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What Damages Could You Be Owed in Your California Wage Violation Lawsuit?

How do I figure out how much wages that I should get? 

California has the most worker friendly wage laws. Under California law, you can be owed as little as $20 or less in wages and the penalties can be for thousands and thousands of dollars. You may be owed A LOT of money in unpaid wages and penalties.

In this article, we show you how to figure out/ calculate how much you're owed in wages under California wage and hour laws. 

When the company/ your employer (or former employer) violate the California Labor CodeCalifornia Wage Orders and/or California's PAGA laws; you may be entitled to A LOT of money in unpaid wages and/or penalties

In this article, I answer these questions and/or address the following issues:

How can I determine how much in unpaid wages I am owed?

How much am I owed in unpaid wages?

Why is Bill Turley asked to testify at the California State Senate and California State Assembly on wage and hour laws?

It All Adds Up

How do I figure out how much money I'm owed in unpaid wages?... Calculating Damages (your wages owed) and Penalties in California Wage Violation Lawsuits

Unpaid wages

How to calculate unpaid wages (failure to pay for all time you worked):

Unpaid overtime

How to calculate overtime owed:

Missed meal breaks and missed rest breaks

How to calculate meal and rest period premiums owed

Minimum wage violations

Calculating minimum wage owed

Incorrect wage statements

Calculating wage statement violations

Final paycheck penalties (waiting time penalties)

Calculating waiting time penalties

Reimbursement for business expenses

Calculating business expenses

PAGA Penalties

Adding it all up

What is my unpaid wage claim worth?


How can I determine how much in unpaid wages I am owed? 

If you suspect that you aren't getting paid all the wages you are owed, you are probably wondering, "How can I figure out how much I'm owed in unpaid wages?"  The good news is that there is a fairly easy way to figure this out. I will get to that shortly.  

California has some of the strongest, if not the strongest wages laws in America. According to recent studies, employers fail to pay workers in California hundreds of millions of dollars each year in unpaid wages. Since you’re reading this, you are probably one of them.

Based on what I see, while many folks suspect their employer is not paying them all of the wages they have earned, nobody really realizes the extent of how many different ways they are being cheated out of wages and how much it all adds up to.

Meaning that most employers, if they aren’t paying you your hard earned wages in one way, they are probably doing it a bunch of other ways also.

Oftentimes these amounts can seem small. A few minutes here or a few minutes there. But when you add them up over the course of a month or a year - they really add up. And if they’re doing it to you, they’re almost always doing it to other workers also.

I go through each type of money wage awards in this article. So, be sure to keep scrolling down on this page until you find the section you're looking for. 

How do I figure out (calculate) how much money I am owed in unpaid wages?

How much am I owed in unpaid wages? 

In this article I cover some of the areas you should look into in order to determine first if you're owed unpaid wages and next, how much you are owed in unpaid wages. A word of caution here. In calculating the unpaid wages you're owed you need to know the time period for which you can recover for each separate type of unpaid wages. This is known in law as the "statute of limitation." Or the time limit you have to bring a particular claim. 

For more on unpaid wages statutes of limitations click here. 

Again, be sure to keep scrolling down on this page if you don't initially find what you're looking for. 

Why is Bill Turley asked to testify at the

California State Senate and California State Assembly on wage and hour laws? 

How do I figure out (calculate) how much money I am owed in unpaid wages?  Wages Class action lawyer - Bill Turley


A No B.S. straight-shooter lawyer

Believe it or not, Bill Turley 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.

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 you estimated. This is because California has substantial penalties for unpaid wages. Including pay check stub violations (up to $4,000), waiting time penalties (which can be up to 30 days of pay) and substantial PAGA penalties. 


Calculating Damages in California Wage and Hour Lawsuits
Getting Unpaid Wages Settlement Checks . . . Yes!!


How do I figure out how much money I'm owed in unpaid wages?... Calculating Damages (your wages owed) and Penalties in California Wage Violation Lawsuits

There are three types of 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 money paid by your employer as a consequence of violating the law. The third are PAGA penalties. 

Employees can be awarded the following money 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.  This can take various forms. Usually this focuses on three main issues:

1. What you do before and after you clock in to work. 

2. Whether you have any duties or your employer has any control over you during meal breaks and/or rest breaks. 

3. Whether your employer is time shaving. That is deducting time they owe you. This is done a variety of ways. Click here for more information on time shaving. 

How to calculate unpaid wages (failure to pay for all time you worked): 

Add up all the time that you were under the control of your employer and/or subject to work duties. Once you determine this time, then multiply this times one of the following: your regular rate of pay, the minimum wage rate, overtime rate, and/or double time rate. 

None of this is a straight-forward as it may first appear.

A huge word of caution here: Figuring out all time that you weren't paid for sounds simple, but it is usually a very complex question to answer. I see lawyers screw this up all the time. 

You have to go through a careful analysis. 

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.

Chances are, if you're owed money for not getting paid for all time worked, then you are probably owed unpaid overtime also. 

How to calculate overtime owed: 

Add up all the overtime time hours owed and multiply that times your time and one-half rate or the double time rate. 

Missed meal breaks and missed rest breaks 

Under California law, employees must 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.

Click here for more information about California rest break law.  Whether or not you got all of your breaks is huge analysis in and of itself.  You'll see what I'm talking about if you check out the article on California rest breaks. 

How to calculate meal and rest period premiums owed: 

Add up all the times you didn't get a legal meal break and multiply that times your regular rate of pay. 

Add up all the times you didn't get a legal rest break and multiply that times your regular rate of pay. 

A huge word of caution here: This is another area where I see lawyers screw up all the time. Seriously. 

Minimum wage violations 

Your employer may owe you liquidated damages if you were paid less than minimum wage (currently $13/hr - if the employer has 26 or more employees  - $12 if they have less than 26 employees) 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 damages are paid in addition to unpaid wages and unpaid overtime.

You might be thinking, "Hey I get paid more than minimum wage, this doesn't apply to me. If you're owed money in unpaid wages, then this will also factor in most to the time. 

Calculating minimum wage owed:

Add up all the time you didn't get paid for all time worked and figure out which is "regular time" vs. overtime/ double time. Then compare your agreed upon rate of pay with the minimum wage and liquidated damages rate.

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.

Calculating wage statement violations:

Figure out how many paycheck violations there were and it's $50 for the initial violation and $100 for all subsequent violations. Then add them up. 

Final paycheck penalties (waiting time 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. For more on waiting time penalties click here. 

Calculating waiting time penalties:

First, calculate your average daily rate.

You will usually have to do all of the above-stated calculations correctly in order to get this "average daily rate" correct. Then you will usually (but not always) multiply that figure times 30 days. 

Reimbursement for business expenses 

These are called Labor Code Section 2802 claims. Under California law, your employer must reimburse you for all business expenses. For example, you are owed mileage when you drive your own car for work. You are owed reimbursement for your cell phone if you have to use your personal cell phone for work. 

Calculating business expenses

The easiest way to calculate mileage claims is to use the current IRS mileage rate. For example, $ .575 a mile. You keep track of your miles driven and multiply that figure by .575 to determine the mileage reimbursement that you are owed by the company. 

Most companies reimburse cell phones at the rate of $35 a month. 

PAGA Penalties 

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.

25% of the penalties goes to you. Payday violations are just one of the many potential PAGA violations. 

A PAGA case is different from a class action case. 

Adding it all up 

I have tried to give you a road map in how you should calculate the unpaid wages that you are owed. But know this, I am simplistic in order to achieve clarity. I see lawyers, with fancy websites that proclaim themselves to be "California wage and hour lawyers" or 'California wage law experts", screw this up. In fact, I see this all the time. If these attorneys that went to law school can't get it right - - how do you expect to be able to accurately figure out how much you are owed. it's sort of like asking the clerk at your local pharmacy to do brain surgery for you. 

Because I see lawyers screw up unpaid wage cases all the time is why I decided to offer a confidential, free, no obligation unpaid wages analysis. It's because I don't like to see folks not claim all the unpaid wages that they are really entitled to. 

If you've gotten this far, you owe it to yourself to try and get the very best help you can find. 

For more information on getting your unpaid wages analysis - click here 

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

What is my unpaid wage claim worth? 

This is usually one of the questions I'm asked when folks contact my office about not getting paid all the wages they are owed.  I tell them that we need to conduct an unpaid wages analysis.  It usually involves having a fairly short interview with one of my paralegals.  Then we do some research into the company.  Then you have another interview with a lawyer.  At this point, we can usually get a pretty good idea of what we are talking about as far as whether you have a viable case or not. 

At this point everything is confidential. 

In order to get a firmer grasp on what you're looking at in unpaid wages, we usually want to request your wage records from the company. Not always, but they will usually help in getting to exactly how much you are owed in unpaid wages. 

Once we get all your wage records from the company we can compare your timekeeping records with your pay records. 

One of the questions I am almost always asked is how much all of this is going to cost? Great question. We will do a free, no obligation unpaid wage analysis for you. 

For more information about the unpaid wage analysis - click here. 

Happy clients with their settlement checks.
What makes this all worthwhile - when employees receive their checks for unpaid wages!


If you were discriminated against due to reporting a California Labor Code violation or a Wage Order violation, then you can file a retaliation/discrimination complaint.


Have Questions?

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 web page


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).


This article is not legal advice


Just because we have been successful with so many unpaid wages cases, that there are no guarantees that any lawsuit, wage class action case, and/or PAGA case will be successful and/or whether anyone will recover money, wages and/or penalties. There are any number of reasons why these cases are defeated, aren’t certified and/or are unsuccessful. Every case is different. Every situation is different. Every case has different facts, evidence and defenses.


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.”