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Unpaid Wages, Bonuses, and Other Compensation under California Wage Law

California Wage and Hour Attorneys I California Wage and Hour Lawyers I California Wage and Hour Attorney I California Wage and Hour Lawyer Bill Turley


Unpaid Wages, Bonuses, and Other Compensation

Under California Wage and Hour Laws, the basic Wage and Hour rule is your employer must pay you for the work you do. Simple, but oftentimes not followed.

If your employer thinks you have done a bad job or haven't completed your work assignments, your employer's remedy is to fire you or discipline you - - not withhold your wages for doing your job poorly. There are a few narrow exceptions, where your employer can withhold your wages for specific reasons.

This general rule applies across the range of compensation which you may receive. Thus, your employer cannot withhold or "cancel" vested vacation pay, bonuses, and pension or retirement benefits. Your employer cannot charge you for losses which may occur in the business. Your employer can't charge you for uniforms.

A California employer that does not comply with these California Wage and Hour Laws is subject to repayment of the back wages or benefits. You can recover back wages for a period of up to four (4) years. You are also entitled to interest and penalties and your attorney fees.


What kind of bonus are you getting?

Under California law, there are two different types of bonuses:  non discretionary bonuses and discretionary bonuses. 

non discretionary bonus is an earned bonus. When there is a set criteria an employee has to meet, then the bonus is earned once the criteria is met. For example, the company gives a bonus for how many hours you work in a year, or how many units that are produced in the month

A discretionary bonus is a bonus that the employer has not set any criteria for. It is given with no rhyme or reason. It is usually given out of loyalty or good service. 

What type of bonus you get is important in determining your regular rate of pay for calculating your overtime rate of pay. 


Bonuses and the regular rate of compensation 

Under California law, bonuses must be included in your regular rate of pay.  This is important because employers are supposed to pay you overtime at your regular rate of pay.  Thus, you are owed overtime at 1.5 times your regular rate of pay.  If you receive bonuses (that are non discretionary bonuses); then your regular rate of pay can change each pay period. And therefore your overtime rate of pay will change each pay period. 


Types and Forms of Wage Theft:

     1.     Misclassification

     2.     Not paying overtime

     3.     Not paying double time

     4.     Not providing meal breaks

     5.     Not allowing rest periods

     6.     Not paying vacation time

     7.     Not reimbursing expenses

     8.     Making employees pay for uniforms or the maintenance of uniforms

     9.     Making employees pay for shortages/ missing product

    10.    Pay stub violations 

    11.   Not paying all wages owed timely at time of termination (waiting time penalties). 


Labor Laws and Their Misinterpretations

The labor laws and regulations that cover drivers in California are such that there is a lot of room for companies to misunderstand, misinterpret, or simply disregard the law. Some California transportation companies do everything they can to negotiate their way out of paying legal wages to their drivers and repair employees, including:

  • Negotiating "comp time." Have you been asked to trade a few hours of unpaid work for “comp time” next week? In most circumstances, this is not a legal practice, and you should be paid accurately for all of the actual time you spend performing work duties.
  • Negotiating "off the clock” time. Have you been "asked" to stay a little late without pay or finish up your paperwork? If you are working “off the clock” for any reason, it should be a red flag that you may not be getting the overtime pay you truly deserve.
  • Asking workers to sign off on meal periods and rest breaks. Some companies "ask" their employees to sign-off each day or week that that they received their meal periods and/or rest breaks.  Don't let this fool you. We win cases all the time when companies do this. Even if you "signed" that you received your meal period, you can still win your meal period case if you didn't actually receive legal meal breaks. 
  • Asking employees to sign contracts or waivers that break the law. You can’t give up your legal wage protections, even if you want to. This even applies when have signed a contract that agrees to terms that are in violation of federal and state labor laws.


What Kind of Money Wages Are We Talking About?

When the company is ripping off your wages on a daily basis, it really adds up fast.  For example, let’s say the company is not complying with meal and rest period laws and you earn $19 an hour and you work 11 hours a day.  For each missed meal period you are owed $19 , each missed rest period $19 and each ½ hours pay illegally auto-deducted is at time and one half - $14.25.

Most folks work 260 days a year.

    $19 x 2 meal periods (since you work over 10 hours)  = $38

    $19 x 2 rest periods  = $38

    Illegal auto deduct = $14.25

This comes out to $90.25 per day.

    $90.25 x 260 =   $23,465

Plus 30 days waiting time penalties if you no longer work at the company.

    $251.75 X 30 days pay = $7,552

We are talking $31,017 if you only count one year.  Under California law you get 4 years of back wages.


Happy clients with their settlement checks
Clients that are happy they got their check in a California Wage Case


Vacation Pay and Use It or Don't Use It but you Don't Lose It

Under California Wage and Hour Laws, wages include accrued vacation pay. Under California vacation pay is not a gratuity or a gift. Vacation pay is additional compensation for work performed for the employer.

Whenever a contract of employment or employer policy provides for paid vacations, and an employee is terminated without having taken his vested vacation time, all vested vacation shall be paid to him or her as wages at this final rate in accordance with such contract of employment or employer policy respecting eligibility or time served. Further, you employment contract and/or your employer's policy cannot require you to forfeit your vacation time when you are terminated.

Why Bill is asked to testify concerning wage law legislation at the California State Senate and the California Assembly 

Bill Turley is regularly asked to testify before the California State Senate and the California Assembly concerning potential wage legislation. The California legislature is how wage laws are made. 

Usually when Bill testifies before the California State Senate on wage and hour issues, Bill is the only class action lawyer invited to testify at the hearing. 

Bill testified before the California State Assembly and California State Senate on the new PAGA bill (read: wage theft legislation).

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

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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