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Unpaid Wages

Some employers fail to pay employees all wages due, either intentionally or out of ignorance. The wage and hour attorneys at Workplace Justice Advocates, a Professional Law Corporation, are experienced in recovering compensation for employees who have not been paid all wages earned and for numerous other violations of wage and hour laws, including:

  • Failure to Pay Minimum Wage: California's minimum wage is currently $8.00 per hour.If the employee is not paid by hour, but by commission or piece, the employer is still required to satisfy its minimum wage obligation. Thus, if the employee's average compensation for each pay period is below minimum wage, the employer must compensate the employee for the difference. Also, meals or lodging may not be credited against the minimum wage without a voluntary written agreement between the employer and the employee.

  • Failure to Provide Meal and Rest Breaks: In California, employers cannot require employees to work during any meal or rest period mandated by an applicable wage order. If an employer fails to provide an employee a meal or rest period in accordance with the applicable wage order, the employer must pay the employee an additional hour of pay at the employer's regular rate of compensation for each workday that the meal or rest period is not provided. employees are entitled to take meal and rest breaks during the workday. Please see our Meal & Rest Breaks webpage for more information.

  • Unlawful deductions or withholding of any part of an employee's wages: California law prohibits employers from taking back wages earned and paid, secretly paying a lower wage than that required by statute or contract, deducting from an employee's wages for cash shortages, breakage, or loss of equipment (unless caused by dishonest or willful act, or gross negligence of the employee) or for workers' compensation costs. The prohibition on deducting business losses and expenses applies to payment of "wages." "Wages" includes sales commissions or bonuses based on the employee's individual performance.

An employer who fails to pay an employee wages owed may be subject to several penalties under California law.

"Waiting Time" Penalties:

In addition to actual wages owed, employees may collect "waiting time" penalties where the employer willfully fails to pay wages when due to an employee who quits or is discharged. The employee's wages continue at the same rate until paid or until suit is filed, but not for more than 30 days. All unpaid wages, including any unpaid overtime wages, are due immediately upon discharge, or within 72 hours if the employee resigned.

Liquidated Damages:

An employee receiving less than the minimum wage can recover the total in unpaid minimum wages, plus an additional penalty of "liquidated damages" in an amount equal to the wages unlawfully unpaid. In effect, this could double an employee's claim for unpaid minimum wages.

Penalties Payable to State of California:

In certain unpaid wages cases, an employee may recover substantial civil penalties from the employer. If the action is successful, the court may award the prevailing employee 25% of the penalty specified in the Labor Code provision violated, plus reasonable attorney fees and costs. The remaining 75% of the penalty is paid to the State of California.

Attorney Fees and Costs:

A successful employee in an unpaid wages claim may seek an award of reasonable attorney fees and court costs.

Because the law covering these wage and hour violations is complex, please contact a knowledgeable wage and hour attorney at Workplace Justice Advocates, a Professional Law Corporation, to advise you whether your claim has merit.

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