Wage theft is a serious problem throughout California and the entirety of the United States. In 2019, more than 4.6 million US workers were subject to wage theft. Companies steal millions of dollars from workers every year and our Sherman Oaks wage dispute lawyer fights to get that money back.
It can be extremely easy for an employer in a position of power to take advantage of a trusting worker. Sometimes, these acts of wage theft are completely unintentional. Employers may incorrectly record hours, file paperwork, or track payments. In other cases, it is an entirely malicious and illegal attempt for business owners to keep more money for themselves.
Our Sherman Oaks employment law attorney at The Fraigun Law Group has extensive experience handling wage dispute claims in California and has worked with thousands of clients over the years. We represent individual clients who have been scammed by employers as well as class action lawsuits involving dozens of employees at once. If your employer isn’t paying you what you are owed, then we can help.
Contact us at 818-981-1800 for a free consultation.
What Is Considered Wage Theft in California?
California laws and regulations exist to protect employees who work on a salary or hourly basis. There are also specific regulations for workers who receive tips, commissions, or function as piece-rate employees. At the very least, labor laws dictate that all of these employees should be paid no less than the state minimum wage for the time they spend on the job.
Some employers will try to ignore or manipulate these regulations to their advantage. They may misclassify an employee as an independent contractor or force them to work while off of the clock. Luckily, these types of malicious tactics are still considered wage theft.
What Are the Most Common Examples of Wage Disputes in Sherman Oaks?
Wage theft can occur in a myriad of different ways. Greedy business owners love to find new ways to avoid paying their employees what they are owed. You have the right to dispute your payments if you were not paid the correct amount or if you were not paid for the full amount of time you spent working. Let’s look at the most common categories of wage disputes in California.
Failure to Pay for Hours Worked
This includes any time that you were considered working but were not paid for. It can include overtime, paid breaks, travel time to secondary job sites, time spent waiting at the job site, and time spent on-call. California regulations state that you must be paid at least minimum wage for all hours worked if you are a non-exempt employee.
Misclassification of Employee
This most commonly happens when an employer classifies an employee as an independent contractor. This relieves the employer of a variety of different responsibilities that exist in a traditional employer-employee relationship. This could also include misclassifying the employee as exempt instead of non-exempt. Several labor laws are designed specifically for non-exempt employees.
Failure to Pay Minimum Wage
This is one of the most common examples of wage theft in the country. Some employers leverage personal information against employees to avoid paying them a standard minimum wage. They may also try to avoid paying minimum wage to employees who earn tips or commissions.
Forcing Work During Unpaid Hours
An employer can not require an employee to work when off of the clock. Unfortunately, it’s a very common occurrence in California. This can also include forcing employees to work during an unpaid break. These breaks may even be required by their local union.
Failure to Pay Additional Payments
Some workers are legally owed additional payments such as bonuses or commissions based on their performance. The specifics of these bonus payments are usually discussed when the employee is originally hired. However, the employer may use these bonuses to lure in new workers without ever intending to actually pay them. This can be considered wage theft and is punishable.
What Hours Are Considered “Hours Worked?”
Regulations typically enforce payments for any time that can be classified as “hours worked.”Your employer may tell you that it only includes hours spent working on the job but that is rarely the truth. They may even have you run errands or perform other tasks and refuse to pay an hourly wage for the time spent. This is simply another form of wage theft.
An employee’s first “hours worked” are usually the hours they spend in training. Any training that is required so that you can perform your job is compensable. These are considered “hours worked” and you should be paid at least minimum wage for this time. This does not include voluntary training that is not mandatory for your job.
Travel time during work can be considered compensable time as well. This doesn’t cover the necessary time spent traveling to and from work unless it is a considerable distance. Instead, travel time refers to the spent traveling to perform tasks for work. This could include driving to another job site or traveling to perform errands for a manager.
Time spent preparing for a specific job also falls into this category. A job may require a lengthy preparation process before a worker can begin their shift. In these cases, the worker should still be compensated for those hours even if they were not yet on the clock.
Mandatory time spent waiting for work can also be covered. This most often applies to on-call employees who are required to wait at the job site for specific orders. The worker should be compensated for their time even if they are unable to actively perform their job. This can sometimes apply to on-call employees who are waiting at home depending on the situation.
Finally, overtime is always compensable and should be 1.5 times the worker’s normal hourly rate. Overtime occurs when a person works more than 40 hours in a single week. It can also happen on a daily basis if a person works more than 8 hours in a single day. If that person works for more than 12 hours, then the overtime rate becomes 2 times their normal hourly rate.
Are Alternative Pay Models Protected?
Not all workers have a traditional hourly pay rate. Some people receive tips at their job, are paid by commission, or work according to piece-rate pay. It’s possible for employers to take advantage of these different systems so that they are paying workers as little as possible.
What’s most important to note is that in nearly every case the employer must still pay at least the minimum wage for the hours worked during a pay period. If a worker is paid by commission but does not make enough revenue to equal minimum wage, then the employer should cover the difference. The same applies to piece-rate pay and workers who receive tips.
Should I File a Class Action?
Employers who partake in wage theft don’t usually restrict themselves to a single employee. They utilize the same bad practices on all of their workers. This means there is often a large group of employees who can get involved to create a class-action lawsuit. A class-action lawsuit is more affordable, easier to manage, and has a greater chance for success.
Our experienced wage dispute attorney will evaluate your case and help you take the right steps. Before filing a lawsuit as a single plaintiff or as part of a class action, the first step is usually to file a wage claim with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office.
Call a Sherman Oaks Wage Dispute Lawyer Today!
Hard-working employees are protected by state and national labor laws. Employers may try to circumvent these laws, but our Sherman Oaks wage dispute lawyer is here to stop them in their tracks. If you aren’t being paid properly for your hours worked, then we are here to help. Take a moment to call The Fraigun Law Group at 818-981-1800 for a free consultation.