Everyone knows the purpose of any business is to make money. But unfortunately, some employers boost their profits by paying their employees less than the law requires, which is wage theft. Every year, some employers fatten their wallets by siphoning millions of dollars away from their hardworking employees through wage theft. Employers steal from their employees in many ways: (1) by paying employees less than the state or local minimum wage; (2) by not paying employees for all time they work; (3) by not paying employees overtime; (4) by not paying employees all commissions they’ve earned; (5) by not paying employees “premium pay” for unprovided meal and rest breaks; (6) by not giving employees paid sick leave as required by law; (7) by not paying employees their accrued unused vacation pay; (8) by taking unauthorized deductions from employees’ pay; (9) by not paying employees all final wages on time; and (10) by not reimbursing employees for all work-related expenses.
Paying Less Than Minimum Wage
California has a minimum wage, but several cities and one county have higher minimum wages than the California minimum wage. If an employee works in a city or county that has a higher minimum wage than the California minimum wage, the employer is legally required to pay that higher local minimum wage. Cities that have a higher minimum wage than the state minimum wage include: Almeda, Belmont, Berkeley, Cupertino, Daly City, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Fremont, Half Moon Bay, Hayward, Los Altos, Los Angeles, Malibu, Menlo Park, Milpitas, Mountain View, Novato, Oakland, Palo Alto, Pasadena, Petaluma, Redwood City, Richmond, San Carlos, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, San Leandro, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Monica, Santa Rosa, Sonoma, South San Francisco, and Sunnyvale.
In addition, the County of Los Angeles has a higher minimum wage than the California minimum wage. When an employer pays an employee less than the local minimum wage, that’s wage theft. Low-income workers, which make up about one third of California’s workplace, are especially vulnerable to wage theft.
Employees who are not exempt from state and federal overtime laws and who are paid an hourly wage must be paid for all time they work. Unfortunately, unethical employers force their employees to work “off the clock” or they alter their employees’ time records to avoid paying their employees for all time they work. This form of wage theft steals millions of dollars from employees every year.
Unpaid Overtime & Doubletime
Employees who are not exempt from state and federal overtime laws and who are paid an hourly wage must be paid 1.5 times their regular wage as “overtime compensation” for all time worked in excess of 8 hours in one workday or 40 hours in one workweek. Employers also must pay those employees overtime for the first 8 hours of work on the seventh day of work in any one workweek. In addition, employers must pay those employees 2 times their regular wage as “doubletime compensation” for all time worked in excess of 12 hours in one workday, and for all time worked in excess of 8 hours on the seventh day of work in any one workweek.
Some employers intentionally misclassify their employees as “exempt” salaried employees and fail to pay them overtime and doubletime as required by law. In addition, some employers force their hourly-paid employees to work “off the clock” or they alter their hourly-paid employees’ time records to avoid paying them for all overtime and doubletime they work. These forms of wage theft steal millions of dollars from employees every year.
If an employer pays an employee commissions, that employer is legally required to enter a written contact with the employee stating the method for calculating and paying those commissions. Such employers are also required to give their employees a signed copy of the commission contract, and to get a signed receipt for the commission contract from each employee. But, some employers fail to comply with these laws.
In addition, some employers intentionally miscalculate the amounts of employees’ commissions. And, some employers terminate employees before they’ve been paid all of the commissions they’ve earned. These forms of wage theft rob employees of millions of dollars every year.
Unpaid “Premium Pay” For Unprovided Meal & Rest Breaks
California employers are required to provide meal breaks to their non-exempt, hourly-paid employees. To be considered a meal break, an employee must be completely relieved of all duties and allowed to leave the workplace to take an uninterrupted break for at least 30 minutes, and the employer must allow employees to start their meal break no later than the end of the 5th hour worked in a workday. In addition, employers must give employees a second meal break starting no later than the end of the 10th hour worked.
California employers are also required to provide rest breaks to their non-exempt, hourly-paid employees. To be considered a rest break, an employee must be completely relieved of all duties and allowed to rest without interruption for at least 10 minutes. Employers are required to give employees one rest break for every four hours worked, or major portion thereof. For example, if an employee works a seven-hour shift, that employee must be given two rest breaks.
Some employers violate California’s meal and rest break laws by failing to provide meal or rest breaks to their employees. California law also requires employers to pay employees 1 hour of “premium pay” at their regular pay rate for each workday that the employer fails to provide a meal or rest break. However, some employers fail to pay their employees premium pay when they fail to provide their employees meal or rest breaks.
Failure To Provide Paid Sick Leave
California law requires employers to provide employees at least 24 hours (i.e., 3 workdays) of paid sick leave each year. Employers are required to: (1) keep employees informed about the amount of paid sick leave they’ve accrued; (2) allow employees to use their paid sick leave when they are unable to work due to illness; and (3) keep records of their employees’ use of paid sick leave. Unfortunately, some employers violate these laws by failing to pay or provide paid sick leave to their employees.
Failure to Pay Accrued, Unused Vacation Pay
Many employers provide their employees a certain amount of paid vacation each year. When an employee resigns or is terminated, the employer is required to pay the employee for all vacation pay the employee accrued but did not use. Unfortunately, some employers steal from their employees by failing to pay them for all unused vacation pay they’ve accrued before their resignation or termination.
California law prohibits employers from taking deductions from employees’ pay unless the employees have authorized their employers in writing to do so. But, some employers take deductions from their employees’ pay without their written authorization. Unauthorized deductions are one of the clearest examples of wage theft.
Failure To Timely Pay Final Wages
When an employer terminates an employee’s employment, California law requires the employer to pay the employee all final wages on the date of termination. When an employee resigns his or her employment, California law requires the employer to pay the employee all final wages within 72 hours.
If an employer fails to pay all final wages within the required time, California law requires the employer to pay the employee one day of pay as a “waiting time penalty” for each day the payment is late, up to a maximum of 30 days. Some employers fail to pay all final wages to terminated or resigned employees on time, and they fail to pay the waiting time penalties employees are owed.
Failure To Reimburse All Work-Related Expenses
Employers are required to reimburse their employees for all work-related expenses. But, many employers fail to reimburse their employees for all their work-related expenses. For example, employers often require employees to use their personal cell phones for work, but fail to reimburse their employees for their cell phone expenses. Similarly, employers who allow or require employees to work from home often fail to reimburse their employees for the additional utility charges (e.g. higher electricity bills) they incur working from home.
If you have been the victim of wage theft, we can take legal action to recover the wages and penalties you are owed. We'd be happy to give you a free consultation.