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Can I Sue My Employer for Not Paying Me Correctly?

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We all have bills and expenses, and many of us have families to care for as well. When we spend most of our lives working, the very least we expect is to be paid appropriately for that work. When it doesn’t happen – either by mistake or because our employers are doing something malicious – it’s a big problem that can have a significant effect on our lives.

Fortunately, there are laws – both state and federal – that mandate how much an employer must pay workers and outlines other laws surrounding wages, breaks, and payment. If you believe your employer is not paying you according to the law, you have options. Always work with an experienced employment attorney to make sure you get what is owed to you.


Wage Laws in California

In California, wage laws offer better protections as compared to federal law and require employers to give their employees a higher compensation. The minimum wage under California state law is $15.50 per hour. In 2024, the minimum wage will increase to $16 per hour.

Concerning overtime wages in the state of California, if you’ve worked over eight hours on any given day, but no greater than 12, expect 1.5 times your standard rate. Any time worked beyond this limit (in excess of 12 hours) will yield twice your regular hourly payment.

There are other laws surrounding wages, but these are the primary ones to be aware of to ensure you get paid what you’re owed.

Steps To Take if You Suspect a Wage Violation

If you suspect a wage violation, here’s the course of action you should take for resolution:

Document Everything

Start by gathering evidence about your working hours, tasks performed, and wages received. Maintain organized records of pay stubs, bank statements, or any communications relevant to your payment terms.

Consult With an Attorney

Speak with an attorney who specializes in employment law so they can help you understand your rights better as well as explore all legal options available at this juncture.

File a Wage Claim or Lawsuit

You have two routes following a suspected wage violation. You can either file a wage claim with your state’s labor department or you can go ahead and file a lawsuit in court.


What are unpaid wages?

Unpaid wages is compensation that you’ve worked for and your employer has not paid you for.

What are examples of unpaid wages?

Unpaid wages could be as simple as failing to pay you the right amount in your paycheck. In other situations, it can be a bit more complicated, like not compensating you, not giving you proper meal breaks, or failing to properly disburse tips.

Does my employer owe me money for unpaid wages?

Your employer may owe you money for unpaid wages if they’ve failed to properly compensate you in line with state or federal laws or according to the terms of your employment contract. If they’ve failed to pay you accordingly, then they owe you unpaid wages.

What California employees are protected by wage and hour laws?

California’s wage and hour laws generally cover all employees working within the state. This means both full- and part-time workers are protected, regardless of whether they’re paid hourly or on a salary basis.

While these protections broadly apply to most workforces, some exceptions exist for certain types of pay — for example, certain managers or administrators could be exempt from overtime pay.

Regardless, an employer has to pay you what you’re owed no matter what your job title or description is.

What can I do if my employer isn’t paying me what they should be?

If you find your employer is not providing the compensation they should be, it’s essential to act promptly. California offers two main routes for action:

  1. File a wage claim. You can submit a wage claim with the state’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (the Labor Commissioner’s Office). This body investigates allegations of non-payment or underpayment.
  2. File a lawsuit. In some scenarios, you may choose to file a lawsuit in court against your employer directly instead of filing a complaint.

Suing for unpaid wages in California can be complicated, so always speak with a lawyer right away.

How long does an employer have to fix a payroll error in California?

In California, if an error is made concerning your wages, your employer should ideally correct the mistake as soon as possible.

However, in situations where time elapses without resolution or response from the company, you have the right to take legal action.

Can I sue my employer for not paying me correctly?

Absolutely. If your employer is not paying you according to the agreed-upon terms or as stipulated by law – such as failing to pay overtime, minimum wage, or making unauthorized deductions from your paycheck – you have the right to take legal action against them. Laws including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) protect workers’ rights for fair compensation and establish guidelines for things like minimum wage and overtime pay. Violation of these laws constitutes wage theft which can be grounds for a lawsuit against an employer.

How much money will I get in an unpaid wages lawsuit in California?

In an unpaid wages lawsuit in California, you could receive the sum that reflects actual earnings that haven’t been paid to you. However, the total amount can be higher based on penalties for specific violations.

For instance, if your employer violated meal period laws, you’re entitled to one additional hour of pay at your regular rate for each workday that your break was not granted.

Additionally, should underpayment by your employer have subsequently caused you to incur further expenses, you can collect compensation for that as well.

How long do I have to file an unpaid wages lawsuit in California?

In California, the timeline for filing an unpaid wages lawsuit varies based on the nature of your claim. If your claim is based on a violation of a statutory right such as not receiving overtime pay, required breaks, or minimum wage payment, you have three years to file from the date of violation.

However, if it pertains to an issue with breach of contract between you and your employer — for example, agreed payment terms weren’t met — the timeframe changes depending upon whether that contract was written or oral.

For breaches under a written contract, you have four years to file a claim. For oral contracts, you have two years to file.

Can I be fired for filing an unpaid wages lawsuit?

Absolutely not. California’s labor laws strongly safeguard employees from facing retaliation for asserting their rights, such as filing an unpaid wages lawsuit. These protections mean that your employer cannot fire you, demote you, or take any other negative action against you in response to your claim.

Contact Gomez Trial Attorneys for Help With Unpaid Wages

Understanding wage and hour laws can be incredibly complex, which is why it’s integral to seek legal advice when contemplating filing a claim. These laws exist to protect your rights as an employee, but navigating them without professional help might mean potentially overlooking critical aspects of your case.

If you believe that these important rights have been violated by your employer in any way, you have legal recourse. Don’t wait; ensure your rights remain protected. Contact us today at 619-237-3490 or use our online contact form for a no-cost initial consultation. We look forward to advocating for you in your pursuit of justice.

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