Do I have a valid California wage claim?
Folks get referred to us when they aren’t getting the wages that they are entitled to under California law. Probably the most common questions that we get are:
“Do I have a California wage case?” or
“Do I have a California pay lawsuit case?”
And followed closely are these two related questions:
“Is it worth it for me to bring a California wage claim?” and
“Should I bring a claim for unpaid wages in California?”
All of these questions are closely related. And they are all really good questions.
California has very powerful worker friendly wage laws
Under California law, a small amount of wages owed - say $20 or even less - can turn into thousands and thousands of unpaid wages and penalties. In this article we have case studies in order for you to get a better idea of what the potential value of your California unpaid wages lawsuit may be worth.
You will see from these case studies that even relatively small amount of wages can result in very significant unpaid wages and penalties owed to you. I have changed the names in most of these Case Studies in order to protect the innocent. And the guilty.
In order for you to get an idea of whether or not you have a valid California wage claim, I strongly suggest that you review the Case Studies in this article. These Case Studies will demonstrate how powerful California's wage laws are and how a seemingly "small case" can have very significant potential value.
Knowledge really is power. And when you combine that knowledge into taking action - that is, filing a claim for unpaid wages - then you may recover thousands and thousands of dollars in unpaid wages and penalties.
In this article I answer and/or address these questions and more:
Do I have a valid California wage claim?
How can I find out if I have a California pay claim?
Do I have a California wage case?
Do I have a California pay lawsuit case?
Is it worth it for me to bring a California wage claim?
Should I bring a claim for unpaid wages in California?
What should I do if I believe I have a wage claim in California?
Can I bring or should I bring a California wage claim/ pay case over a small amount of money wages?
“Should I bring a claim for unpaid wages in California? ....
Getting your settlement check for unpaid wages....
Do I have a valid California wage claim?
Not to give you a weasel lawyer like answer - but the honest answer is that it depends.
If you suspect that you’re not getting all of the wages that you are entitled to, then you will need to look at the substantive law for however you’re not getting paid the wages that you are owed under California law. This website is the most comprehensive website for California wage law.
At the end ot this article, I provide links to articles on all of the common ways employees in California are owed money for unpaid wages.
But if you are looking for a quicker answer, you are welcome to contact our office. This is the best, quickest way for you to figure out: How can I find out if I have a California pay claim?
Is it worth it for me to bring a California wage claim? ... "But I'm only owed a small amount of wages. So it won't be worth bringing an unpaid wages claim." and other misconceptions .... The penalties for companies not paying wages owed to you can be thousands of dollars
Some people seem to think that just because they are owed a small amount of money, that it's just not worth pursing an unpaid wages case. While that is understandable, the truth is, they may be looking at a lot of money in unpaid wages and penalties.
What they don't realize is that the penalties for not paying wages can be thousands of dollars under California's strict wage laws.
A case study: not being paid for 2-3 minutes a day = over $8,000 in wages and penalties under California wage laws
Let me give you a quick example.
I spoke to a nice lady this past week. Shelly told me about having to wait in a security line at her former job. It seems every shift there was a security line that they had to go through when leaving the workplace. The time in the security line was after the workers had clocked out.
The security line wait was "only" about 2-3 minutes a shift. But Shelly wasn't getting paid for while she waited. Shelly said that it just didn't seem worth it to her for 2-3 minutes a day. At $15 an hour. that wasn't much money, she was thinking.
But, her friend told Shelly that she should call my office and ask about it. Shelly's friend, Mary, had been in one of our previous wage class action cases and Mary had gotten a BIG (high, four figures) settlement check. Mary was insistent that she should call us and get our take.
We hadn't been talking for 10 minutes, when I told Shelly that she was going to be happy that she called. Because, under California law, the penalties for not paying wages are oftentimes, much more than the wages that are owed. So we drilled down further and this is what we figured out.
In Shelly's situation, she was owed paycheck stub violations because all of her hours worked and the pay owed was not on her pay stubs. This alone, was potentially $4,000.
In addition, Shelly is owed waiting time penalties because all of her wages owed were not paid timely at time of termination.
$15 x 8 hours a day = $ 120
$120 x 30 days = $ 3,600
In addition, Shelly is looking at a whole host of potential PAGA wage violations.
All totaled Shelly is looking a potentially being owed over $8,000 in wages and penalties under California wage laws.
Now, this isn’t a guarantee of what she will get. We usually bring these type of cases as wage class actions or PAGA wage cases. Thus, the costs of the case are spread out for all of the employees of the company. Which makes it worth while to bring the case.
In addition, the person or persons that actually bring the case are usually awarded more money for their release of claim and sometimes as an enhancement (and/or extra release money) by the court. Of course, these settlements always have to be approved by the Court.
Why is Bill Turley asked to testify concerning wage law legislation at the California State Senate and the California Assembly?
Because Bill's known as a No B.S. straight-shooter lawyer
Believe it or not, Bill is known for being a no B.S. straight-up lawyer. Besides being known as one of the leading experts on this area of the law in California, one of the reasons why Bill is asked to testify at legislature hearings is because he is known for being straight-forward and blunt. He is known for being no B.S., with no lawyer-talk, no double-talk.
A case study - turning $102.67 into $7,222.67 in unpaid wages/ penalties
California wage laws are powerful. One way to demonstrate that is to look at another actual case.
Let’s take a look at the Troester v. Starbucks case. This is a recent 2018 California Supreme Court case. The case illustrates many principals.
First, is that the California Supreme Court “get’s it.” They understand what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck. They understand how hard it is when your getting paid by the hour.
Second, the case illustrates the power of California wage law. Meaning, how a relatively small amount of wages owed - can turn into a lot of unpaid wages and penalties.
You shouldn’t think this is somehow unfair to the company. The whole idea behind these wages laws it to provide incentive to companies to pay employees the wages that you’re owed under the law.
In the Troester case, Starbucks was saying that it they didn’t have to pay the employees 2-3 minutes a day after the employees clock out and were closing down the Starbucks store. Starbucks said this time was minimal time and Starbucks shouldn’t have to pay for this time. The legal doctrine that employers shouldn’t have to pay for this minimal time is the “de minimis doctrine.”
As you can see here, the California Supreme Court didn’t buy it. They saw how a few extra minutes a day can really add up. Here is what the California Supreme Court said in the Troester case:
“An employer that requires its employees to work minutes off the clock on a regular basis or as a regular feature of the job may not evade the obligation to compensate the employee for that time by invoking the de minimis doctrine. As the facts here demonstrate, a few extra minutes of work each day can add up.
Troester(the person brining the wage case) is seeking payment for ...$ 102.67...
That is enough to pay a utility bill, buy a week of groceries, or cover a month of bus fares. What Starbucks calls “de minimis” is not de minimis at all to many ordinary people who work for hourly wages.”
Troester v. Starbucks Corp., 5 Cal. 5th 829, 847 (2018).
Now, let’s look at what this means in today’s dollars. Because the company didn’t put the proper hours worked and the proper wages paid on the paycheck stubs, you would be looking at $4,000 in paystub violations. California Labor Code Section 226.
According to glassdoor.com the typical Starbucks hourly pay is $13 an hour. Thus, assuming you work 8 hours a day, then you are entitled to 30 days pay for waiting time penalties. California Labor Code Section 203.
$13 x 8 hours a day = $104
30 days x $104 = $3,120
In addition you’re also looking at significant PAGA violations and additional penalties for California Labor Code violations and California Wage Order violations.
However, if we were just add up the lost wages, the paycheck stub violations and the waiting time penalties - - you would be looking at $7,222.67 in unpaid wages/ penalties.
And we haven’t even done an unpaid wages analysis in order to determine what other wages and/or penalties that you may be owed.
So, as you can see. Is it is worth it to bring a wage claim in California for a small amount of wages? You might think so if $102.67 in unpaid wages turned into $7,222.67 in unpaid wages/ penalties.
Do I have a California wage case? ... These folks are happy with their unpaid wages case!
Getting your wage case settlement check. Yes!!!
A case study: Warehouse worker - 10 minute rest breaks = owed $14,820 in rest break premiums
In a recent case, we have a warehouse worker, Tom, who had called us to see what he could do because tom was fired because he was late to work and wanted to see what he could do about it. As it turns out, he had been given a bunch of warnings about being late, so the “wrongful firing” case didn’t look too promising.
Tom, the warehouse worker, asked if there was anything else we could do for him because he wasn’t happy with the company letting him go.
I asked Tom about the warehouse rest breaks and meal breaks. Tom said, “I got 10 minute rest breaks and 30 minute lunch breaks, so we were good there.” I hear this a lot. Folks thinking that they don’t have a case for meal breaks and rest breaks (and other potential wage law violations). But when you drill down, we see that the company hasn’t followed California wage law.
Tom told me that it was a big warehouse and that the workers got a 10 minute rest break. They had 10 minutes to walk to the break room and they had to be back at their work station in 10 minutes.
What most folks don’t realize is that there was a recent California Supreme Court case - Augustus vs. ABM held that you’re entitled to a net 10 minutes, at a suitable resting facility. And, importantly, part of the 10 minutes can’t be used to walk back and forth to the break room. Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc., 2 Cal. 5th 257, 270 (2016).
In other words, you have to get 10 minutes of rest time in the break room. Since the company gave the workers a 10 minute break in the warehouse, and the workers had to walk to the break room and back during that 10 minutes, this isn’t a legal rest break under California law.
As it turns out, I know the Augustus case really well, because I wrote the winning Supreme Court brief in the case.
And, under California law, whenever you don’t get a rest break, you’re entitled to an hour’s pay.
So, conservatively, one rest break at day at $19 an hour (this is what he was paid per hour) is $19 a day. He had worked there for three years. Thus, the amount of rest break premium pay he is owed is as follows:
$19 x 260 days a year = $ 4,940
$4940 x 3 years = $ 14,820
In addition, Tom is entitled to paycheck stub violations and waiting time penalties. Lubin v. The Wackenhut Corp., 5 Cal. App. 5th 926, 959 (2016).
As you can see, this can really add up fast. Tom is entitled to $14,820 for not getting a net 10 minute rest break!
Shorted $18 on a paycheck = $8,640 in unpaid wages and penalties
Dave, a construction worker, called our office about not getting paid for time that he spent at work at a 30 minute safety meeting. The company didn't pay the workers for a pre-shift safety meeting that the general contractor made all the workers on the project attend when the project first started. Dave asked his foreman about getting paid for the safety meeting. His foreman said that the company owner wasn't going to pay for the time at the safety meeting because the meeting was called by the general contractor.
I asked further about it and Dave, said that it was his company's foreman that said attendance at the safety meeting was mandatory. All the employees of the sub-contractor were required to attend the meeting.
Under California law, you are entitled to get paid for all of the time that you work. It is a "suffer or permit" to work standard. Martinez v. Combs, 49 Cal. 4th 35, 64 (2010). Since his employer required the workers to attend the safety meeting, then the company had to pay for that time. Even if it was the general contractor who told the subcontractors that the sub-contractor employees had to attend the safety meeting.
Dave earned $36 an hour, thus he is owed $18 in unpaid wages.
Since he wasn't paid all of his wages at time of termination, he is entitled to waiting time penalties of 30 days wages.
$36 x 8 hours a day = $288
$288 times 30 days = $8,640
Thus, Dave is owed $8,658 in unpaid wages and penalties.
$7.50 in unpaid overtime each week = wages and penalties of $8,725 .... Restaurant that provides meals to the workers and doesn’t include the meals in the regular rate of pay
$ 195 overtime wages
$ 715 total wages
$ 20 weekly value for the meals
$ 540 total regular wages
$ 202.50 overtime wages
$ 722.50 total wages
- $ 715.00
Case study: 4 minutes of unpaid time each day -Office worker - not paid while logs on and off computer each shift: = Total unpaid wages and penalties of $9,420
Should I bring a wage claim?
Assuming that you have a wage claim, a separate question is whether or you should actually bring a wage claim. One way to approach this is that the company you work for - or used to work for has not paid you the money that you are entitled to under the law. This is your money that we are talking about. DO you think that the company needs your money more than you do?
There is a certain satisfaction in getting back the money that you are owed by the company. We file these cases as wage class action cases or Private Attorney Generals Act (PAGA) wage cases. Wage cases are expensive to bring. By bringing them as class actions and/or PAGA cases the costs of the case are spread out among all the workers.
Picture what you can do with the money
Some of our clients have put a down payment on a house, bought a car, sent their kid to college, spruced up their homes or just put the money away for a rainy day.
That's up to you. The important part is knowing that your California wage rights were violated and what you can do about it.
The bottom line
What I've tried to show you here is how a relatively small amount of money can really end up being quite a bit of money.
Questions or if you need help right now?
Articles that will help you determine whether you have a valid wage claim under California Wage Laws
Am I owed waiting time penalties?
Not getting paid for all time worked
What is time shaving?
This article isn't legal advice
These discussions, Case Studies, and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. These testimonials, endorsements, photos, Case Studies and/or discussions do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation. Every case is different. There are any number of reasons why class actions are not certified, not won and/or PAGA actions are not successful.