When a person in Los Angeles isn’t paid by an employer what he or she should have been paid, and unpaid wage claim can be filed. This is a legal action designed to help you get what is owed to you by your employer.
The employment attorneys at Sirmabekian Law Firm help employees get the wages they are owed. We know the tactics many employers use to delay or deny wages, and we will use that knowledge and the law to resolve your unpaid wage matter. You work hard; you deserve to get paid for your labor.
To understand better what it means and what you can do about your unpaid wages in Los Angeles, we answer some of the most common questions our clients have, like:
- How does California define unpaid wages?
- What tactics do employers use to delay or hide unpaid wages?
- Are there any occupations that experience higher rates of unpaid wages?
- What are your rights as an employee in Los Angeles?
- Do you need an employment attorney to represent your unpaid wages claim in Los Angeles?
This page provides an overview of unpaid wages as well as links to pages on specific legal topics relevant to it. If you still have questions after reviewing these pages, contact our office to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
Unpaid wages are what is often referred to as wage theft in California. The Labor Code § 200, subd. (a) defines wages as including
all amounts for labor performed by employees of every description, whether the amount is ascertained or fixed by the standard of task, piece, time, commission basis, or other methods of calculation.
California Labor Code § 200, subd. (b) defines labor as including
work, labor, or service whether performed or rendered under contract, subcontract, station plan, partnership, or other agreement if the labor to be paid for is performed personally by the person demanding payment.
An employer must pay you wages earned for the labor you performed. Violating Labor Code § 200 et seq. constitutes unpaid wages and can result in statutory and civil penalties as outlined in § 210, including a waiting time penalty – which occurs when an employer fails to provide a former employee his or her final paycheck within, for example, 14 days, and as such, the employer is liable for wages during that 14-day period.
Employers use many different methods to deny or delay the payment of wages that are rightfully owed to employees or contractors. Some of these methods include:
- failing to pay wages owed to you
- failing to pay you minimum wage
- failing to pay for overtime
- making unlawful deductions
- refusing to reimburse reasonable expenses
- failing to pay commissions or bonuses entitled to you
- omitting sick pay
- omitting vacation pay or paid-time-off
- refusing to pay you tips and gratuity entitled to you
- paying you cash under the table
- classifying employees as independent contractors to avoid paying for benefits
- paying worker’s piece-rate that fails to satisfy California’s minimum hourly rate
- failing to comply with reporting time pay requirements.
Unfortunately, many unsuspecting employees won’t notice that their employer has employed some of these tactics. Others may notice but may fear retaliation (e.g., harassment, discrimination, demotion, or termination) or believe that they don’t have a fighting chance against a larger entity.
For those of you who so much as suspect your employer may have violated the law and owes you wages, you should always consult with an experienced attorney. An experienced unpaid wage attorney will have the insight, knowledge, and skills to confirm unpaid wages, identify what the employer did to avoid paying those wages and take appropriate steps to make sure you get what’s owed to you.
Make no mistake about it, each and every employee or independent contractor can experience a time when his or her wages are not paid. Many times, this is a simple accounting error that is immediately addressed. Other times the employer has taken intentional steps to avoid paying wages owed to you. In fact, according to studies conducted by UCLA Labor Center, 8 out of 10 Los Angeles workers experience wage theft.
There are, however, certain demographics and certain jobs where acts of wage theft in accordance with the law are more prevalent.
Demographics most often affected by unpaid wages in Los Angeles include:
- lower-income workers.
Examples of occupations most often affected by unpaid wages in Los Angeles include:
- restaurant chefs
- line cooks
- construction workers
- security guards
- supermarket employees
- delivery persons
- warehouse workers
- pattern makers
- home sewers
- health care personnel
- agriculture laborers
- body shop workers
- truck drivers
- rideshare drivers.
It is also important to mention that undocumented workers are routinely exploited for their labor and their questionable immigration status is used against them to intimidate and steal their wages.
You work hard. So, you deserve to get paid for your labor. But that’s not always the case in Los Angeles and throughout California. Employers may intentionally or unintentionally fail to properly and fully pay their employees. In some cases, it may be a matter of identifying the employer’s error, informing it of the same, and then receiving payment for the unpaid wages. In other cases, it may not go as smoothly: your employer may delay or deny your unpaid wages. When this happens in Los Angeles, you should keep in mind that you have rights regardless of whether or not you are a full-time employee, part-time employee, or independent contractor.
Employee rights include everything from a right to a safe and healthy work environment to benefits if injured or unemployed to rest and meal breaks and to minimum wage and overtime pay.
With specific reference to rest and meal breaks and minimum wage and overtime, an employee’s rights include but are not limited to:
- The right to be paid at the least minimum wage, which is the City of Los Angeles is $14.25.
- The right to overtime pay (1 1/2 times the regular rate of pay), which is owed for most occupations for time worked more than 8 hours in one day or 40 hours in one week and the first eight hours of work on the seventh day of work in a workweek – it differs for personal attendants and farmworkers.
- The right to double-time pay for most occupations for all hours over 12 hours in one day or her eight hours on the seventh day of work in a workweek – differs for farmworkers.
- The right to a paid 10-minute rest break for every 4 hours you work.
- The right to a meal break lasting at least 30 minutes after at least 5 hours of work.
- The right to be paid at least twice a month with limited exceptions.
- The right to a statement or wage stub that provides the following information:
- pay period dates
- total number of hours worked
- total gross wages earned
- hours worked at each rate
- breakdown of hourly rates
- piece-rate information (if applicable)
- net wages
- all deductions
- name and ID number of employee
- the employer’s legal name, and
- the employer’s address.
- The right to be paid what you are owed, which is the most fundamental right of all employee rights and which is the legal and moral responsibility of your employer.
If you suspect you may be the victim of wage theft, keep a record of things like your work hours (start and end times and dates), break duration, number of breaks, and what your pay rate is. Compare your notes with your pay stubs. If you see a discrepancy, you should go to your employer. But if you fear retaliation, maybe you should consult with an experienced attorney. What you should not do is let it go without addressing it. Wage theft is serious and billions of dollars are lost to hard-working people in this state and this country annually due to it.
But the laws are complex and proving wage theft is the burden of the claimant: you. That can be a stressful experience that can end to your detriment if the claim or lawsuit is not followed strictly in accordance with the law, including procedural law. A mistake can get your claim kicked out of court. That means you don’t get what’s owed to you.
Rest assured, however, that at no cost to you initially, you can consult with an experienced unpaid wages attorney in Los Angeles. Contact Sirmabekian Law Firm online or at 818-473-5003 to schedule an appointment to speak with an attorney who has the skills and experience to help make sure you get the best outcome for your unpaid wages case.
Get A Free Case Evaluation
We are here to help you with law questions