How To Get Unpaid Wages In California

Updated: Jan 27

Addressing Wage Theft, Retaliation, And Reporting Your Boss

Unfortunately, wage theft is widespread. Additionally, it isn't always obvious or detectable. It can take many different forms outside simply stealing money from your paycheck. Contact An Employment Lawyer in California to better understand unpaid wages, and help you file claims to get it back.


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You are entitled to be paid what you are owed. Your employer is legally compelled to do so, and refusing or failing to pay you is a violation of California Employment Laws. In addition, employee protection laws allow workers the right to seek restitution for wages that they have earned but have not been paid. Thus, if you work in California, you have access to some of the country's most protective laws.

What Are Your Wage and Hour Rights as a California Employee?

You must be classed as a "non-exempt employee" to be eligible for wage protection laws. These types of employees have significantly more legal protections than independent contractors.

In California, you are considered a non-exempt employee if you:

  1. Work mostly under your employer's authority and guidance.

  2. The work you do is part of your employer's normal operations.

  3. You don't otherwise operate an independent trade or business.

Your company is obligated by law to provide the following benefits to all qualified California employees:

  • Allow for a 30-minute unpaid meal break for every shift longer than 5 hours.

  • Another 30-minute unpaid meal break if your shift exceeds 10 hours.

  • As required by state and federal law, provide sick pay and family and medical leave.

  • You must be paid the appropriate minimum wage (including salaried workers), prevailing wage, overtime, and double-time.

  • Allow you to be reimbursed for things like gas mileage and your business cellphone plan.

  • Pay you on time—at least once every 15 days consistently, instantly if fired, and within 72 hours if you quit.

  • If you lose your job, your employer must provide you unemployment compensation.

  • Subsidize your health insurance policies, social-security levies, and Medicare premiums.

Depending on the field you work in, you may have more significant safeguards and privileges, as California has particular labor regulations for the computer, entertainment, garment, and restaurant industries.

For any more specific concerns, ask your Employment Lawyer in Los Angeles for details. They'll know your case specifics and can add more tailored legal advice in consideration of the unique circumstances of your Employment Law Case.

The Most Common Cases Of Wage Theft

Employee misclassification, in which businesses misclassify employees as "exempt" or "independent contractors," is one of the most common types of pay theft.

Independent contractors, unfortunately, do not have the same rights and protections as employees. As a result, some companies try to save money by misclassifying personnel, depriving people of income they have earned fairly under the law.


Wage theft can take many forms, in addition to misclassification:

  1. Failure to pay workers the minimum or prevailing wage, earned commissions or bonuses, or hazard pay, even if it is stipulated in their contract.

  2. Failure to adjust salaries after new laws are enacted, or the minimum wage is increased.

  3. Employees are pressured to work after hours without being paid overtime.

  4. Employees being forced to work during their constitutionally permitted breaks.

  5. Employees who do not use their vacation time are not paid.

  6. Failure to pay the required social security and medicare taxes.

  7. They are deducting money from your paycheck without your permission for any reason.