In a proper employer/employee relationship, your employer should be expected to pay you your earned wages and overtime payments on time. Moreover, your employer should be expected to provide you with proper rest periods during your shift and allow you to report expenditures made out of your pocket on the business’ behalf.
But unfortunately, not every employer is willing to play by these rules. When an employer in California fails to abide by these worker protection standards, they commit what is known as “wage theft.” Through both small and large actions, wage theft can severely impact an employee’s ability to earn their rightful pay as well as work in an environment that respects their work-based contributions.
Wage theft is more common than you might think in California. In fact, you may have already been a victim of wage theft without ever noticing it. That kind of injustice need not stand. Under California law, you are protected from wage theft through special legislation. In addition, victims of wage theft in California have the right to bring legal action against their employer with the support of skilled workers’ rights litigators.
Whatever path you choose, it is important that you fully understand wage theft and the California laws associated with it. Read on to learn more about this pernicious practice and the effects it can have on a worker like you:
What is Wage Theft?
In essence, “wage theft” can be described as the willful denial of wages (or any form of earned payment) or employee benefits that are owed to an employee overtime. Wage theft can take on many forms, including the failure the pay overtime wages and the misclassification of employees. Forcing an employee to work “off the clock” also constitutes wage theft in one of its most pervasive forms.
In most cases, wage theft causes an employee to take home less pay then they truly earned. In turn, wage theft can make it harder for an employee to make ends meet, especially if they already work in a low-wage job. Cumulatively, wage theft can cause an employee to lose out on thousands of dollars a year. Indeed, some economic research groups have indicated that employees in the US lose hundreds of millions of dollars per year to this pernicious practice.
Does California Protect Me against Wage Theft?
Here in California, you, as a worker, are protected by law from wage theft in various forms. These protections are outlined in the 2011 Wage Theft Prevention Act (AB 469). All private sector employees (with few exceptions) are covered by this law, which establishes penalties for employers who facilitate the non-payment of wages and overtime payments (among other prohibited actions.
This law also requires employers to provide notice to all employees regarding wage and employment-related information. In particular, a California employer must provide all employees with information about:
- Their rates of pay and the basis for those pay rates
- The periodic nature of their pay (by day, hour, week, commission, salary, or otherwise)
- Allowances permitted for meals and lodging, when applicable
- Payday and when it occurs periodically
- The name of the employer (in the form of the “doing business as” title)
- The mailing address and telephone number for the employer’s physical office
- The name, address, and telephone number for the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier
Under California law, if any of these pieces of information are omitted or are not updated in a timely manner, an effected employee is entitled to appropriate compensation.
Also, the California Wage Theft Prevention Act requires that all notices issued under this law be provided to employees in their primary language. This includes non-English languages, for which the state provides additional resources.
Can I Wave These Legal Protections?
No, a Californian worker cannot wave their protections under this law and cannot be obliged to do so by their employer. If you have been asked to forgo these protections to any degree (either through a spoken agreement or a written contract), your employer may be guilty of inhibiting your rights as a California worker.
In this situation, you may be able to file a formal complaint against your employer with the state’s Labor Commission or seek legal action more immediately.
What Should I Do if I Have Experienced Wage Theft?
If you believe that you have been a victim of wage theft, don’t wait to take action. Wage theft often becomes worse over time as an employer feels empowered to take advantage of your hard-earned pay. You may have cause to seek legal action against them.
If you need to follow that route, then you should know that the professionals at the KJT Law Group are standing behind you. We believe in supporting our state’s workers, so we can support you as you seek compensation for the wage theft you’ve experienced. Contact us at (818) 873-0181 to begin a free consultation about your case today.