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It All Adds Up
If you are considering filing a wage violation lawsuit against your employer, you may have already calculated the amount of back wages you are owed. However, there are several California laws that can affect the amount of your damages—and in many cases, it can be thousands of dollars more than an employee has estimated.
Types of Damages and Penalties in California Wage Violation Lawsuits
There are two types of financial awards in California wage and hour cases. The first are damages, which are monies you earned and are rightfully owed (such as back wages). The second are penalties, and are additional funds paid by your employer as a consequence of violating the law.
Employees can be awarded the following in a California wage and hour claim:
- Unpaid wages. If you were not paid for all of your work hours, your back pay award should be no less than your total unpaid hours multiplied by your hourly rate of pay.
- Unpaid overtime. If any of your hours worked totaled over 40 hours in a single week or over 8 hours in a single day, you may be eligible to receive time and a half for every hour worked over these amounts. In addition, employees who worked over 12 hours in one day may be owed twice their regular wage rate.
- Missed breaks. Under California law, employees receive regular rest and meal breaks, depending on the lengths of their shifts. Employees are owed unpaid 30-minute meal breaks in any shift over five hours, as well as an unpaid 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked. Although these breaks are unpaid, California employers will have to compensate employees if they are not provided—up to one hour of pay per meal break or rest break violation.
- Minimum wage violations. Your employer may owe you liquidated damages if you were paid less than minimum wage (currently $10/hr) for any hours worked. The reasoning behind liquidated damages is that, by failing to pay you a living wage, the employer has cost you additional economic losses. Liquidated damaged are paid in addition to unpaid wages and unpaid overtime.
- Incorrect wage statements. In California, employers are required to provide information on each paycheck, such as each employee’s hourly rate, hours worked, gross pay, and tax deductions. If your employer did not provide accurate information on your pay stub, your employer may be ordered to pay $100 per violation of the law, up to a total of $4,000.
- Final paycheck penalties. If you leave employment, you are entitled to receive the full amount of your paycheck in a timely manner. Under California law, if your employer does not send your paycheck within 72 hours, or has not included the correct amount of compensation for overtime or unused vacation time, you may be owed an additional full day’s wages in waiting time penalties for every day your employer is late.
- Payday law violations. California allows employees to sue employers as “private attorneys general,” or sue on behalf of the state for any Labor Code violations. This may be beneficial if you were not paid on designated paydays at least twice a month, and did not receive overtime or correct wages. However, if an employee files as a private attorney general, 75% of the funds collected will go to the state.
For more information on fair pay in California, read through our free guide, The Ultimate Straight Talk Guide To Getting Your Hard Earned Wages Back.