Updated: Oct 20, 2022
Learn Everything You Need To Know About California Wage and Hour Laws And How To File a Claim for This Case
Is your employer paying you what you're legally entitled to? Wage theft affects millions of workers every day when their employers refuse to compensate them for their job appropriately. Wage theft is not only unethical, but it is also criminal. You have the right to be fairly compensated for your work, and an Employment Lawyer in Los Angeles can help you get it.
Employers are required under California law to pay their employees for all hours worked. You may have a legal claim against your employer if you haven't received the money you deserve. One of the most widespread types of theft in the world is wage theft. The United States, unfortunately, is no exception. Despite the existence of regulations designed to safeguard employees, some businesses continue to fail to pay their employees what they are entitled to.
Wage theft can take many different forms, and it isn't just about skimming money from your paycheck. If you don't understand your rights, you may not even notice your employer is stealing from you. You have certain legal rights as an employee, including the entitlement to meal breaks, rest breaks, overtime, and double time. The legislation also stipulates that you must be paid within a specified amount of time after completing your assignment. Employers who fail to provide all of these benefits to their employees are committing wage theft.
California workers have more legal protection than workers in any other state. California state labor rules also apply to undocumented workers. As a California employee, you have a number of legal options available to you. An experienced Wage Claim Lawyer in Los Angeles can assist you in determining how much your company owes you.
As A California Employee, You Have The Right To A Fair Wage And Working Hours
To be eligible for legal protection, you must first be classified as an "employee." In comparison to independent contractors, employees have stronger legal protections. Employers may purposefully misclassify employees as independent contractors in order to pay them less or provide them with fewer benefits.
All employees have a legal right to be paid what they are owed. This includes the following in California:
For each 5-hour shift, there is one unpaid 30-minute food break
After ten hours of labor, you get a second unpaid 30-minute dinner break
Every four hours, a paid 10-minute rest period is provided
Paying qualifying employees the statutory minimum pay
After 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week, you are entitled to overtime compensation
After 12 hours on a shift or 4 weeks without a day off, you will be paid double time
Prevailing salaries are those determined by government contracts (even if the employer is private)
Reimbursements of expenses, such as mileage and the use of a personal cell phone
Employees must also be paid every 15 days at the absolute least. An employee must be paid at the moment of termination if they are fired. They must be paid within 72 hours if they quit. If your company fails to pay you on time or routinely pays you late, you may be able to take legal action against them to recover the wages you are owed.
You have many possibilities for remedy if your employer is withholding wages:
Using the California Labor Commission to file a wage claim
submitting a pay claim to the appropriate government agency
Taking your employer to court for a wage and hour dispute
Additional California regulations, such as the Garment Worker Protection Act, exist to safeguard employees in specialized industries.
Wage claims frequently result in a settlement in which your employer agrees to pay you what you are owed. A wage and hour lawsuit can help you "make things right" as if your employer's wrongdoing never happened. A successful wage and hour case might result in monetary damages to compensate you for your employer's violations of the law. You are entitled to any outstanding wages, as well as the possibility that your company would be required to pay interest and fund your Labor Law Attorney expenses or litigation costs.
Types Of Wage And Hour Violations In California
Wage and hour breaches, like other employment claims, are based on the facts. That means the decision will be determined by the specifics of your case.
Wage and hour breaches come in a variety of shapes and sizes. You might not even be aware that your boss is underpaying you in some areas. The following are examples of common sorts of misconduct:
Failure to pay workers the legally mandated minimum wage
Refusing to pay workers the prevailing wage in the area
Misclassifying a worker as an independent contractor is a common blunder
Falsely labeling a worker as "exempt"
Failure to pay earned commissions or promised bonuses to employees
Failure to compensate employees for work-related expenses
Employees were forced to work through their legally mandated breaks
Employees are being pressured to labor "off the clock"
Failure to compensate employees for unused vacation time
Taking into account any additional hours you may have worked
Refusing to pay hazard pay, despite the fact that it is required by your employment contract
Taking unauthorized deductions from your pay
Fortunately, retaliation by employers is prohibited in California. You cannot face retaliation from your employer if you file a wage and hour claim. In fact, if your employer retaliates against you because you exercised your rights, they may face extra-legal consequences. Depending on the degree of your employer's misbehavior, you may be able to recover even more damages.
Minimum Wage and Overtime Regulations in California
Employers who pay you less than the minimum wage are breaking the law. Your employer is also required to pay you mandatory overtime for additional hours worked.
The necessary minimum wage in California varies depending on the size of your business. Furthermore, some counties or municipalities may have a greater minimum wage than the rest of the state. Almost every year, the minimum wage also rises at the start of the year. If the minimum wage is raised as a result of a change in the law, your employer must promptly boost your compensation to match. If your employer paid you less than the minimum wage at the time, you have the right to make a claim to recover the money owed to you for your work.
Overtime must be paid at 1.5 times your regular rate of pay, or time and a half. You are in double overtime if you work more than 12 hours in a single workday or more than 8 hours on your 7th consecutive workday in a single workweek. For this time, your company must pay you to double your regular hourly rate.
Employees In California Are Entitled To Meal And Rest Breaks
As a California employee, you are entitled to the following benefits:
For every 4-hour work session, take a 10-minute break.
If you work more than 5 hours a day, take one 30-minute food break.
If you work more than 10 hours a day, you should take a second 30-minute food break.
If your employer does not or fails to provide you with these mandatory breaks, you are entitled to one hour of pay for each shift you were not permitted to take a break.
Wages that aren't paid or vacation time that isn't paid
Employers who force you to work "off the clock" are breaking the law. This includes work done before and after shifts, as well as administrative tasks and work done during meal or rest intervals. If you are an employee, you have the right to reclaim your wages for any period you are not paid for your labor.
Wage and hour standards cannot be waived under California law. You cannot, for example, just agree to work for less than the minimum wage with your employer. Your company is still legally obligated to pay you the minimum wage mandated by law.
In California, earned vacation time is also counted as part of your pay. As you work, you earn vacation time; therefore, it's a part of your remuneration package. Your company is allowed to set a reasonable limit on the total number of vacation days you can earn overtime, but "use it or lose it" practices are not allowed.
Your earned, unused vacation time cannot be waived or forfeited. Your company owes you money for vacation time you earned but never utilized, even if you are fired from your employment. Consider one of our prescreened California Lawyers in your California Attorney Search.
PAGA Claims in California
The Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) is a California law passed in 2004 that permits employees to sue their employers for infractions at work. When opposed to a conventional pay case, the procedure for filing a PAGA claim is different.
If you fit the profile of an "aggrieved employee" who has been subjected to at least one workplace law infraction at the hands of your employer, you are eligible to file a PAGA case. You can seek damages for all of your employer's workplace infractions with a PAGA suit, not just the wrongdoing that directly affects you. Even if you signed away your right to sue in your employment agreement, such as through compulsory arbitration arrangements, you could still initiate a PAGA complaint.
In California, you can file a PAGA claim for:
Violations of the California Labor Code or special PAGA laws
Violations of California health and safety regulations
Any other infractions of California labor laws
You must file a PAGA claim within one year of the last violation, according to the statute of limitations.
In PAGA disputes, even damages are handled differently. You recover civil penalties, not unpaid pay when you make a claim under PAGA. Any penalties you get will be shared among all of the employees who were harmed as a result of your employer's labor violations. The state of California receives the rest of the fines from PAGA claims.
If you're thinking about making a wage claim, consult with a Employment Lawyer in Los Angeles to see if a PAGA claim is appropriate in your situation. You have put in long hours to make a living, and you have faith in your boss to fairly recompense you. When that trust is shattered, it can be devastating — and not just financially. Employer wrongdoing can have a significant mental and emotional impact.
It can be intimidating to hold your employer accountable for their wrongdoing. You might not want to jeopardize your job or reputation among your coworkers. However, if your company is defrauding you of your income, they are most certainly defrauding other employees as well. As a result, many wage disputes become class action lawsuits in which several employees' interests are represented.
Are You Afraid of Your Employer Getting Back At You?
Losing your career could have disastrous consequences for you and your family. This is particularly true in today's economy when so many people are struggling to get by. You can find it difficult to locate a new job, especially if your firing has a bad impact on your CV. Unemployment could deplete your savings or cause you to fall behind on your mortgage payments.
Sometimes, such as with company-wide layoffs or restructuring, job loss is unavoidable and has nothing to do with you. Poor performance can sometimes lead to termination. The majority of occupations in the United States are on an at-will basis. That implies you could be dismissed or have your contract canceled at any time for any cause.
So, what should you do if you've been dismissed without cause? The first and most prudent step is to contact a local Employment Lawyer in Los Angeles as soon as feasible. Wrongful termination claims have short statutes of limitations, meaning you only have a limited amount of time to file a claim.
Not only that, but your wrongful termination case will have the highest chance of success if you file it right away. Otherwise, your boss has time to delete or conceal evidence of misconduct.
Your California Employment Attorney can assist you in comprehending all of your possibilities. Filing a wrongful termination case to recoup what you would have received if you hadn't been fired is one option. Your lost salary and benefits may be covered by this compensation. You may also be entitled to compensation for any mental hardship you experienced as a result of your dismissal. If your employer's misbehavior was severe enough, you might be entitled to punitive damages.
You already have so much to worry about if you were fired unlawfully, unfairly, or erroneously from your employment.
Common Examples of Wrongful Termination in California
Wrongfully terminating someone in violation of the law is a serious crime. Your dismissal could be illegal if you were fired for any of the following reasons:
When your employer asks you to break the law and you refuse.
Your employer acts against you because of your age, race, national origin, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, handicap, religious beliefs, pregnancy, or any other protected characteristic.
Your boss retaliates against you when you report illegal workplace discrimination or harassment.
You are punished if you refuse sexual advances or if you report sexual harassment.
You expose workplace infractions of the law, such as workplace safety issues or pay and hour infractions, as a whistleblower.
Based solely on your age, you are fired and replaced with someone younger.
You participate in a workplace misbehavior inquiry.
You want special consideration due to a handicap or religious practice.
You inquire as to whether your employer is in accordance with the law.
You use your legally permitted medical leave to care for yourself or a family member.
You take a leave of absence from your job to join the military in the United States.
You inquire about your coworkers' salaries in order to see if your employer has wage discrimination.
Many people are victims of toxic work settings that are riddled with harassment and discrimination. Many employees are unaware that their bosses treat them in unethical or illegal ways. Many of these workers are unaware that they have rights.
Taking on your boss can seem like an impossible endeavor that is doomed to fail from the start. After all, in comparison to a major organization or business, what resources do you have? You are at the mercy of this power imbalance as an employee.
You would have rights and options if you were fired unfairly from your employment. Your Labor Law Attorney is your finest defender and champion, dedicated to safeguarding and defending your rights. Every case of wrongful termination is unique. The particulars will be determined by the facts of your case.
Employee Protections and Wrongful Termination in California
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal organization that oversees and investigates employee protection legislation in all 50 states. However, in comparison to federal law, California law goes considerably further to safeguard employees.
California has a long history of providing some of the most robust employee protections in the country. Before the Supreme Court's recent decision, California was ahead of many states in extending legal rights to LGBTQA+ employees. The California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) is in charge of enforcing the state's labor laws, while the California Fair Employment and Housing Council (FEHC) is in charge of dealing with state employment complaints.
That is why it is important to locate a local California Employment Attorney. Your best defense is to hire an attorney who specializes in California employment law.
Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA)
The Labor Code Private Attorney General Act was passed in 2004 in California (PAGA). This allows any private citizen to sue their employer for breaking state labor rules and receive a monetary penalty. That means you have the legal right to hold your employer accountable for infractions of California's state labor code.
Any current or former employee can file a claim on behalf of themselves or another coworker against their company. Any law that does not specify a penalty shall be subject to a penalty of $100 per employee per violation of each pay period. Any subsequent infractions of the same statute will result in a $200 fine. If you've had many incidences of harassment over a lengthy period of time, the fines can quickly mount up. You get a quarter of the total as the plaintiff.
What Exactly Is Workplace Retaliation?
When your company takes "adverse action" against you for something that is legally protected, this is known as retaliation. Retaliation can also occur when public policy is broken.
Your employer's actions would be considered unfavorable by a court if:
The action was "material" enough to have an impact on a term or condition of employment for you.
You can prove that your protected behavior and the action are linked.
Retaliation in the form of wrongful termination is a sort of retaliation. However, retaliation does not always imply termination. Your boss may take retaliatory action against you in a variety of methods, some more covert than others.
Workplace retaliation is all too prevalent. Retaliation complaints can result in costly judgments against employers who are determined to be guilty. Employer retaliation could take the form of:
You being demoted or passed over for promotions
Refusing to assign key tasks or better shifts to you
Cutting your hours or assigning you a difficult schedule are both options.
Leaving you out of vital communications
Putting you on the back burner or assigning you to menial duties
Tolerance or encouragement of abuse or abuse directed at you
Creating an adversarial working environment
Making your job tough or impossible for you to do
You're being pushed out so that you can retire or resign.
Throughout the office, misinformation or rumors about you are being circulated.
You're being fired (wrongful termination)
It's also prohibited for your employer to retaliate against you based on any state or federal legislation, in addition to violating public policies. In the event that your employer retaliates against you for exercising your legal rights, you may have a case against them. This includes the following:
Wage and hour regulations
Laws governing family and medical leave
Rights of veterans and members of the armed forces
The law takes workplace retaliation very seriously since it can have a significant impact on an employee's life and career. Employers in California are required by law to establish a retaliation prevention policy and are encouraged to have a zero-tolerance policy for retaliation cases.
To avoid retaliation at work, your employer should take the following steps:
Have a transparent and accessible anti-retaliation policy for all employees.
Employees should be made aware of the policy as well as the reporting mechanism for retaliation.
Encourage all employees to disclose any problems they are having.
Taking complaints seriously and resolving them as soon as possible.
Initiate serious investigation into concerns and take corrective action as needed.
Managers and other employees should be taught how to deal with forbidden behavior.
Remind managers that retaliation will have consequences.
Employees who report misconduct should be aware of the possibility of reprisal.
Whenever possible, prevent retaliation from occurring or escalating.
If your employer knew or should have known about retaliation, they could be held liable for failing to prevent or respond to it.
Immigrants in California are Protected from Retaliation.
California provides workers with additional immigration-related safeguards. Section 1019 of the California Labor Code makes it illegal for an employer to use the immigration system to retaliate against an employee. Your employer cannot take any of the following measures against you in retaliation for exercising your legal rights under this law:
More immigration paperwork is being requested than is necessary by federal immigration law
Refusing to accept what appear to be legitimate immigration paperwork
When it is not necessary or authorized by law, using the federal E-Verify system to check your immigration status
Threatening or submitting a false police report in order to cause immigration problems
Contacting or threatening to call immigration officials
Workplace retaliation has severe effects, not just for your money but also for your emotional health. The majority of us rely on our jobs to support ourselves and our families. Many of us consider our professions to be more than just a means of subsistence; they are also a vocation that we enjoy. It's awful to have all of it jeopardized by the actions of a coworker or supervisor.
Retaliation in the Workplace for Reporting OSHA Violations
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the United States is in charge of workplace safety on a nationwide level. You have the legal right to file a complaint with OSHA if you believe there has been a violation of the law.
Although the OSHA reporting system is private, your employer may discover or assume that you filed the report in some other way. Any action taken against you by your employer in retaliation for filing a report would be illegal.
Because employment is covered by so many federal, state, and municipal laws – and so many government entities are involved in enforcing them – you may have several legal alternatives and criteria for pursuing a claim. A local Los Angeles Employment Lawyer can help direct you to your greatest chance of victory after a thorough factual review of your case.
As a whistleblower, what are my rights?
Whistleblower laws provide an additional layer of protection from retaliation at work. Someone who reveals workplace acts or conditions that they believe are unsafe, illegal, or against public policy is known as a whistleblower.
You may have watched coworkers or superiors at your company as a whistleblower:
omitting safety-related quality checks
Hiring with a bias, whether explicit or implicit
Failure to investigate or take complaints of wrongdoing seriously
Employees accused of misconduct are protected, but those who report are punished
Putting employees in danger by providing them with hazardous working conditions
For the sake of profit, they are engaging in illicit business practices.
committing any other form of criminal activity or misbehavior
You could have tried talking to your boss or human resources about your worries. You might even have filed a formal complaint with the appropriate government agency. Perhaps your objections were ignored, allowing the wrongdoing to continue. Worse, you may have been demoted, given fewer shifts, or dismissed as a result of raising the alarm.
As a whistleblower, you are protected as long as you make your complaint in good faith (i.e., you honestly believe you have witnessed criminal action).
The government wants to encourage whistleblowers to come out for the sake of everyone's safety, including employees and consumers. Whistleblowers have played a critical role in uncovering some of the worst incidents of workplace misbehavior in US history. Whistleblower testimony has resulted in the removal of dishonest CEOs and unsafe items from the market. Whistleblowers literally save lives, and this is not an exaggeration.
Whether they disclose their company's illegal acts through an internal complaint mechanism or a government entity with supervision, whistleblowers are protected.
Section 1102.5 of the California Labor Code provides protections for whistleblowers
Section 1102.5 of the California Labor Code provides protection to whistleblowers. Employers are prohibited from taking any action or establishing any policy or practice that prevents an employee from reporting misbehavior under this state legislation. Employers cannot also restrict their employees from cooperating with an investigation.
Whistleblower laws formerly only applied to employees who filed complaints with state or federal government entities. In 2014, California legislation expanded that protection to include any employee who uses their company's internal procedures to report malfeasance.
California has the broadest whistleblower protections of any state. In California, if your employer is found guilty of retaliation, they might face penalties of up to $10,000 per violation, including back pay, reinstatement of your employment and benefits, and damages.
When faced with retaliation or unjust termination, you have various legal choices. Consult an California Employment Attorney about your individual case to identify the best course of action.
What Is the Best Way to Prove Wrongful Termination?
Some examples of wrongful termination are easier to understand than others. For instance, in circumstances of a breach of contract, you may be fired for violating the conditions of your job contract.
Other circumstances, on the other hand, may be more difficult to show. Most companies will not tell you that you are being demoted or fired for discriminatory or illegal reasons. Some companies may even try to blame you by making false charges or reporting erroneous performance data. They might try to hide their trail by deleting email or other documentation records. They may shut you out of your own employee accounts, making it impossible for you to access them.
Your Los Angeles Employment Lawyer can assist you in conducting research and gathering proof to back up your labor law claim. However, it's also a good idea to begin thinking about proof as soon as feasible. You might also want to write down whatever you can, especially if you're bringing up internal issues.
Here are evidence you can use prove wrongful termination:
Statements, conversations, or papers in the writing
Reports about your work performance that demonstrate your positive work history
Witness testimony backs up verbal statements
Patterns of conduct or bias are examples of circumstantial evidence
Observations on how other employees are handled at work
Any reports you submitted to your bosses, human resources, or government agencies
Whether the retaliatory action occurred soon after the protected behavior
Any proof or testimony that contradicts your boss's account of events is admissible
Evidence showing your employer violated their own anti-retaliation procedures, such as failing to complete a misconduct investigation
Keep a written record of any occurrences you can, especially if they involve verbal exchanges or microaggressions that are difficult to follow and show otherwise. If you can offer examples of specific behavior, the evidence will be far more convincing. Make sure you save proofs somewhere other than your office computer or email.
If you can do it, you should request a copy of your personnel file as well as any performance reports on your work records.
One of the most complicated aspects of wrongful termination and retaliation lawsuits is proving motive. If you're an at-will employee, your boss might just as easily claim that they had another justifiable reason for their conduct. The more concrete evidence you have to back up your claim, the better.
Damages in Cases of Wrongful Termination
Although monetary compensation can only go so far, damages are the law's way of "making you whole" — as if the wrongdoing against you never happened in the first place. A court may award you with punitive damages to punish your employer in circumstances where the company's wrongdoing is particularly terrible. Punitive damages are intended to deter wrongdoing.
Evidence is vital not only for proving your claim but also for calculating the number of damages you are entitled to. You must prove to the court that you suffered actual losses as a direct result of the misbehavior, as well as the extent of those losses.
Compensation for lost salary, earnings, underpaid wages, overtime, or any other reason
Health and dental insurance, pensions, retirement programs, stock options, and profit-sharing arrangements are all examples of lost benefits.
The price of searching for a new employment
In the most serious situations of harassment, bullying, or misbehavior, emotional distress, or "pain and suffering," damages may be awarded.
A jury usually decides on punitive damages. If you can establish that the wrongdoing was oppressive, dishonest, or deliberate, you may be able to obtain punitive damages. The sum can vary depending on the seriousness of the offense.
Settlements in Wrongful Termination and Retaliation Lawsuits
Some cases of wrongful termination and retaliation proceed to trial. However, some of them end in agreements reached between you and your employer.
When your negotiating a settlement with your employer, you should always have an experienced Los Angeles Employment Lawyer on your side. Based on the strength of your case, your Los Angeles Employment Lawyer can help you set your expectations. They can help you decide when it's best to hold out and when it's best to accept. Never sign your name on a settlement agreement without first consulting a California Employment Attorney. You may be able to get a significantly better deal than the original settlement offer in many circumstances.
Not all terms of the settlements are monetary. As part of your settlement, your employer may be required to give you your job back or provide you with a strong reference.
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