Wage theft, an unlawful practice, plagues countless employees, often leaving them feeling powerless. This unlawful activity encompasses a variety of infractions including unpaid overtime, denial of breaks, and receiving less than the minimum wage. While the legality surrounding employee wages is clear-cut, many are unaware of their rights or the steps to take when they’ve fallen victim to wage theft. Here are ways to identify wage theft and the steps to report the issue.
Understanding the Basics
Wage theft occurs when an employer intentionally fails to pay what is owed to an employee. Some signs that may indicate wage theft include:
- Not receiving pay stubs or receiving inaccurate pay stubs.
- Being asked to work off the clock.
- Not receiving due overtime pay.
- Experiencing unauthorized deductions from wages.
- Receiving less pay than entitled for the work performed.
- Being misclassified as an independent contractor can affect wage rights and benefits.
Further examples of wage theft include:
- Withholding of bonuses, benefits, commissions, and tips.
- Failure to provide overtime pay or minimum wages.
- Not paying final paycheck on time or not including waiting time penalties for late payment.
- Missing premium pay for missed rest and meal breaks.
- Paying with checks that bounce, withholding tips, or not paying required sick leave.
- Requiring employees to record fewer hours than actually worked
California Wage Laws
As of January 1, 2023, all employers must pay a minimum wage of $15.50 per hour and the minimum wage will increase to $16 on January 1, 2024. Some cities and counties may have higher minimum wages than the state’s rate. Overtime compensation is mandatory for nonexempt employees who are either 18 years of age or older or are minors aged 16 or 17 not required to attend school, and this applies to those working over eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. Employees working more than five hours a day are eligible for a 30-minute meal break without pay, and if the workday extends beyond 12 hours, an additional meal break of the same duration is mandated. Moreover, for every four hours worked, employees are entitled to a 10-minute paid rest break.
What to do Next
Addressing wage theft in California involves taking specific steps to assert your rights and seek appropriate remedies. Here’s a short list of the next steps when dealing with wage theft.
- Document Everything: Gather and organize all relevant documents, such as pay stubs, time records, employment contracts, and any communication with your employer related to wages. This documentation will be key when pursuing a wage theft claim.
- Consult an Attorney: Consider hiring an attorney who is experienced in labor and employment law. They can provide you with legal guidance, assess the strength of your case, and help you understand your rights and legal options.
- File a Wage Claim: If you choose to file a wage claim, the Los Angeles wage and hour lawyers at Moore Ruddell LLP can assist you in preparing the necessary paperwork and documentation. The California Labor Commissioner’s Office handles wage claims related to minimum wage, overtime, meal and rest breaks, and other wage violations.
- Civil Lawsuit: In some cases, pursuing a civil lawsuit against your employer may be necessary to recover unpaid wages, damages, and legal fees. Our team will guide you through this process, including filing the lawsuit, gathering evidence, and representing your interests in court.
Remember that employer retaliation is illegal in California. If you face retaliation, let us know, as you may have additional claims to pursue.
How Moore Ruddell Can Help
Wage theft is an unfortunate reality that can cause significant stress and financial hardship. However, armed with the right knowledge and resources, you can take a stand against unfair practices and seek the justice you deserve. If you believe you’ve been a victim of wage theft, don’t hesitate to act. Contact the Los Angeles wage and hour lawyers at Moore Ruddell LLP for a free consultation to discuss your situation and explore your legal options. Our attorneys are committed to protecting employees’ rights and ensuring that justice is served.