• JC Serrano

Employment Wages and Hours Violations in California

Updated: Apr 26

Find employment attorneys for unpaid wages and work hours violations in California.


Employees have a right to be adequately compensated for their efforts. When it comes to wages and working hours, California and federal regulations offer different benefits for workers. Unfortunately, many employers break these rules, often out of ignorance but more often out of greed. Companies all too frequently tend to take advantage of their workers and cut corners in order to save money.


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Who is in charge of enforcing the law?


The Wage & Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor is in charge of enforcing the FLSA. Investigators deployed across the United States perform inquiries and collect data on salaries, hours, and other working conditions or activities in order to decide if an employer has complied with the law. They can also prescribe improvements in employment policies to bring an employer into line if violations are discovered.


Under the FLSA, it is unconstitutional to fire or discriminates against an employee for filing a complaint or engaging in legal action.


Willful breaches can result in criminal charges and a fine for the offender. A second conviction may result in incarceration. Employers who breach the minimum wage provisions intentionally or regularly face a civil money penalty for each violation.


The FLSA makes it illegal to ship goods across state lines that were made in violation of minimum wage, overtime pay, child labor, or other special minimum wage requirements.


How To Spot Wage and Hour Violations


Wage and hour violations are common. While wage and hour violations can take several forms, the following are some of the more common ones:


1. Failure to pay staff the prevailing wage or the minimum wage


If your employer fails to pay you the minimum wage for each hour you work, you may be entitled to liquidated damages. Liquidated damages are designed to compensate for injuries that are difficult to measure. Your employer's action or omission in failing to pay the minimum wage has caused you to incur additional damages, according to California law. You are entitled to liquidated damages equal to the amount of missed income if you were not paid at least the applicable minimum wage for the hours worked.


2. When overtime (or double pay) is earned but not paid.


California has a regular overtime standard that allows employers to pay qualifying workers for any hour worked in excess of eight in a day. Even if overtime was not allowed in the first place, the state mandates that it be charged. Multiple court decisions in California indicate that the employer has a right to know how many hours the employee can work and to inform them when their work hours are up. As a result, employers are responsible for the unpaid overtime hours.


Employees are often entitled to extra pay if they work more than 40 hours a week, such as when they are required to work more than eight hours a day or for more than five days a week. Employees are often entitled to time-and-a-half pay if they work for seven days in a row during a workweek. On the seventh day, the salary includes the first eight hours of work.


As a result, if your employer refused to compensate or count you for extra hours worked, your back pay award will include time and a half of your normal hourly rate for each hour worked overtime. If you work more than eight hours for the seventh day in a row or more than 12 hours in one day, you might be entitled to double pay.


Not all workers are eligible for back pay for overtime worked. Nonexempt hourly employees are eligible, but other forms of jobs are not. White-collar workers who do technical, high-level supervisory, and management work, as well as outside salespeople, are the most common exemptions. As a result, unless the employer may prove that you qualify for one of these exemptions, you are entitled to overtime pay.


Your employer could repay you the discrepancy between what you should have been compensated for and what you were actually paid if you were not paid for overtime hours. In addition to your daily salary, you can earn half of your hourly wage in time-and-a-half back pay.


3. Failure to compensate for all time spent on the job, such as time spent on-call or time spent preparing for a meeting.


In California, compensable "hours worked" do not only refer to the time an employee spends performing his or her daily duties during a regular shift. A company may also be expected to pay its staff for time spent on any of the following activities:


On-Call and Waiting Time Even if the employee is merely on-call or waiting for anything to happen, an employee who is expected to stay on the employer's premises is usually considered to be working and must be paid for all hours worked. Employees may be entitled to be compensated for waiting time even though they are off-site under some cases.


Training, workshop time. Nonexempt workers must be compensated for their preparation time under California law. The only training, workshops, or other similar tasks that are not compensated are those that take place outside of normal working hours and are not specifically related to the employee's job.


Time to prepare. And if an employee is forced to put on protective equipment or set up equipment before beginning his or her shift, the time spent on these tasks can be compensable.


Time to travel. Although commuting to and from a normal work location is normally not paid, an employer may be forced to pay for travel time to other locations, such as an employee performing errands on behalf of the employer or traveling to another work site as instructed by the employer.


4. Misclassifying a worker as an independent contractor is a common blunder.


Employees are listed as excluded or nonexempt under California wage and hour regulations. Employees who are not excluded are entitled to back pay, whether they are hourly or salaried. They include people who work in scientific, professional, mechanical, clerical, or similar positions, regardless of whether they are paid on commission, piece rate, time, or any other basis. Exempt workers, on the other hand, could be exempt from overtime and lunch break rules. Independent contractors, white-collar jobs, and commission-based employees can all fall into this group.


Independent Contractor


An independent contractor is a person who works for another person under California labor law. An independent contractor is paid a set amount for a particular result, but he or she maintains the power of how the work is performed. Even if the worker was employed as an independent contractor, the worker would 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 covered as an employee under California labor, wage/hour, and lunch break laws in this scenario.


White-Collar Employees


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


  • At least half of their time at work is spent on administrative, intellectual, or artistic tasks.

  • When it comes to executing their job duties, they have independent judgment and discretion.

  • Their monthly pay is at least double the state of California's minimum wage for full-time jobs.


5. Paying employees less than the commissions and/or bonuses they were offered.


If you and your boss agreed to a 6% commission, that is the sum your boss could pay. The employer can try to reduce your commission if you have a strong sales record, but the employer cannot usually adjust the commission rate for sales that have already been made. The commission agreement can affect a claim for failure to pay commission.


If your employer fails to pay an agreed-upon payment under your employment contract, you will be able to file a contract claim against them. Consult an employment lawyer about your contract to ensure that your employer is not manipulating you and that you receive the benefits you deserve.


6. Employees are not reimbursed for such work-related expenditures.


The following are examples of common job expenses that an employer might have a problem reimbursing:

  • Expenses for travel

  • Expenses associated with operating from home

  • Equipment/tools

  • Mobile calls and telephone bills

  • Purchase of materials for the workplace

  • uniforms for function

  • Entertainment

  • Meals


And if the employer refuses to pay, California labor laws grant you the right to be reimbursed for business expenses. Filing a lawsuit or a trade action against your employer under California Labor Code 2802 would allow you to recover an award for reimbursement of necessary expenses. The reward shall contain interest beginning on the date the employee incurred the required expenditure or cost, in addition to the expenses.


Attorney's fees incurred in upholding the employee's labor law rights can be recoverable in addition to costs and interest. Some employers want to stop reimbursing workers because they feel the employee would not go to the trouble of finding a lawyer if the payout isn't significant. The right to recover legal costs ensures that the contractor is kept responsible for their conduct.


In addition, if an employer fails to comply with the state's reimbursement obligations, the Labor Commissioner can issue a citation. This monetary penalty could be used to punish the employer for breaking the law or attempting to exploit the employee. The amount of money awarded to the employer if the court or commissioner issues a citation depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • Sum of compensation

  • The number of infractions

  • The employer's previous labor breaches

  • Employees that have been influenced


7. Employees are made to work during their rest or meal breaks (and not paying them for working through these breaks)


Meal Breaks


In most cases, California law requires that hourly workers be given at least one uninterrupted 30-minute meal break per day if they work more than five hours per day.


Though there are exceptions, these meal breaks must usually meet certain specific criteria, such as:

They must be taken at fixed intervals.

For the duration of the break, employees must be fully relieved of their responsibilities.

The employee has the option of remaining on the job during mealtime.

Employees working more than 10 hours a day may be eligible for a second meal break.


Rest Break


Employees must be allowed and approved to take rest breaks in addition to meal breaks, which accrue at a rate of ten consecutive minutes for each four-hour work cycle. You may be entitled to compensation if there are issues with rest periods.


These rest breaks, including meal breaks, must follow some specific standards, such as:

  • Rest times must be compensated in the same way as regular working hours.

  • They have to be taken in the middle of a workday.


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How to Report It:


One of the most popular workplace infractions is the failure to take a lunch break. Some employers are unaware of the regulation. Some people just ignore the rules. In either case, California's wage and hour laws cover you, including the right to pay for each violation.


Violations on Meal Breaks


If you work a shift of at least six hours, your employer is expected to provide you with a 30-minute lunch break. You are entitled to a second meal break if you work a 10-hour shift. If you are genuinely off duty and free to come and go at lunch, this could be an unpaid break.