As a worker in California, it’s important to know your legal rights and how the state’s strong labor laws protect you. Wage and hour claims are an area that often leads to workplace disagreements and potential lawsuits. Below, we get into the details of wage and hour claims in California. We’ll talk about common violations, legal frameworks, how to file a claim, and what happens to California employers when they break the rules.

I. Common Violations in CaliforniaWage and Hour Claims in California

A. Failure to Pay Minimum Wage

In California, workers can get at least the state-mandated minimum pay. If an employer doesn’t do this, they break wage and hour rules. Common violations include:

  1. Failure to pay the state minimum wage: As of January 1, 2023, California’s minimum wage will depend on how big the company is. The minimum wage is $14.00 per hour for companies with 26 or more workers and $13.00 per hour for companies with 25 or fewer workers. It is very important that employers follow these rules.
  2. Misclassification of employees: It is against the law in California to misclassify workers as independent contractors to avoid giving them minimum wage rights. Employers must group their workers correctly to ensure they get the right pay.

B. Unpaid Overtime

Labor rules in California say that employers have to pay overtime for hours worked over a certain number. In this place, it is illegal to:

  1. Failure to pay overtime. In California, non-exempt employees who work more than eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week are eligible for overtime pay. Also, if you work more than 12 hours in a day or more than eight hours on the seventh day in a row, you can get paid twice the normal hourly rate. Employers must make sure that extra hours are paid properly.
  2. Miscalculating overtime pay: It is very important to figure out overtime pay properly. Overtime is usually paid at 1.5 times the normal hourly rate in California. But if you work more than 12 hours in a day or more than 8 hours on the seventh day in a row, the rate is double the normal hourly rate.

C. Meal and Rest Break Violations

California law provides specific requirements for meal and rest breaks, and violations can lead to wage and hour claims. Key issues include:

  1. Failure to provide meal breaks: Employees who work more than five hours in a day are entitled to a 30-minute unpaid meal break. If the workday extends beyond ten hours, a second 30-minute meal break must be provided. Employers who deny or interrupt meal breaks may face legal consequences.
  2. Inadequate rest breaks: Employees in California are entitled to a paid rest break of at least ten minutes for every four hours worked or a major fraction thereof. Employers must provide these rest breaks to ensure compliance with labor laws.

II. Legal Framework in California

A. California Labor Laws

California has established robust labor laws to protect employee rights. Key aspects of the legal framework include:

  1. California Labor Code: The California Labor Code outlines various provisions related to minimum wage, overtime, meal and rest breaks, and other wage and hour protections. It is essential to be familiar with the relevant sections of the code to ensure compliance.
  2. Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Wage Orders: The IWC Wage Orders provide industry-specific regulations and guidelines for wages, hours, and working conditions. These orders cover a wide range of industries and should be consulted to ensure compliance with specific requirements.

III. Filing a Wage and Hour Claim in California

A. Initial Steps

If you believe your rights as an employee have been violated regarding wages and hours in California, taking the following initial steps can help protect your interests:

  1. Document and gather evidence: Keep a record of your work hours, pay stubs, and any communication with your employer regarding wages and hours. This documentation will serve as crucial evidence in your wage and hour claim.
  2. Consult an employment attorney: Seeking legal advice from an experienced workplace rights lawyer specializing in wage and hour claims can provide valuable guidance on your rights, potential remedies, and the best course of action.

B. Filing a Claim with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office

  1. File a wage claim: In California, wage claims can be filed with the Labor Commissioner’s Office, also known as the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). The DLSE is responsible for enforcing labor laws and handling wage and hour claims.
  2. Investigation and resolution process: After filing a claim, the DLSE will initiate an investigation into the alleged violations. This may involve contacting your employer and gathering relevant evidence. The DLSE will then assess the merits of your claim and work toward a resolution.

C. Legal Actions and Remedies

  1. Lawsuits: If your wage claim is not resolved through the DLSE process or if you are seeking additional damages, you may consider filing a lawsuit against your employer. Consulting with an employment attorney is crucial for navigating the complexities of litigation.
  2. Class-action lawsuits: In certain situations, wage and hour claims may be pursued as class-action lawsuits, allowing multiple employees with similar claims against the same employer to join forces. This can provide collective strength and streamline the legal process.

IV. Consequences for Employers

Employers found guilty of wage and hour violations in California can face significant consequences:

  1. Back pay and penalties: Employers may be required to pay the affected employees back wages for the unpaid amounts. Additionally, penalties may be imposed for each violation, depending on the severity and frequency.
  2. Liquidated damages and interest: In some cases, employees may be entitled to liquidated damages, which is an additional amount equal to unpaid wages. Interest may also be added to the total owed.
  3. Legal fees and costs: If you successfully make your wage and hour claim, your employer may be responsible for reimbursing your reasonable attorney’s fees and legal costs.

In conclusion, wage and hour claims in California are complicated and require a clear understanding of the state’s labor rules. As an employee, knowing your rights and keeping a close eye on your pay and hours is important. If you think someone is breaking the law, you should write down proof and talk to a lawyer. It may be necessary to file a claim with the DLSE or go to court to get the money you are due. You can protect yourself and help support fair employment practices in California by staying informed, standing up for your rights, and asking for the right help.

Contact the Dennis Law Group today for more information on handling your legal claim or speaking with an experienced attorney.  Dennis Law Group at (888) 820-2889 for a free consultation.