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What are the types of legal compensation employees in California can get for wage theft?

On Behalf of | Jun 14, 2022 | Wage & Hour Law

Employers have an obligation to pay their employees according to certain legal standards. If an employee is not paid in full or is paid an unlawfully low wage, they could seek compensation in court.

It’s important for employees to understand the possible types of compensation that they could be entitled to if their employer fails to pay them. In today’s post, we examine these types of legal compensation in detail.

Legal wage requirements

Employers in California must:

  • Pay their employees at least the minimum wage – which, as of Jan. 1, 2022, is $15 per hour for most companies ($14 per hour for companies with fewer than 26 workers). Specific cities in California also require a minimum wage that is higher than the state requirement.
  • Pay their nonexempt employees overtime pay for any hours worked in excess of 8 in a single workday. The overtime rate is 1.5 times the base hourly rate. Additionally, on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek, employers are required to pay employees 1.5 times the regular rate for the first 8 hours of work. Employers are additionally required to pay double an employee’s 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.

Types of compensation for lost wages

If an employer fails to pay an employee according to the above-stated terms, the employee could take the employer to court. If the employee is successful, the employer could be required to pay any or all of the following damages:

  • Unpaid wages: The employer may be required to compensate the employee for any missed wages.
  • Interest: The employer may also be required to pay interest accrued on any missed wages, calculated from the date the wages were originally due.
  • Waiting time penalty: Under California law, a judge may determine that an employer must pay the employee an additional penalty – equivalent to up to 30 calendar days’ worth of wages.
  • Attorney’s fees: Under some circumstances, a judge may order an employer to pay for an employee’s legal fees associated with the lawsuit.

When employee-employer wage disputes can’t be resolve directly between the parties involved, legal action may be necessary. An experienced employment law attorney can provide guidance on options available under the law.

To learn more, please see our overview of unpaid wages in California.