Unpaid Wages: Why Do You Need a Lawyer?

As an employee, one of the most frustrating things you can experience is not getting paid for the work you have done. Unpaid wages can cause a significant amount of stress and financial strain.  In addition, it can be challenging to know what steps to take to recover your unpaid wages.  This is where the search for “unpaid wages lawyers near me,” such as Mark Charles Law APC, comes in.  They can offer the experience, skills, and resources to help ensure you get paid the wages you are owed.

Common Unpaid Wages Scenarios for Employees

Unpaid wages can come in many forms.  However, the most common form is not paying a non-exempt (also known commonly as “hourly”) employee properly.  Here are some common examples:

  1. Overtime violations – California law is clear: employers must pay one and a half times (1.5) an employee’s “regular rate” (also known as the effective “hourly rate”) if the employee works more than forty (40) hours per week or more than eight (8) hours per day.  An employee is entitled to double the “regular rate” for work more than twelve (12) hours per day [Labor Code section 510(a)].  Common employer mistakes include not paying an employee overtime for more than eight hours worked in a single day because the weekly total number of hours was under forty hours in a week.  Another mistake is forcing an employee to work additional time after the employee has “clocked out” or is required to work off the clock.  The requirement of the employer to pay an employee overtime is whether or not the employer knew or should have known overtime was worked.  If your employer is not paying you overtime when you are entitled to it, you may have an unpaid overtime claim.
  1. Minimum wage violations – As of January 1, 2023, the minimum wage in California is $15.50 for all employers, regardless of the number of employees.  [Labor Code section 1182.12(c)(1); see also www.dir.ca.gov, “Minimum Wage”].  It is also important to note that some California cities have required higher minimum wage amounts than California.  For example, the City of Los Angeles is $16.04 (and will increase to $16.78 in July 2023) and the City of Pasadena is $16.93.  If your employer is not paying you the minimum wage, you may have an unpaid minimum wage claim.
  1. Misclassification of employees – Some employers misclassify their employees as “independent contractors” when they should have been treated as an employee to avoid complying with California’s labor laws, maintaining workers’ compensation insurance, and employer taxes.  California law presumes an individual is an employee, rather than an independent contractor.  [Labor Code section 2775(b)].  Employers will also misclassify an employee that is paid a “salary” and not comply with California’s labor laws by paying overtime compensation or providing meal and rest periods.  If you have been treated as an independent contractor or “salaried” employee and it was improper, you may be entitled to unpaid wages and meal and rest time premium under California’s labor laws.
  1. Failure to pay all hours worked – Some employers fail to pay employees for all the hours they have worked, even though the wages are owed.  Common examples of failing to pay for all hours worked include the failure to pay for hours that are worked “off the clock,” failure to pay for time an employee spends preparing for or wrapping up their shifts (“donning and doffing”), failure to pay commissions owed at the time of the end of employment, meal and rest time premiums, and failure to pay all wages owed at the time the employment is terminated.  If you believe that you have not been paid for all wages owed, you may have an unpaid wages claim.
  1. Failure to provide breaks and meal periods –  Nonexempt California Employees are entitled to an uninterrupted thirty (30) minute meal period that must be taken within five (5) hours of work and another thirty (30) minute meal period when working more than twelve (12) hours in one shift.  [Labor Code section 226.7]  Non Exempt California employees are entitled to a ten (10) minute break within every four (4) hours of work (two 10 minute breaks for an eight-hour shift).  If your employer is not providing these breaks and meal periods or preventing you from taking those breaks, you may be entitled to penalties from the employer.

Remedies for Employees who have Unpaid Wages


California has several laws in place to protect employees from unpaid wages by their employer. Below are some of the remedies that employees can seek from the employer for the different types of Labor Code violations:

  1. Payment of Unpaid Wages – Employees can recover wages due and owing, whether they be for base pay, overtime or minimum wage.  For employees that did not receive the unpaid overtime or were not paid minimum wages, they are entitled to recover interest.  [Labor Code section 1194]
  1. Penalties – Depending on the situation, employees can recover penalties from the employer for the failure to pay the proper wages.  For example, if an employee is not paid all wages at the time of termination, they can recover waiting time penalties for up to thirty (30) days of a full days’ worth of pay.  [Labor Code section 203].  The timing of how that is calculated can differ if the employee is fired (all wages due are owed on the same day) or if the employee quits or resigns (72 hours within quitting or resigning).  Employees that were not paid minimum wages during their employment can also recover liquidated damages.  [Labor Code section 1194.2]  In those situations, the employee is entitled to recover “in an amount equal to the wages unlawfully unpaid and interest thereon” for failure to pay minimum wages.  For non Exempt employees that did not receive their proper meal and rest breaks, they can recover one hour of the employee’s “regular rate of compensation.”  [Labor Code section 226.7]  There are time limits for recovering penalties from an employer, so it is important to consult an unpaid wages lawyer promptly to protect these rights.
  1. Attorney’s Fees –  A successful employee who pursues a wage claim against their current or former employer case may seek an award of reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs. [See Labor Code sections 218.5(a)1194(a)On-Line Power, Inc. v. Mazur (2007) 149 CA4th 1079, 1086, 57 CR3d 698, 703§ 218.5 applies to wage claims by all employees, including salaried corporate executives.  The attorney’s fees cannot be shared with the employee, but they are very helpful in getting the employer to pay the unpaid wages to the employee.

Why Do You Need Unpaid Wages Lawyers Near Me?

When an employee feels that their rights have been violated by their employer, the employee should consult a wage and hour attorney in Los Angeles at the earliest opportunity.  Time is of the essence because there are precious deadlines that can expire if an attorney is not contacted and these rights are not understood.  Employees in Southern California rely on Mark Charles Law APC for help.  We focus and limit our practice almost exclusively on employment law, making us the firm of choice for clients in Southern California, including Pasadena, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, and Pomona.  Our many years of experience and our aggressive approach are respected by clients and productive in the courtroom.  We are dedicated to fighting for the rights that each of our clients deserves. Contact the Mark Charles Law APC and speak with a wage and hour attorney in Pasadena.  We offer a free consultation and often represent employees on a contingency fee basis so that employees can secure top notch representation without upfront fees or costs.  Contact us today and find out more.

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