Most companies recognize the value of paying their employees what they are worth. They follow wage and hour laws to the letter and do what is right by the people who work for them. However, not all companies comply with the rules regarding pay. Some employers cheat their employees of what they are owed and try to bury their malfeasance in technical and legal jargon that cannot stand up to scrutiny.
If you believe you are being unfairly treated by your employer, you do have legal options. You should gather some basic information on California wage and hour law before you make your move.
Basic Wage and Hour Law in California
Wage and hour laws set basic standards for pay. They also cover a range of other issues related to hourly work, including minimum wage, overtime, meal and rest breaks, pay schedule, expenses that must be covered by employers, and so forth.
The minimum wage in California is based on the size of the company. As of 2019, the minimum wage for a company with up to 25 employees is $11.00 and $12.00 for companies that employ over 26 people. In 2020, the minimum wage will increase to $12.00 and $13.00 respectively. From that time until 2023, there will be an annual increase to $15.00.
In some states, employers are allowed to pay tipped employees a lower minimum wage. California does not allow this. If you are a tipped employee in California, you are entitled to the full minimum wage for every hour worked.
As a California worker, you are entitled to receive overtime if you work more than 8 hours in a day. If you work 12 hours or more, you must receive double time. If you work on a Sunday, you are entitled to time and a half for the first 8 hours and double time for additional hours.
Overtime: Exempt Versus Non-Exempt
California wage and hour law exempt certain employees from the rules governing overtime. The most important of these are executives, professionals, and administrative personnel. To qualify for this group of exempt employees, the person must:
-Spend half of their time doing intellectual, managerial, or creative work
-Exercise independent judgment in the performance of their duties
-Earn a monthly salary equivalent to twice the state minimum wage for full-time employment
Employees in the computer software development field, licensed physicians and surgeons, and employees who earn more than half their income from commissions with total earnings exceeding one and a half times the minimum wage are also exempt.
Teachers at private primary and secondary school who earn the lowest salary offered to licensed public school teachers are also exempt from the overtime rules.
Misclassifying Employees as Independent Contractors
Some companies misclassify employees as independent contractors to avoid paying payroll tax, minimum wage, and overtime. The important thing to remember here is that you are not an independent contractor just because your employer says you are.
According to California law, a person is only an independent contractor if they:
-Engage in a distinct occupation or business
-Possess the skill required by that specific occupation
-Receive payment based on the completion of a specific job
-Provide their own tools
-Consent to a contract that makes them an independent worker
The last factor is especially important. If you were pressured into signing a contract or agreement that makes you exempt from minimum wage and overtime, it is possible to contest it.
Want to Call a Wage and Hour Attorney?
Wage exploitation comes in many forms. You may be surprised by the length your company will go in order to avoid paying you fair wages. To avoid being taken advantage of you must read the fine print of your contract. You should also pay close attention to sudden or subtle changes in your hours and working conditions.
Indeed, many employers do not engage in wage theft straightaway. It may be the policy of the company you work with to wait until you are settled and comfortable before they change the conditions of your work to benefit them and cheat you of what you are owed. This is an old ploy. If you have a job that pays well, you will begin to spend money and make financial commitments that will increase your dependence on the company. Once you are in such a position, they believe you will be more amenable to going along with whatever the company wants.
You need not allow yourself to be mistreated in this way. If your employer is not paying you what the law demands in minimum wage and overtime, if you are also being denied meal and rest breaks, then you should contact the wage and hour attorney.
The very moment you realize that you are being mistreated you should start preserving evidence. Save all emails, text messages, and new contracts you have been asked to sign. You should also save all voicemail messages and paper correspondence. Be sure to send all electronic messages sent to your company account to your private account. Once your attorney has contacted the company to inform them of your complaint and intention to file suit, you may be denied access to your work accounts.
Why You Need an Employment Lawyer
You should not try to pursue this matter alone. You can, of course, speak to your manager to complain about being short-changed and mistreated. But you should hold not further communications with them once these informal efforts to resolve the matter have been rebuffed.
Your employer’s response to your complaint will be fast, decisive, and vigorous. They will try to put the blame for their wrongdoing on you. Speaking to an employment lawyer will enable you to get the story straight. For more details check employmentattorneylosangeles.com. During your initial consultation, your attorney will ask you to recall details about the working conditions in your company. You should try to be as forthcoming as you can, as your statements will form the basis of the subsequent legal strategy.
You should refer to all correspondence and communication by the company and their representatives to your lawyer. You do not want to inadvertently say or do anything that will undermine your case. Let your lawyer speak for you.
What Your Attorney Will Do
West Coast employment lawyers specialize in this field. They help ordinary people like you get justice. If your employer has violated California wage law by failing to pay the state minimum wage, failing to pay overtime, or failing to provide meal and rest breaks as stipulated in the California labor code, then you can sue.
A suit can be brought to collect the unpaid balance of the wages you are owed, back pay and back wages, interest on these amounts, and pay for attorney fees and litigation. Depending on the egregiousness of the crime, you may even be able to join a class-action suit. If it is found that your employer has systematically defrauded large numbers of employees over the years, it may be possible to get a larger settlement.
One important thing to keep in mind. Unlike other types of lawsuits, plaintiffs for a wage lawsuit cannot collect damages for emotional distress.
If your lawyer is able to gather enough evidence of your employer’s wrongdoing, the latter may decide to settle the matter in your favor. They may not want to risk the decision of a jury.
If you are the victim of wage exploitation by your employer, you need legal representation. West Coast employment lawyers can help you get justice.