Were You Not Paid By Your Employer? Contact Our Wage and Hour Attorneys Los Angeles
You work hard, and in return, you expect to be treated fairly by your employer. This means getting paid what you are owed in a timely manner. It is important that you know and understand your rights as an employee.
It’s tempting to think, in these economic times, that you’re lucky just to have a job, and that you shouldn’t fight about a few dollars here and there. But if your employer is refusing to pay you what you are owed, those dollars can add up. An economic downturn is no reason for your employer to break the law, or for you to go along with it. You may need a lawyer to sue an employer for unpaid wages.
These lawyers are well-versed in handling wage and hour cases. They focus on much more than just unpaid overtime, such as:
- Were paid on a salary when you should have been paid hourly and receiving overtime
- Were paid straight time for overtime worked, instead of an overtime rate
- Were classified as an independent contractor and issued a Form 1099 instead of being classified as an employee and issued a Form W-2
- Were not allowed to take lunch or rest breaks as required by law, or were not paid for these breaks
- Were not paid minimum wage
- Were not issued a pay stub with all of the required areas completed
If your employer (or a previous employer) did any of these things to you, you may have a claim, and need to contact an employment lawyer in Los Angeles. Let’s look at a few of these in more detail.
Overtime is applicable to all employees in California, unless said person is an independent contractor, an exempt employee or has an alternative weekly schedule for work. As of last year, the Department of Labor changed eligibility for overtime. The minimum salary to be exempt from overtime pay is $646 per week, or $35,568 annually. Employees that earn less than that amount should be paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours weekly.
In California specifically, the set amount for overtime exemption is $49,920 for companies with 25 or less employees; $54,080 for companies with more than 25 employees. The law also requires employers pay a wage rate that is greater than the minimum wage offered for overtime pay. However, hours worked can be limited or require approval in accordance with regulations and standards. For more information, read our article regarding overtime policies in California.
Unpaid overtime takes many forms: your employer paid you on a salary when you should have been paid hourly, so you didn’t get any overtime at all; or your employer paid you your regular rate for overtime hours. Both are against the law.
In California, an employee must be paid time-and-a-half for any hours worked in a day after the first eight hours. After 12 hours, the employee must be paid double-time. These rules are mandatory; the employee cannot agree to take less money or work off-the-clock to avoid getting overtime. Even a few minutes a day can add up to a lot of lost wages if those few minutes are multiplied over many years. You may need a lawyer to sue an employer for unpaid wages if this has happened to you.
Some employees, due to the nature of their work, are classified as “exempt” from receiving overtime. These employees are typically in white-collar jobs. But the rules on who qualifies as exempt are extremely complex, causing many employees to be classified as exempt when they should actually be eligible for overtime. If you have any questions about whether you have been misclassified as an exempt employee, schedule a consultation to go over your case with one of our lawyers.
Misclassification as an Independent Contractor
Many times, employers will try to try to misclassify their employees as independent contractors to get out of paying their fair share of taxes on behalf of their employees or to save on payroll processing costs. Under federal law, employers must pay 7.65 percent of wages paid to employees to the government in the form of payroll taxes. This is on top of the 7.65 percent that is deducted from your paycheck for the same taxes. They must also withhold a percentage of your wages for state and federal income taxes, unless you have chosen to not have them withhold anything.
But if the employer classifies you as an independent contractor, they no longer have to pay their half of the payroll tax, nor do they have to withhold any taxes on your behalf. This means that when the end of the year rolls around, you will be on the hook for an extra 7.65 percent in taxes, and you will have to pay the full amount of state and federal income taxes owed. This can come as a shock to many employees who thought that their employer was treating them as a traditional employee.
The qualifying factors regarding who is an employee and who is an independent contractor are also very complicated, but our lawyers also deal with these rules regularly, and can petition the IRS to have you correctly classified. They can then sue the employer for the money that you are owed.
Are Employers Always Required to Compensate Employees for Minimal Off-the-Clock Work?
As an employer, asking an employee to do a small task off-the-clock can be considered illegal. The obligation to pay is based on two questions:
- Did the employer know the employee was working off-the-clock?
- Was the time worked so small, it should be considered negligible?
The California Supreme Court recently ruled that California employers are required to pay employees for performing routine off the clock closing tasks, even if it only takes a few minutes to complete them. For more information, check out our article on compensation for minimal off-the-clock work. At Mann & Elias, we want to ensure that our clients are protected from unlawful acts, and have the resources needed to build a strong case.
3 of The Most Common Wage and Hour Violations
Wage and hour violations can take on many forms. From paying less than minimum wage or when an employer refuses to compensate an employee at all when they leave the job. When the employer violates labor laws, employees are entitled to legally act by filing a complaint with the Department of Labor. Laws are in place to prevent problems for both the workers and employers, but unfortunately, there are companies that violate frequently. The three most common infringements are:
- Calculating Overtime Incorrectly
- Inaccurate Record-Keeping
- Inaccurate Pay at Termination
For a detailed overview of each violation, read our article on common wage violations.
Wage Theft Protection Act of 2011
The state of California passed the Wage Theft Protection Act of 2011, which forces the employer to be transparent from the moment an employee is hired, thus limiting their exploitation. Prior to starting a job, the employer must provide a non-exempt employee with a written note that has detailed information regarding policy, pay and benefits. Unfortunately, not all states have enacted legislation like this to ensure employers engage in lawful work practices with monetary consequences. For not complying, employers must pay $100 per employee they violated; $200 per employee for additional violations that occurred. For more information, this article further explains how the Wage Theft Protection Act is enforced and how to go about seeking legal representation if you were misled by your employer.
Who Does the Fair Labor Standards Act Cover?
The Department of Labor protects both exempt and nonexempt employees. While both groups are classified differently for wage and overtime classification, it does not change the fact that your rights are always legally safe, in the event your employer is violating the law. Though, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is slightly more selective regarding coverage. Some important elements defined by this act are:
- A 40-hour workweek is the standard for a full-time job.
- A federal minimum wage is established at the current rate of $7.25 an hour and $2.13 for tipped employees.
- Overtime is required for certain employees.
- Restrictions are placed regarding child labor.
The FLSA covers employers, under one condition. If their annual sales total $500,000 or more in interstate commerce. Though they protect all workplaces, this is the only exception. Not all workers are protected by the FLSA. The positions exempt from protection are:
- Computer Employee
- Outside Sales Employee
This article breaks down information on covered vs. exempt employees, as well as the classification process based on FLSA.
Tips, Tip Pooling, and Tip Credits - How to Spot Illegal Practices
As a waiter, waitress or barista you receive tips from satisfied customers daily. Tips may be a bonus to your weekly or bi-weekly paycheck. As an employee, you should not only know your rights, but also rules pertaining to tips to ensure 1) you get paid fairly, 2) you are not unknowingly participating in illegal practices. The universal rule on tips is that they belong to you – not the employer. You are not legally required to give all your tips to the employer, but you can get paid less than minimum wage. The first step you can take to prevent exploitation, is educating yourself on laws regarding money from earned tips in this article.
Collecting Penalties for Wage Violations in California
There are several reasons you can sue your employer for violating employment laws. If you make the choice to take legal action, pursue legal representation to build a strong case. A successful case must have evidence that you have not received the pay you are entitled to. You should gather all documentation related to your pay. In a claim, you will be asking for damages lost depending on the violation caused. For example, if you were denied overtime pay, you can seek wages lost for not working and overtime. However, if your employer displayed especially egregious behavior toward you, such as retaliation, they may also be forced to pay penalties. Make sure to entrust one of our attorneys at Mann & Elias for the best chance at compensation, and to collect penalties for violations caused.
Single-Person and Class Actions
While you may think that you are alone in being mistreated by your employer, this is often not the case. Many wage and hour violations are committed against a group of employees, or perhaps even all of the employees of a given employer. In these cases, an attorney will bring a lawsuit on behalf of you and everyone in the same situation as you. This is called a “class action.”
A class action can be a very effective tool to get the money that you and everyone like you are owed at the same time. Our team will fight on your behalf to collect penalties for wage violation. There may even be a bonus at the end of the lawsuit for you if you are the named plaintiff that brought the case. If you think that others in your situation may also have been treated unfairly, consider filing a class action.
If your employer has not paid you everything you are owed, contact a wage and hour attorney in Los Angeles today to get the justice and compensation you are entitled to.