San Diego Wage & Hour Attorney for Unpaid Wages, Overtime, and Benefits

Is your employer paying you what you’re fully owed under the law?

Millions of workers experience wage theft every day when employers fail to pay them properly for the work that they’ve done. Wage theft is not only immoral, it’s illegal. You deserve to be paid fairly for your work and Harlan Law is here to make sure you get your just compensation.

Under California law, employers must pay their employees for all the time they’ve worked. If you haven’t gotten the pay you deserve, you could have a legal claim against your employer.

Wage theft is one of the most common forms of theft in the world. Unfortunately, the United States is no exception. Despite laws created to protect employees, some employers still fail to pay their workers everything that they’re owed.

Wage theft takes many different forms – it’s not limited to simply skimming money off your paycheck. You may not even realize your employer is committing wage theft if you don’t know your rights. As an employee, you have a number of rights under the law, including the right to meal breaks, rest breaks, overtime, and double time. The law also requires you to be paid within a certain timeframe once you’ve done your work. Employers who fail to give their employees all of these benefits are committing a form of wage theft.

California workers get more protection under the law than any other state in the country. Undocumented workers are also covered under California state labor laws. As a California employee, you have strong rights that you can pursue under the law. An experienced California employment lawyer can help you calculate how much your employer owes you.

At Harlan Law, we understand what you’re going through. If your employer isn’t paying you your full wages, you’re probably already struggling with bills. How are you going to pay for lawyer’s fees on top of everything else? Harlan Law takes employment cases on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay us until we recover your stolen wages for you.

That means no costs or fees – not until we recover damages for your case.

Call our local San Diego employment law firm today at (619) 870-0802 for a free consultation with an experienced employment lawyer. We are here to help you get what you’re owed.

Your Wage & Hours Rights as a California Employee

In order to qualify for protection under the law, you must first classify as an “employee.” Employees have more rights under the law compared to independent contractors.

Sometimes, employers will intentionally misclassify employees as independent contractors so they can pay them less or offer them fewer benefits.

All employees deserve to be paid what they’re due under the law. In California, that includes: 

  • One unpaid 30-minute meal break for each 5-hour shift
  • A second unpaid 30-minute meal break after 10 hours of work
  • One paid 10-minute rest break every 4 hours
  • Paying the required minimum wage for qualifying employees
  • Overtime pay for any time after 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week
  • Double time after 12 hours on a shift or 4 weeks without a day off
  • Prevailing wages set under government contracts (even if the employer is private)
  • Expense reimbursement, such as for mileage and use of personal cell phone

In addition, employees must be paid at least once every 15 days. If an employee gets fired, they must be paid at the time of termination. If they quit, they must be paid within 72 hours.

If your employer fails to pay you when they’re supposed to or consistently pays you late, you could have a legal action against them to get the wages that you deserve.

If your employer is withholding wages, you have several different options for redress:

  • Filing a wage claim with the California Labor Commission,
  • Filing a wage claim with a relevant federal agency, or
  • Filing a wage and hour lawsuit against your employer in court.

Additional California laws exist specifically to protect employees working in certain industries, such as the Garment Worker Protection Act.

In many cases, wage claims end in a settlement where your employer must pay you what they owe. A wage and hour lawsuit helps to “make you whole” as if your employer’s misconduct never happened. A successful wage and hour lawsuit can get you damages to compensate you for the laws your employer has violated. You can collect any unpaid wages plus your employer may have to pay interest and cover your attorney fees or litigation costs.

If you’re worried about the cost of hiring an attorney for your case, Harlan Law takes wage and hour claims on a contingency basis, which means you don’t pay us until you get paid.

Common Forms of Wage & Hour Violations

Wage and hour violations, similar to other employment cases, are fact-specific. That means the outcome will depend on the details of your specific case.

Wage and hour violations can take many forms. You may not even realize that your employer is underpaying you in certain ways. Common types of misconduct include:

  • Failing to pay workers the minimum wage as required by law
  • Refusing to pay workers an applicable prevailing wage
  • Misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor
  • Falsely classifying an employee as “exempt”
  • Failing to pay employees their earned commissions or promised bonuses
  • Failing to reimburse workers for expenses incurred on the job
  • Forcing employees to work through their legally required breaks
  • Pressuring employees to work “off the clock”
  • Failing to pay employees for vacation time they haven’t used
  • Disregarding overtime hours you may have worked
  • Refusing to pay hazard pay even if it’s in your employment contract
  • Taking out illegal deductions from your paycheck

At Harlan Law, we understand the difficult position you’re in as an employee. You depend on your work to pay the bills. You may not want to “rock the boat,” especially in an uncertain economy. What if your employer punishes or fires you for making a claim?

Fortunately, employer retaliation is illegal in California. Your employer cannot take any negative action against you for filing a wage and hour claim. In fact, if your employer retaliates against you for exercising your rights, they could be subject to additional legal penalties. You could end up recovering even more damages based on the severity of your employer’s misconduct.

California Minimum Wage and Overtime Rules

It’s against the law for your employer to pay you less than the minimum wage. Your employer must also pay you mandatory overtime for extra hours you’ve worked.

California’s required minimum wage varies based on the size of your employer. In addition, some localities or counties might have a higher minimum wage than the rest of the state. The minimum wage also increases at the beginning of almost every year. If the law changes to raise the minimum wage, your employer must increase your pay to match immediately.

If your employer has paid you less than the minimum wage at the time, you can file a claim and recover the amount that your employer still owes you for your work.

In addition to the minimum wage, California also requires overtime pay for all time worked:

  • More than 8 hours in a workday,
  • More than 40 hours per workweek, or
  • The first 8 hours of the 7th consecutive workday in a single workweek.

Overtime must be paid at time and a half, or 1.5 times your regular rate of pay.

If you work more than 12 hours in a single workday or more than 8 hours on your 7th consecutive workday in a single workweek, you get into double overtime. Your employer must pay you double the amount of your regular hourly rate for this time.

Meal and Rest Breaks for Employees in California

As a California employee, your employer must give you:

  • One 10-minute rest period for each 4-hour work period,
  • One 30-minute meal period if working more than 5 hours in a day, and
  • A second 30-minute meal period if working more than 10 hours in a day.

If your employer fails to give you these required breaks, the law entitles you to one hour of pay for each shift in which you were not allowed to take a break.

Unpaid Wages or Vacation Time

It is unlawful for your employer to make you work “off the clock.” That includes pre- and post-shift duties, administrative duties, or work performed during meal or rest breaks. As an employee, you can recover unpaid wages for any time you’re not compensated for your work.

Under California law, you cannot waive wage and hour requirements. For example, you can’t simply enter into an agreement with your employer to work for less than the minimum wage. Your employer is still legally responsible for paying you what is required by the law.

In addition, earned vacation time is considered part of your wages in California. You earn vacation time as you perform your work, therefore it’s a part of your compensation. Your employer may put a reasonable cap on the total number of vacation days you can accrue over time, but “use it or lose it” policies are not permitted.

You cannot waive or forfeit your earned, unused vacation time. Even if you are fired from your job, your employer owes you wages for the vacation time you earned but never used.

California PAGA Claims

The Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) is a 2004 California law that allows employees to file lawsuits against their employers for workplace violations. The process to file a PAGA claim is different compared to a regular wage lawsuit.

You qualify to file a PAGA lawsuit if you are an “aggrieved employee” who has been subject to at least one workplace law violation at the hands of your employer. With a PAGA claim, you can recover damages for all of your employer’s workplace violations, not just the misconduct that affected you personally. You can even file a PAGA lawsuit if you’ve signed away your right to sue in your employment agreement, such as through forced arbitration contracts.

You can file a PAGA claim in California for:

  • California Labor Code or specific PAGA law violations
  • California health and safety regulation violations
  • Any other California labor law violations

Under the statute of limitations, you must file a PAGA claim within 1 year of the last violation.

Even damages are handled differently in PAGA claims. When you file for damages under PAGA, you recover civil penalties, not unpaid wages. Whatever penalties you recover will be split among all the workers who suffered because of your employer’s labor violations. The rest of the penalties from PAGA claims go to the State of California.

If you’re considering filing a wage claim, your best course of action is to talk to a lawyer about whether a PAGA claim is right for your case.

Hiring a Local Employment Lawyer for Your Wage Claim

You work hard to earn a living and you trust your employer to compensate you fairly. So it can be devastating when that trust is broken – and not just for your wallet. Employer misconduct can carry a heavy mental and emotional toll as well.

Holding your employer responsible for their misconduct can be intimidating. You might not want to risk your position or your standing with your colleagues. But if your employer is cheating you out of your wages, they’re likely doing the same for other workers too. For this reason, many wage claims turn into class action cases that represent the interests of multiple employees.

At Harlan Law, we’ve worked for years to get our clients the just compensation they deserve. We have the experience to handle your case in the best way possible, whether that means an individual lawsuit, a class action, or a PAGA claim. We know that wage concerns can put you into uncertain financial territory so we take our cases on a contingency fee basis. That means you don’t pay us until we recover your wages for you.

You deserve to be compensated properly for your work. Jordon Harlan is an experienced employment lawyer here to help you get your career back on track. Call the offices of Harlan Law today at (619) 870-0802 for a free, confidential, no-risk consultation.

About Harlan Law

Our San Diego law firm is dedicated to providing the best advocacy possible for clients nationwide. Call our experienced personal injury and employment lawyers today at 619.870.0802 for your first free consultation.

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