pay in the following paycheck. In such cases, a judge may decide that an employer violated California wage and hour laws, and a court order may be issued forcing the employer to pay back pay to the affected workers. The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor can also become involved to ensure that the workers receive their back pay as ordered by the court.

On the other hand, back pay may be requested under the Fair Labor Standards Act's various federal contract laws (FLSA). Employees who have been unlawfully refused overtime compensation are entitled to the regular overtime pay rates under the FLSA. Employers must now pay employees (at the very least) the minimum wage in back pay. It's worth noting that if a worker has already earned their back pay (or if the Secretary of Labor has already filed a claim), they cannot bring a private claim.

When an employer has violated wage and hour regulations against multiple workers, a group of workers and Employment Law Attorney may bring a class-action lawsuit. Unpaid wages for missed rest breaks, meal breaks, or overtime hours worked are common examples.

It is in the claimant's best interest to retain an experienced California Employment Law Attorney when they're filing a wage and hour claim. An Employment Law Attorney will explain your worker's rights to you. They will be able to file a wage claim or a lawsuit on your behalf. This might allow you to recover your unpaid wages.

When is a worker entitled to back pay?

Workers in California could be entitled to back pay if their salaries and benefits are lost as a result of their employer's wrongful behavior. As a result of wrongful termination due to sexual discrimination or a hostile work climate, the majority of workers earn back pay awards. Wrongful job policies include the following:

  • Refusing to pay overtime

  • Refusing to give promised promotions

  • In a workplace discrimination situation, firing a worker.

  • Withholding wages after an employee exposed workplace wrongdoing or discouraging them from doing so

Back Pay Lawsuits in California: What Is the Statute of Limitations?

Back pay claims in California are subject to a statute of limitations. This ensures you only have a certain amount of time after a wage violation to make a wage claim or fil