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California Minimum Wage: How to double the wages owed to you under California wage law

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When California Employers Fail to Pay Employees Minimum Wages

You know how difficult it is when you're not paid wages that you are owed. It's very, very stressful. When  you have bills due and you don't have the money to pay them because you weren't paid fairly, it stinks. When you're not paid the wages you're owed, you need to know that and what you can do about it. 

This webpage tells you what the law is when you're not paid wages that you are owed. Our California wage and hour lawyers answer your questions about what you can do when you're not paid the minimum wages that you are owed. 

We suggest that you don't think that California minimum wage laws only apply to you if you're a "minimum wage worker." Because that isn't the case. As it turns out, California minimum wage laws apply to almost every hourly worker in California. 

We answer these questions and much more: 


What can I do if I’m not paid the California minimum wage (or not paid for all the time that I work)?
 
What does minimum wage mean?

What is the California minimum wage? 

Are the California minimum wage rates increasing each year?

Does California have different minimum wage rates depending on the size of the employer? 

Are there local minimum wage laws in California (cities and counties)? 

Need help getting your wages right now? 
 
Can I agree to take less than the California minimum wage per hour?

Can some workers in California be paid less than minimum wage? (California minimum wage exemptions)

Are there California minimum wage exemptions for salaried employees that are in all the California Wage Orders?

Is there a California "Minimum Wage Order?" 

If I'm not paid minimum wages, what else can I recover? (Attorney fees, costs and interest). 
 
What are liquidated damages under California law? 

How can I double the minimum wages owed to me with liquidated damages?

What else should I know about liquidated damages and minimum wage? 

How does this play out in the real world? 

Can you give me some examples of how companies fail to pay minimum wage? (don't miss this) 

Can a few minutes a day where you’re not being paid add up? YES! According to the California Supreme Court

Do California minimum wage laws apply to many workers that are not paid at the minimum wage? YES!!!!

If I am a waiter, waitress, bartenders or an employee that works for tips, does California minimum wage laws apply to me?

What are the ways that I can enforce the rights to the wages that I'm owed?
 

What can I do if I’m not paid the California minimum wage (or not paid for all the time that I work)?

California labor laws require employees to be paid at least the State minimum wage (please see the above discussion on the exemptions). But what happens if your employer doesn’t pay you the State minimum wage or doesn’t pay you for all the time that you worked?

What can you do about that?

A lot, actually. California has very strong worker protection laws. 
 

How do I know this? 

I helped make these laws. I represented the workers in what many people believe is the biggest and most important wage protection case by the California Supreme Court  - Brinker vs. Superior Court -  and I wrote winning briefs in other recent California Supreme Court decisions - Augustus vs. ABM and Williams vs. Superior Court. I helped draft recent changes to the California Labor Code that help protect your wages. I regularly testify before the California State Senate and California Assembly on unpaid wages legislation.
 
I'm not telling you this to brag, but so you'll know two things. First, that I am an authority on this area of the law and that I know what I'm talking about. Second, so you'll know that my heart is with you - workers that haven't been paid what  you are owed.
 

California wage laws protect you

The reason why California law protects you is that California Supreme Court knows what it's like to not be paid the wages that you are owed.
 
From  Brinker, Augustus, Williams, Troester and all California Supreme Court cases that protect your right to get paid the wages that you are owed.

The California Supreme Court realizes how tough it is when you can't make your rent or put food table because you weren't paid what you're owed on time.  When this happens, the law helps you get tough on the company that didn’t pay you the wages that you earned. That's when California's strong worker protection laws come in. And, that's where I come in - I help folks get paid the money they are owed.
 
At the end of this article, I discuss the ways that you can enforce your right to the wages that you are owed. So, pull up and chair, while we cover your rights to get paid minimum wages and for you to get paid for all the time that you worked.
 

Bill Turley is regularly called to testify before the California State Senate and California Assembly on California wage laws 

 
Bill Turley testifying at California State Senate regarding California wage laws.
 

What does minimum wage mean?

“Minimum wage” is a fixed amount as the least amount workers can be paid. Minimum wage laws are based upon a hours work and the lowest wage permitted to be paid for an hours work.

What is the California minimum wage? 

In 2019, the California statewide minimum wage is:


$12.00 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees; and
$11.00 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. However, all California workers must be paid at least the California state minimum wage. 

 

Are the California minimum wage rates increasing each year?

From 2017 to 2023, the California minimum wage is set to increase each year. See the chart below. 

Does California have different minimum wage rates depending on the size of the employer? 

California has a different minimum wage for employers depending on the size of the employer. The cutoff is 25 or fewer employees and 26 or more employees. 

The following table shows what the minimum wage will be between 2017 and 2023.

Year     Employers - 26 or more employees       Employers - 25 or fewer employees
2017     $10.50/hour                                         $10.00/hour
2018     $11.00/hour                                         $10.50/hour
2019     $12.00/hour                                         $11.00/hour
2020     $13.00/hour                                         $12.00/hour
2021     $14.00/hour                                         $13.00/hour
2022     $15.00/hour                                         $14.00/hour
2023     $15.00/hour                                         $15.00/hour

 

Are there local minimum wage laws in California (cities and counties)? 

In addition, there are many localities in California with higher minimum wage laws. If you work in a California city or county that has a higher local minimum wage than  you must be paid at least the local minimum wage rate. 

Examples of California cities and counties local minimum wage rates: 

Berkeley          10/1/2018   $15.00/ hour

Los Angeles      7/1/2019      $14.25/ hour larger employers (over 25)

                                               $13.25/ hour smaller employers 

                           7/1/2019      $15.00/ hour larger employers (over 25)

                                               $14.25/ hour smaller employers 

San Diego        1/7/2019        $ 11.50/ hour 

San Francisco  7/1/2018        $15.00/ hour

Need help getting your wages right now? 

Call us at 619-304-1000 or fill out the contact form on this web page. 

Can I agree to take less than the California minimum wage per hour?

Under California law employees can not "agree" to accept less per hour than the legal minimum wage. Your employer can't force you or pressure you to accept less than the California minimum wage. And under California law, you can't "waive" receiving less than the California minimum wage. California Labor Code Section 1194.

 

Can some workers in California be paid less than minimum wage? (California minimum wage exemptions)

Some workers in California do not have to be paid the California minimum wage.  These include the following: 

Outside salespeople (California Labor Code Section 1171); Ramirez v. Yosemite Water Co., Inc. (1999) 20 Cal.4th 785, 793. (The Wage Order “provides that an employee be considered an outside salesperson if he or she works more than half the working time away from the employer's place of business selling items or obtaining orders.”)

Student employees (California Labor Code 1182.4

Camp counselors (California Labor Code 1182.4) 

National service program workers (California Labor Code Section 1171

Mentally or physically handicapped workers (California Labor Code Section 1191

Babysitters 

 

Are there California minimum wage exemptions for salaried employees that are in all the California Wage Orders?

California has Wage Orders that cover various industries. There are some exemptions to minimum wage that are in every California Wage Order:

- Executive exemption (Ex. Wage Order 9 1.(A)(1)). 

- Administrative exemption (Ex. Wage Order 9 1.(A)(2)). 

- Professional employees (Ex. Wage Order 9 1.(A)(3)). 

In order to qualify for these exemptions, the "employee must also earn a monthly salary equivalent to no less than two (2) times the state minimum wage for full-time employment. Full-time employment is defined in Labor Code Section 515(c) as 40 hours per week." 

 

Is there a California "Minimum Wage Order?" 

Yes. One of the California Wage Orders is called the California Minimum Wage Order.  It is the official Notice of the California minimum wage. 

 

If I'm not paid minimum wages, what else can I recover? (Attorney fees, costs and interest).  

Under California law, if you are not paid at least minimum wage, you are allowed to recover attorney fees, interest and costs of bring the lawsuit to recover your unpaid minimum wages. California Labor Code Section 1194.
 
 

What are liquidated damages under California law? 

Under California law, employers must pay employees at least the minimum wage and legal overtime compensation for overtime that is worked. California Labor Code Section 1194.  If you aren’t paid at least minimum wage then you may be entitled to liquidated damages. Which is double the minimum wage rate.  California Labor Code Section 1194.2 (a).
 
Stated differently, under California law, if you aren't paid at least minimum wage for all the time that you work - then you may be able to recover twice the minimum wage rate in what the law calls liquidated damages. 
 
The “liquidated damages” allowed in section 1194.2 are in effect a penalty equal to the amount of unpaid minimum wages. Martinez v. Combs, 49 Cal. 4th 35, 48 (2010).
You cannot recover liquidated damages under section 1194.2 unless you have a valid claim under California Labor Code Section 1194. California Labor Code Section 1194.2 (a).
 

How can I double the minimum wages owed to me with liquidated damages? 

Yes, you read that correctly. If you aren't paid minimum wages, under California liquidated damages law, you can double the amount of wages owed to you. 

Under the California Labor Code section 1194.2 you may be entitled to liquidated damages.  This is not based upon contract, but is a remedy based upon California wage law.

 

If your employer fails to pay you at least the minimum wage, then you can recover the total in unpaid minimum wages, plus an additional penalty of "liquidated damages@ in an amount equal to the minimum wages owed.

 

For example, if you are owed $5,000 in unpaid minimum wages going back the last four years, then you may recover an additional $5,000 in liquidated damages for these same minimum wage violations.

 

When used properly, the liquidated damages provision can double your claim for unpaid minimum wages.

 

 

What else should I know about liquidated damages and minimum wage? 

 

You cannot recover liquidated damages under section 1194.2 unless you have a valid claim under section 1194. (See  Section 1194.2(a)) Martinez v. Combs (2010) 49 Cal.4th 35, 49, fn. 11.

The “liquidated damages” allowed in section 1194.2 are in effect a penalty equal to the amount of unpaid minimum wages. Martinez v. Combs (2010) 49 Cal.4th 35, 48, fn. 8.

Clients smiling with their settlement checks from a California unpaid wages case.
It feels really good when you get your check for unpaid wages owed to you!

How does this play out in the real world? 

What you are going to see is very view companies pay workers less than minimum wage for the time that workers are paid for. Meaning, very few companies are purposely paying for each hour worked at a rate less than minimum wage.  For example, it the California minimum wage is $12 an hour, very few companies are hiring workers and telling them that they are getting, say, $10 an hour. 

But nevertheless, I see companies failing to pay minimum wage all the time. How does this go down? 

Can you give me some examples of how companies fail to pay minimum wage? (don't miss this) 

Time shaving

Sometimes companies just shave time. For example, supervisors will go into your time records and "shave" or deduct time from you. So, instead of working 7 hours, your time records will show you worked 6.5 hours. Tine shaving actually occurs more than you might think. This is another reason why you should have a wage audit done. 

Security lines 

Many companies make employees go through security lines before they clock in and after they clock out. This is illegal under California law. 

Opening and closing a business 

Many companies have employees clock out and then close the business. Or they have employees open the business( turn on the lights and computers, for example), before they clock in. This is illegal under California law. 

Being on duty during meal breaks

If you are subject to any duty or control of the employer during meal breaks, then you are not getting paid for all time worked. 

Logging on and off a computer 

Many companies require workers to log onto a computer in order to record their work time. The time that you spend logging on or waiting for the computer to turn on and logging off or waiting for the computer to turn off - is compensable work time.  You must be paid for this time if it is a "regular" occurrence. 

Walking to and from where you clock in

If you have to walk to your workstation in order to clock in and this takes more than a minute - then the company is required to pay you for this time. For example, in one case we are currently working on, the employees have to clock into their workstations on the 6th floor (the company has the entire building). All of the employees have to go to their workstation and "clock-in" by using the telephone at their workstation. This takes from 2-5 minutes per employee. 

Thus, the company owes these employees at least the agreed upon rate and/or minimum wage and liquidated damages for this uncompensated work time. 

 

Liquidated damages revisited 

Thus, if you aren't getting paid for all of the time that you work - such as time shaving, waiting in security lines, opening and closing a business, not being relieved of all duty while on meal breaks, logging on and off a computer, checking emails while you're not at work or "on the clock" - then you are entitled to at least the minimum wage rate and liquidated damages.  

 

Need help getting your wages right now? 

Call us at 619-304-1000 or fill out the contact form on this web page. 


Can a few minutes a day where you’re not being paid add up? YES! According to the California Supreme Court

As the California Supreme Court explained:


In light of the wage order's remedial purpose requiring a liberal construction, its directive to compensate employees for all time worked...  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. According to the Ninth Circuit, Troester is seeking payment for 12 hours and 50 minutes of compensable work over a 17-month period, which amounts to $ 102.67 at a wage of $ 8 per hour. 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. (2018) 5 Cal.5th 829, 847. 

 

Do California minimum wage laws apply to many workers that are not paid at the minimum wage?

YES!!!!

Most workers get all hung up on the minimum wage part. If you aren't paid for any time that you are subject to the duties, control and/or direction of the company - - then you are not getting paid for all time that you worked. Thus, you are subject to the failure to minimum wage violation. 

Say you earn $19 an hour and the California minimum wage is $12 and hour. And you aren't paid for 5 minutes a day. Then under the liquidated damages law, you are owed double the minimum wage - or $24 an hour. Get it? 

 

If I am a waiter, waitress, bartenders or an employee that works for tips, does California minimum wage laws apply to me? 

Yes. Under California wage laws waiters, waitresses, bartenders and/or a person that works for tips are not exempt from California minimum wage laws. 

 

What are the ways that I can enforce the rights to the wages that I'm owed?

I discuss this in a lot more depth in this article on what you can do if you're not paid your wages on time. But, here are your options under California law of what you can do if you're not paid minimum wage and/or not paid for all the time that you work

There are five ways to bring a wage claim in California.
 
  • File an individual wage lawsuit;
  • File an unpaid wages class action lawsuit;
  • Bring an wages arbitration claim;
  • Bring an wages PAGA lawsuit;
  • Bring a wage claim with the California Labor Commissioner's office
 
 
Again, I lay out the pros and cons of these options of how you can enforce your wage rights in California in this article.

 

Not all lawyers are alike

Lawyers have far different expertise and experience in handling different legal matters. We are only telling you all of this so you know that Bill Turley has the experience, resources and skill to handle unpaid wages class action cases and Private Attorney General Act cases. 

We are not telling you all this to brag, but to let you know that Bill has the skill and resources needed to prevail in class action lawsuits and/or PAGA lawsuits.

All lawyers are not alike. Putting aside all of the awards and accolades - Bill is also known for being blunt and honest.

Bill Turley was named "California's leading Wage and Hour Class Action Lawyer" for a reason. 

 

“I give it to you straight. No sugar added. 

No lawyer talk, no double talk.

Just old fashioned, unsweetened truth.”

California Employment Lawyer - Bill Turley

 

Need help getting your wages right now? 

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.

William Turley
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“When I seek out professional advice, I don’t want B.S., I want it straight up. I figure you do also.”
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