California has strict laws about the relationship between employer and employee. These laws are designed to prevent employers from taking advantage of employees or discriminating against them so the economy can run justly and smoothly. However, just because employers are supposed to uphold these laws and treat their workers fairly doesn’t mean that they will. When employers don’t pay their workers what they deserve, an unpaid wages lawyer can help the wronged employees recover financial compensation!
If you are having a wage issue, and you have never worked with an unpaid wages lawyer, you may be wondering what they can do for you or how you know when it’s time to speak with one. At Southern California Attorneys, A.P.C., we have helped numerous clients file employment or wage-related claims. We have seen a variety of complex situations. We know what situations constitute legal action and which may not; helping employees determine whether or not they have a case is what we do for much of our time!
Here are some diagnostic checkpoints you can ask to help you figure out when it’s time to speak with an unpaid wages lawyer:
It may be time to speak to an unpaid wages lawyer if….
You aren’t being paid the right minimum wage
In California, the minimum wage is $14 per hour for large companies and $13 per hour for businesses with 25 employees or fewer. Even if you make tips, you must be paid at least this amount for every hour you work. If you’re being paid less than that, you should call an unpaid wages lawyer.
You aren’t being paid for overtime
Employees in California who are classified as “non-exempt” are supposed to be paid one-and-a-half times their normal rate of pay for overtime work that is over 8 hours in a single workday, over 40 hours in a single workweek, or over 6 days in a single workweek; employees are supposed to be paid double time for working over 12 hours in a single workday or over 8 hours on the seventh day of a workweek. If your overtime pay isn’t matching these numbers, or is nonexistent, you should call an unpaid wages lawyer.
You’re being required to work during breaks
If you are a non-exempt employee, and you work a certain number of hours for a California employer, you are entitled to a certain number of 10 minute rest breaks and 30 minute meal breaks at certain times. Those breaks are supposed to be uninterrupted periods where you can leave the site if wanted, and you are not supposed to be asked to be on call or skip those breaks without pay. If your employer is not adhering to the correct standards for breaks, you may be entitled to compensation, and you should call an unpaid wages lawyer.
You aren’t being paid for “off the clock” work
You deserve to be paid for every single minute you spend under the management of an employer! If your employer is asking you to travel, buy supplies, make calls, clean up, prepare equipment, or do any task outside of your work hours and is not paying you for it, you should call an unpaid wages lawyer.
You’re being asked to share tips with managers
Tip pooling is permissible under California law, but only among employees, not among managers or supervisors. If you are being asked to share tips with those parties, or if your wages are being reduced to less than minimum wage because you make tips, or if credit card processing fees are being deducted from your tips, then you should call an unpaid wages lawyer.
You’re being paid less than a coworker with the same role and qualifications
Employees in the same positions at the same company, with the same qualifications, the same level of experience, and the same duties, should be paid comparably. If you discover that your co-worker makes significantly more than you do, the reason for the discrepancy could be discriminatory, and you should call an unpaid wages lawyer to determine if there is compensation you could recover.
You’ve spoken to your employer about the issue and have been dismissed
Sometimes, employers don’t withhold wages from employees intentionally. Running a business and managing employees is complicated. If you have experienced any of the above issues, your employer may have simply made a mistake, and your best first step is always to approach them calmly and politely about your observations. If they are willing to work with you to rectify the situation, then you may not need legal counsel, but if you are retaliated against, rudely turned away, or ignored, then you should call an unpaid wages lawyer.
…and even if….
Immigrants are affected by wage theft more than other employee groups in any profession. Non-citizens are covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which means that you have a legal right to fair pay even if you have no papers! Because of attorney-client privilege, you have nothing to fear from speaking to an unpaid wages attorney and discussing your legal options, and you don’t have to let the fear of immigration-related consequences stop you from seeking justice.
You’re not sure your claim will be worth the legal fees
Employees who are victims of wage theft may be hesitant to hire an unpaid wage lawyer because they believe it will be too expensive for them to afford, or because the amount their employer has withheld doesn’t seem like a significant amount of money. In some cases, the backpay you are owed will be less than a few hundred or few thousand dollars; however, even in those cases, you should speak to an attorney immediately! Here’s why – chances are that you may have actually been underpaid more than you realized. A lawyer can help you accurately value your claim. In some cases, you may be awarded up to two or three times what you are owed.
A court may also order your employer to pay attorney fees. Because most unpaid wage lawyers take cases like this on a contingency fee basis, you may not have to pay anything upfront until you win your case and recover a settlement, which should ease any financial anxieties you have. Every worker, regardless of their socioeconomic status, deserves compensation when they were paid unfairly. You may be able to recover more than you think!
You’re financially stable so it doesn’t really “matter”
As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Wage theft typically hurts people’s financial status, but even if you think you are not suffering financially right now, you are potentially missing out on other monetary opportunities you would have seized. Your employer is getting away with breaking the law, and you don’t know what the future holds; if you end up struggling with finances later, you could regret not talking with a lawyer about recovering compensation.
You like your job and don’t want to lose it
Employers in California are forbidden from retaliating against employees for taking legal action to recover unpaid wages. That means that while your relationship with your employer may become awkward, your employer can’t fire you, demote you, pass you over for promotions, harass you, or otherwise try to “get back” at you in any way. An initial consultation with an unpaid wages lawyer will be confidential, so you have nothing to lose by just calling an attorney to see what your options are and discuss your concerns with them!
Call the unpaid wage lawyers at Southern California Attorneys, A.P.C. for a FREE consultation!
If you suspect that you are being underpaid, call Southern California Attorneys, A.P.C.. We have over 60 years of combined legal and trial experience on our team! Our unpaid wage lawyers will discuss your case with you for free, and your consultation will be completely confidential. We can fight for justice for you!