Am I entitled to penalties for pay stub/ pay check violations under California wage law?
California has very stringent paycheck stub laws. There is very good reason behind these laws. California’s pay stub laws are intended to help workers figure out whether you are being paid all the wages that you are owed.
Stated differently, they are intended to help you uncover wage theft. Analyzing your pay stubs is essential to figuring out that the company is stealing your wages.
It has been my experience that very few workers understand what is supposed to be on their pay stub and how to use the pay stub in order to determine whether their wages are being stolen.
In this article I lay out when you are entitled to money for California pay stub/ paycheck violations. Find out if you're owed money for pay stub/ paycheck violations under California law. I answer the these questions (and more) about California pay stubs:
What are California's Itemized Employee Wage Statement Laws?
Under California wage and hour laws, your employer has to place specific information on your pay stub/ wage statement. In essence, the pay stub has to inform you - the employee - concerning how you are being paid. You have to be able to look at the pay stub and determine how you are being paid. That is California law.
How much money am I owed for pay stubs that don't have the required information?
You may be entitled to up to $4,000 for California paycheck stub violations
The real world however, is far different. And guess what? If your employer does not comply with these requirements, you can recover up to $4,000 and your attorney fees and costs. Is $4,000 a huge amount of money? No. But what we find is when we do a wage and hour audit of a California employer, these requirements are added to the total amount owed to our clients. And, you will see that the total owed, quickly adds up. I call it the joy of math. So will you.
In legal terms, these cases (or causes of action) are called: Failure to comply with itemized employee wage statement provisions. Or California Labor Code Section 226.
Clients that are happy they got their check in a California Wage Case
What is a California pay stub violation/ paycheck violation? (And am I entitled to money?)
If any of the following 10 things (if you're a piece rate worker, there are more requirements that I list later in this article) are not on your pay stub, then it is a violation of California's strict pay statement rules. And you are owed money for each violation per pay period (see below).
What Are The Ten Things That Need To Be On Each Of My Pay Stubs?
Your employer must provide you - on each pay day an itemized statement of earnings and deductions which includes the following information:
- Your gross wages earned.
- The total hours worked by you.
- The number of piece-rate units earned by you and any applicable piece rate.
- All deductions.
- Your net wages earned.
- The inclusive dates of the period for which you are being paid.
- Your name and the last 4 digits or your social security number.
- The name and address of your employer.
- All applicable hourly rates in effect during the pay period.
- The number of hours worked at each hourly rate by you.
If all of this information is not on your pay stubs, then you may be entitled to up to $4,000.
How much am I owed for each pay stub violation each pay period?
You are owed fifty dollars ($50) for the initial pay period in which a violation occurs and one hundred dollars ($100) per employee for each violation in a subsequent pay period, not to exceed an aggregate penalty of four thousand dollars ($4,000). California Labor Code Section 226(e)(1).
And you are entitled to an award of costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. California Labor Code Section 226(e)(1).
What is the purpose of requiring information on my pay stubs?
One of the purposes of California Labor Code Section 226 is to help you determine whether your employer has compensated you properly (read: not stolen your wages)
The Legislature enacted section 226 to ensure an employer “documents the basis of the employee compensation payments” to assist the employee in determining whether he or she has been compensated properly. Gattuso v. Harte-Hanks Shoppers, Inc., 42 Cal. 4th 554, 574 (2007); Soto v. Motel 6 Operating, L.P., 4 Cal. App. 5th 385, 390-391 (2016).
This is the practical purpose of Labor Code Section 226. To help you make sure you are paid all the wages you’re owed. And if you not paid all the wages you are owed, to help you prove that your wages have been stolen.
In other words, to help you determine whether your employer (or ex-employer) is stealing your hard earned wages.
What you are going to see, based upon our experience is very few employers that pay under a piece rate follow California law. For example: Truck drivers that are paid by mileage, number of stops or by weight; or mechanics that are paid per job done. For hourly workers, many employer don’t list the total deductions.
How do pay stub violations play out in the real world?
When companies don't list all of the wages owed on your pay stub - whether it be for not paying for all time worked, illegally shaving time off your time records, not paying meal period wage premiums, not paying rest period wage premiums, not paying all the overtime you are owed, failing to pay minimum wage and other wage violations; then you can compare your pay stub records, with your time records and/or the time that you work.
This detailed analysis - in conjunction with knowing California wage law - is how you can determine whether you are owed unpaid wages.
Bill Turley is regularly asked to testify before the California State Senate and California State Assembly on wage law.
Confidential, free, no obligation unpaid wages analysis
Do you want to find out if your employer (or ex-employer) owes you money for pay stub violations and/or if you're owed unpaid wages?
Get your confidential, free, no obligation unpaid wages analysis. Get piece of mind.
How do I use my pay stubs to see if I am being cheated out of wages?
Two types of wage statement violations
1) Information is not put on wage statement
2) Stolen wages that are not put on your wage statement
As the Supreme Court held in Murphy:
Labor code Section 226.7(b) creates “an affirmative obligation on the employer to pay the employee one hour of pay. Under the amended version of section 226.7, an employee is entitled to the additional hour of pay immediately upon being forced to miss a rest or meal period. In that way, a payment owed pursuant to section 226.7 is akin to an employee's immediate entitlement to payment of wages or for overtime.”
Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc., 40 Cal. 4th 1094, 1108 (2007).
Is not putting wages owed for missed meal periods and rest periods on my pay stub a violation?
Is auto-deduct meal periods / deduction for meal periods a pay stub violation?
Bill represented the workers in the landmark
California Supreme Court case -
Brinker vs Superior Court
(Maybe the most important wage case
for the protection of workers)
Bill represented the workers in the 2012 groundbreaking California Supreme Court case - Brinker vs. Superior Court. Many people say that the Brinker case is the most important California Supreme Court wage and hour case in years (if not ever).
One of the worker protection concepts in the Brinker decision that keeps getting repeated again and again:
“When construing the California Labor Code, California courts are to adopt the construction that best gives effect to the purpose of the Legislature and Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC). The purpose of these laws is the protection of workers. In furtherance of that purpose, California courts are to liberally construe the Labor Code and Wage Orders to favor protection of workers.”
What is supposed to be on my pay stub if I am a piece rate worker?
In addition to all of the information that must be on every workers pay stub (see above) your employer must also put the following information on your pay stub if you are a piece rate worker:
1. Your piece rate wages must be on your pay stub. That is, the number of piece-rate units earned by you and any applicable piece rate.
2. All of your non-productive time and the rate you are being paid for the non-productive time.
3. The time for rest periods and applicable hourly rate for your rest periods.
If these aren't on your pay stub, if you're a piece rate worker - then it is a violation of California's pay stub rules. You may be entitled to $4,000 and the amount of the unpaid wages.
Here is my take - almost every piece rate worker has some unproductive time per pay period.
If there is no non-productive time on your pay stub, you almost definitely have pay stub violations, owed unpaid wages and waiting time penalties.
Even 2 minutes a day, will add up to you being owed thousands of dollars in unpaid wages.
What is the knowing and intentional requirement for California pay stubs?
Why should I not be so concerned with the "Knowing and Intentional" requirement?
I suggest that you don't get caught up on this "knowing and intentional" part because a company is just about as able to get away with this "knowing and intentional" defense as you are to win the lottery this week. While, it's possible, it sure doesn't happen in the real world very often.
Lab Code Section 226(e)(1) (Emphasis added).
While there have been a few Federal District Courts which have addressed this issue, as of the time of publication of this book, only one California Appellate Court has addressed this “knowing and intentional” standard.
Accidental omissions and a knowing and intentional failure
A mistake of law does is not a defense to the “knowing and intentional” part of Labor Code Section 226
You don’t have to prove the company knew it’s pay stubs were illegal
Are you owed money wages for other California wage law violations?
Representing workers all over California
Bill Turley has a State-wide practice. While his main office is in San Diego, Bill handles cases for workers all over California.
Call us at 619-304-1000 - If you call after regular business hours, when you leave a message, be sure to repeat your name and telephone number twice, so we get it correctly. And be sure to indicate whether it's okay if we respond by text.
Text us at 858-281-8008 - Be sure and put "new wage case" in your text.
Or leave us a message on this webpage.
Disclaimer: Please understand these discussions and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. This testimonial, endorsement and/or discussion does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation and/or this particular case/ situation.