As an employee in California, it is important to understand your legal rights. Check out these 4 wage and hour tips and call us for a free consultation.
1. Filing a Wage and Hour Claim
I recently sat down with a potential client of mine who came to discuss with me a matter related to a termination. I asked the employee, “Let me see your paycheck stubs,” and the employee says, “Oh, I never got one.” I said, “What do you mean you never got one?” She said, “Yeah, no, they never gave us pay stubs. They always give us checks with nothing attached.” I said, “How long has this been going on for?” She says, “Well, since the new owners bought the company about nine months before.” I said, “What happened before nine months before?” She says, “Well, we did get pay stubs from the previous owner,” and she went out to her car and she got those pay stubs.
It’s interesting, I had a case in which I had the same employee who worked for the same company for two different owners who did two different things. One employer didn’t provide a pay stub at all, which is clearly a violation of California law. In California, you’re entitled to a pay stub at the time that you receive your compensation that identifies who your actual employer is, as well as your hourly rate and the means to calculate all hours worked, including overtime and any deductions. In fact, when she went out to her car and picked out her pay stubs, in looking at the pay stubs, you couldn’t figure out the number of hours that she worked and what the hourly rate was. It just had lump sums. That would change from week to week, or every two weeks, but it was still unclear. Even as an employment lawyer, I couldn’t figure out how many hours she worked and what she was being paid for.
While she came to me with one issue, and we are going to address her termination, there was also this separate issue as to whether or not she was being paid properly and whether or not they were providing paycheck stubs in accordance with California law. California law is extremely protective of its employees. In California, they want to make sure that you know what you’re being paid for, what hours you’re being paid for, and the manner in which you’re being paid and who’s paying you.
If you’re working for an employer and you have questions regarding your pay stubs, or if you’re having issues with regards to any pay, including whether or not you’re being paid properly under California law or are receiving proper meal or rest breaks, it’s important for you to talk to a law firm that can address those issues. If that’s this firm, great, give us a call. We’re happy to discuss with you any issues that you may have. Thanks.
2. Wage Theft
One area of the law that we do and that I’m most proud of, is representing employees that have been subjected to, literally, wage theft by their employer. We’ve had situations in which employees were given paychecks and told that, if they are going to work for the company next week, they’ve got to go cash that check and bring back to the manager cash out of their paycheck. The employer is essentially holding that paycheck hostage or future work hostage, saying the employee needed to pay a kickback to the employer.
We’ve had situations in which we’ve had employees working on jobs that are called prevailing wage jobs, in which they might be a laborer typically making $13, $14 an hour, but on certain worksites – usually government, city, municipalities – they have to pay a much higher rate, a rate that’s called a prevailing wage. That’s sometimes three or four times as much what their normal wage is, and the employer will scale that wage or under report the hours. The employee might work 40 hours, but on their paycheck they’re only getting paid for 20.
It’s important for people to understand that employers can’t steal their wages, either by demanding money out of your pocket right back to the employer or under reporting the number of hour or under reporting the actual hourly wage. In California, wage loss is unlawful. What I’ve noticed, unfortunately, is the reality that this type of wage theft routinely falls on the shoulders of recent immigrants, with a population in which their immigration status is less than clear.
In California, it’s important for you to understand that everybody who works in California has protections. If you feel that you’ve been subjected to wage theft, it’s important for you to talk to an attorney to try and figure out those issues. If you have a family member – a brother or sister, mother or father – who only speaks Spanish or feels comfortable most in speaking Spanish, understand that at the Myers Law Group we’re here to help and that a number of our staff can assist you in bringing your claims, regardless of your immigration status and regardless of whether or not you can speak English or Spanish as your number one language.
If you have any questions or if any of your family have questions, feel free to give us a call. We’re here to help and make sure that people don’t steal the wages that are rightfully owed to you. Thanks, we look forward to talking with you.
3. Unpaid Commission and Bonuses
I recently received a phone call from a salesperson who was frustrated that, despite working for the company, they weren’t being paid pursuant to the pay plan. I asked the question, “Do you know if you were receiving a bonus, or if it was part of a commission plan?” The person I was talking to sort of used those terms bonus and commission interchangeably. It’s interesting, in California law, sometimes the law treats bonuses and commissions differently. Whether or not an employee is entitled to a bonus will depend on certain facts and whether or not the employee is entitled to a commission is based on other facts.
I will say that California law is extremely protective of its employees. California law contemplates that if you work for an employer with the understanding that if you hit these goals, or if you do x, y, and z, or if you stay through this time period, that the employer is expected to pay that compensation. There will be fights between the employer and the employee as to whether or not it’s a discretionary bonus or whether or not it’s an earned commission. It’s important for you to understand that whether or not the employer has to pay you for the compensation that you believe you’re entitled to is a fact-intensive question; it’s not always a yes or no.
If you’ve been working for an employer and you believe you’re entitled to a bonus and/or a commission, it’s important for you to talk to an attorney that can walk you through everything. If you have questions as to compensation for a commission plan or a bonus plan, feel free to give us a call. I’m always happy to walk you through those issues and figure out whether or not you’re entitled to compensation.
4. Overtime Pay
I received a call last week from an employee who had questions regarding something that happened at work. We were having a discussion, and I asked them, “Where were you when this happened?” The employee said, “Well, I was still at work.” I said, “Well, what time did it happen?” They said, “About 6 pm.” I said, “What time did you get there?” They said, “7 am.” I asked the question, “So you were making overtime at the time?” They said, “No, no, no. I’m salaried.” So, we start this question as to how much they made, what type of duties they had, and the client was getting frustrated because I was asking so many questions about their type of work. They kept saying, “I’m not entitled to overtime because my employer told me I wasn’t entitled to overtime.”
As an employment lawyer, just because your employer tells you that you’re not entitled to something, doesn’t mean they’re complying with California law. You take an example like overtime. In California, employees have a lot of protections as to whether or not you’re entitled to overtime. In California, most employees are entitled to overtime after eight hours in a day. Whether or not your employer classifies you as salaried or not isn’t really relevant. If they pay you a flat rate for the entire day, that doesn’t address the issue as to whether or not they have to pay you for compensation over eight hours in a day.
Whether or not you’re entitled to overtime, whether or not your employer has properly classified you as exempt, whether or not you’re working for a flat rate, and whether or not they’re asking you to work off the clock, all of those issues are really fact-intensive questions. I would encourage you, if those are issues that you’re having, or if you’re having issues related to missed meal or rest breaks, or any issues that you have regarding the manner in which you’re being paid, we’re happy to talk with you about those issues. Give us a call if you have any questions regarding any type of wage and hour issues. We’re here to help you.
Are you or a loved one in the process of filing an employment claim in California and have questions about our 4 wage and hour tips? Contact the experienced California employment law attorneys at the Myers Law Group today for a free consultation and case evaluation.
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