Employees in California who have not been paid in full for their hours worked are entitled to back pay. Simply put, back pay is the difference between the amount of compensation you were paid and the higher amount of compensation you were supposed to be paid. There are many different reasons that employees may be eligible for back pay. Following are a few of the most common:
Unpaid overtime or other unpaid work time
Failure to pay correct wages is more common than many employees realize. Some employers even go to great lengths to confuse employees or lie to them about their wages in order to avoid paying employees all they are owed.
For example, you may be owed back pay if your job requires you to wait for long periods of time to get through security or “bag check” and into the workplace; that is, if the employer hasn’t paid you for that time waiting.
Another example: your employer simply hasn’t paid you the correct rate for all your overtime hours.
For more on these issues, please see two of our previous posts:
- “Apple ordered to compensate employees for bag check time“
- “How do I know if I’m owed overtime pay in California?“
Employees who were wrongfully terminated from their position may be entitled to back pay. Improperly fired employees may receive back pay from the date that they were terminated up to the date that their claim is resolved or a judgment is determined. For more on improper firing, please see our overview of employment retaliation and wrongful termination.
Failure to provide meal and rest breaks
If you are a nonexempt employee in California, you have a right to a paid 10-minute rest break for each four-hour period you work, or major fraction thereof. If your employer does not authorize or permit a rest break, you are entitled to one additional full hour of pay for each workday that your employer did not provide you a paid break that was completely free of work duties.
Also, if you are a nonexempt employee in California, you are entitled to a meal break of at least 30 minutes when you work more than five hours in a day. You are entitled to this break before the end of your fifth hour of work. Your employer is also required to provide a second meal break of at least 30 minutes if your work period extends beyond 10 hours.
If your employer has not provided proper rest and meal breaks, you may be entitled to significant back pay, especially if the violation has gone on for some time.