If you believe your employer is failing to pay you all you are owed, the first important thing to do is know your rights. California has some of the strongest legal protections in the world for workers. Here are some basic things to understand:
1. Overtime pay should start if you work more than 8 hours in a single workday
California is different than other states in that overtime pay kicks in when you work more than eight hours in a single workday. In other states, an employee must work more than 40 hours in a week for overtime pay to apply. In California, you could work 10 hours in a single workday, and overtime pay would apply to two of those hours. You might not even work a full 40 hours in that workweek, but for those two extra hours, you should get overtime pay, which is typically 1.5 times your regular rate of pay (otherwise known as “time-and-a-half”). Higher rates of overtime pay apply in different situations. See our overview of California overtime rules to learn more.
2. Missed meal and rest breaks can count as owed wages
Recently, the California Supreme Court ruled that missed meal and rest breaks are payable wages. In other words, if you don’t get your legally compliant, uninterrupted meal and rest breaks, you should be paid for those missed breaks. To learn more about meal and rest break rules in California, please see our Meal and Rest Breaks overview.
3. Employees are generally not responsible for buying their own uniforms and other work-related tools
Sometimes employers will try to shift the cost of work supplies onto employees. If your employer does this, you may be owed significant compensation. For example, if a restaurant tells its employees that they have to buy their own aprons and uniforms, that would be a violation of employment laws. A non-exempt employee also should not have to buy their own tools needed for work. Forcing an employee to buy work-related tools and provisions is a form of wage theft.
4. You can discuss your case with a California employment law attorney
If you have questions or concerns about any of these matters, help is available. An employment lawyer can answer your questions, assess your case and determine whether you are owed unpaid wages.