We all work hard to earn a living, and we have the right to be fairly and fully compensated for any work we perform. Federal and California state wage and hour law protects employees from employer wage theft. Unfortunately however, wage theft still occurs.
Generally, wage theft occurs when employers do not pay their employees for the work they have completed. There are a variety of forms that wage theft can take in the workplace. In order to combat wage theft and ensure you are being fairly compensated, it is important to understand the most common forms of wage theft that occur.
Deducting Money: Employers may not deduct money from your paycheck that they believe they are owed from you. Likewise, employers may not take any employee tips. If your employer is taking any portion of your paycheck or of the tips you have earned, your employer is committing wage theft.
Failure to Pay: Employers must pay employees for all of their work, and must pay their employees in a timely fashion. Employers must have regular pay periods and provide complete pay stubs. If your employer fails to pay you the amount you are due for work you have completed, your employer is committing wage theft. If you quit or are terminated, your employer must pay you your unpaid wages and unused vacation time no later than 72 hours after your last day of work.
Failure to Pay Overtime: If you are an hourly employee and you work over the standard 8-hours per day and 40-hours per week your employer owes you overtime pay, which is 1.5x your regular rate of pay. In order to claim overtime, you must accurately report the hours you are working to your employer.
Meal & Breaks: Federal and state law requires employers to provide their employees with regular meal and rest breaks, but the requirements can vary from state to state. In California, hourly workers are entitled to regular uninterrupted meal and rest breaks. Employees may take a 10-minute break for every 4-hours of work, and a 30-minute break for every 8-hours of work. If you do not receive a break, your employer must pay you a break or a meal premium, which is equal to one-hour of your time.
Minimum Wage: Employers are required to pay employees no less than the hourly minimum wage. The California minimum wage is higher than the Federal minimum wage, and changes annually. Minimum wage requirements also vary within California depending on county policy. If you are paid below minimum wage, your employer is committing wage theft.
Misclassification: There are two types of employees; exempt employees (salaried) and non-exempt (hourly) employees. Exempt employees typically perform work that require special licenses, such as engineers, doctors, lawyers, or work in a management role. Exempt employees are paid an annual salary and are not paid based on the time that they work. Non-exempt employees typically perform non-management work or work that does not require a specific professional degree. Non-exempt employees are paid for their time, and are thus entitled to overtime, and meal and rest breaks. If you have been misclassified as an exempt and salaried employee, your employer may be committing wage theft.
Time off the Clock: If you are a non-exempt hourly employee, you must be paid for every minute you are working. Your employer may not reduce the hours you reported to have worked or ask you to work off the clock. If you have down time during the workday because you have to wait for something to occur, you must be compensated for the entire time that you are waiting.
Wage & Hour laws can be tricky and this is where an employment attorney can help. If you have questions or concerns about how you are being compensated, or what steps to take if you know your employer is committing wage theft, reach out to an employment lawyer.