Sometimes workers are not paid what they are owed because of simple mistakes on the part of the employer. In other cases, employers consciously try to cheat workers out of their wages. This is called wage theft, and it happens more often than most people realize. In many cases, the problem is not isolated to one employee, and multiple workers may be affected.
Whether unpaid wages are due to an employer’s honest mistakes or intentional scheming, employees have a right to their earned wages, and employees can take legal action to get the pay they are owed.
Failure to calculate overtime pay
California has specific laws regarding overtime pay. Employees generally must be paid 1.5 times their regular rate of pay if they work more than 8 hours in a workday. The rate of pay also goes up to 1.5 times the regular rate for the first 8 hours an employee works on the seventh consecutive day in a workweek. The pay goes up to double the regular rate for all hours worked above 12 in a workday and for all hours worked above 8 on the seventh consecutive day in a workweek. Some employers miscalculate these rates or falsify the number of hours employees actually work.
Failure to provide or compensate for meal and rest breaks
Meal and rest breaks for employees are required under California law. If an employer fails to provide legally compliant meal and rest breaks, the employee should be paid for those breaks. To learn more about compensation for missed meal and rest breaks, please see our California Meal and Rest Break Overview.
Misclassification of employees as ‘exempt’
Being promoted to manager or salaried can mean that an employee is “exempt” from overtime pay. But sometimes a “promotion” is not really a promotion — and instead just a way for the employer to avoid paying overtime rates. Likewise, some employers misclassify workers as independent contractors and therefore “exempt,” denying those workers basic rights like overtime pay for overtime hours. Employee misclassification is more common than you might think.
Complicated or defective time entry apps
There are time entry tools and apps that employers use to calculate work time and pay rates for employees. Sometimes these apps are not set up properly or fail to account for wage and hour laws in specific states like California. Sometimes the time entry tools are overly complicated or misleading to employees, resulting in unpaid wages. Unraveling the complicated nature of these tools and apps typically requires help from an employment law attorney with experience in these matters.
Misleading workers about their basic wage and hour rights
Even if you suspect that your employer is failing to pay your due wages, you might encounter resistance or misleading information from your employer when you try to address the problem. Unfortunately, many employees are misled by their employers with regard to unpaid wages. Don’t let that happen to you. Talk to a California employment law attorney if you believe your employer is cheating you out of wages.