Employees should not work for free and you should always make sure that you are adequately compensated for your time. If your employer refuses to compensate you, you may be left struggling to pay bills and other expenses, and trying to force him to pay can be a fruitless endeavor unless you take legal action. The chance to sue for unpaid wages can get you every penny you are owed and more. Unfortunately, not to many people are aware of what they could be paid for and what the rules, regulations, and laws are surrounding payment and off-clock time. It is important that you acquaint yourself with this knowledge so you will be prepared to file an employment claim if necessary. Our team of attorneys at the California Labor Law Employment Attorneys Group can help you recover your lost income.
Laws for Fair Wages
The Federal Labor Standards Act guarantees that employees receive fair payment for their work. The payment must be in dollars or in convertible dollar amounts, like lodging, housing, or food. There are various rules that must be adhered to, including:
- Men and women with the same skill sets and in the same jobs must be equally compensated in terms of pay, benefits, promotions, and more
- The Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour (although some states allow businesses to pay service workers and similar employees less than the minimum wage because of tips and bonuses that make up the difference)
- Employees who work more than 40 hours a week are entitled to one and a half times their wages for any hours worked past that threshold
There are individuals who are exempt from some of these regulations; for example, executive, administrative, and professional workers who are on salary are generally held to different standards. They may not be eligible to receive overtime for a few reasons, such as the nature of work or the amount of money they earn per year.
Off-the-Clock Wage Violations
Off the clock work is work done when you are not clocked in or when you are not technically supposed to be working. You may be at home or on vacation and yet you are still answering emails, dealing with clients, and more. Your employer will not count these hours towards your time worked per week and he will not consider them for overtime as well. As a result, a lot of time is simply missed out on and wages are not earned, despite you actively working to acquire them.
There are two types of definitions in “employment,” which include permitting or suffering to work. The latter means that the worker is taking his time to help others, for example, or ensuring that a project for someone else gets finished on time.
Off the clock work can include the following:
- Unpaid preparation time and set up, during which a shift does not start but a worker must be present to organize tables, open the store, move equipment, unload vehicles, preparing food at a restaurant, and more
- Unpaid after-hours work, in which a worker may need to stay late to clean a diner, break down a job site, cover and secure equipment, or return to the main job location to clock out or drop off keys and materials
- Unpaid administrative work that was not completed during a shift, such as paperwork, orders, client reviews, quality assurance, completing training hours, and more
- Unpaid repeat work or redone work, where a worker must redo a project, modify a project, or correct documents on his own time
- Unpaid waiting time, in which a worker must wait for work or tasks to come through before he can get started
You should be very careful when your employer asks you to stay over time or to be on call all the time. You should seek appropriate compensation and pay if you need to stay beyond your shift. Employers will generally try to take advantage of the niceness of their workers, and there is also a looming, often unstated, threat that a refusal to complete these additional tasks can be grounds for termination.
This is especially problematic because California is a state of at-will employment, meaning that businesses can fire their workers at any point in time for any reason, provided the reason is not illegal. They must, however, pay you for all of your worked hours.
You may also face uniform deductions, or deductions from wages related to clothing.
How to Sue for Unpaid Wages and Final Paycheck Violations
If your employer continually asked you to work off the clock and did not pay you, you deserve compensation. It is unfair for you to work for free and not receive the income you rightfully put in the time for. To file a wage claim against your employer, you will need to gather appropriate evidence of the mistreatment.
First, you should have proof that you worked specific hours. You can have a pay stub or a time sheet to show these numbers. You can essentially use these times as the main reference point for the work that was done off the clock.
If you had a contract or terms of employment, you should procure it to show the agreed-upon wages and times you would work. This will help solidify your schedule in the eyes of the law.
You will then need a journal or some evidence that you completed certain duties off the clock. For instance, if you were emailing corrections and speaking with clients after your shift ended, you could produce the emails with the time stamps and the times from your phone bill.
Similarly, you could provide emails, messages, and other documents wherein your boss asked you to stay over or to complete work when you were off the clock.
You can benefit greatly from having coworkers add their testimonies and statements to your claim. The more proof you have from other people with their perspectives, the stronger the claim will be. They can testify that you were requested to perform duties or that you were working well past your shift. However, getting evidence from coworkers is difficult at times. Your coworkers may fear retaliation, termination, or other punishments if they help you and go against the employer. To them, keeping their job is more important than aiding in a legal claim that is not theirs, even if they may also be subjected to the same kinds of off the clock violations.
Finally, it is highly recommended that you do not pursue a wage claim against your employer alone. You should seek adequate and skilled legal representation. Our expert attorneys can organize your evidence, submit your claim, hire expert witnesses to testify on your behalf, and ensure that you are given fair restitution for the income you were not paid.
California Wage Claim Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is the time during which you can sue your employer for reimbursement for unpaid wages. Federally, there is a 2-year statute of limitations, unless the violation was willful – in which case, the statute extends to 3 years. In California, the default amount of time is 3 years from the failure to pay. If you do not pursue a claim within that window of time, you will not be able to receive any restitution.
The primary reason that many people fail to get compensation is that they do not know when the statute of limitations runs out. They may not even know that they can legally pursue back pay and by the time they are aware, it may be too late. We recommend always speaking with a lawyer as quickly as possible so you can determine how much time you have left on your claim so you can act quickly.
Off the Clock Lawsuit Compensation
You can generally pursue back pay and reimbursement for the hours you worked. This may cause you to receive a large sum, especially if those hours are over time or double time. It wil be your responsibility to show all the hours you worked, though, so that there is an accurate record of what you should have been paid.
In some scenarios, you could join a class action lawsuit. This is a collective claim filed by numerous plaintiffs against one business because of the tendency for no wages to be paid after hours. A class action claim can be a success due to the large amount of evidence put forth by the various plaintiffs. However, the total amount of compensation you can earn is lower due to the money being split evenly between the employees.
Our Firm and You
The California Labor Law Employment Attorneys Group is fully committed to all clients who have been unfairly treated by their employers. We know that you depend on your wages and if your company denied you income you are owed, you should file a lawsuit. We will aggressively pursue the maximum settlement for you and we won’t rest until we are satisfied.
For a free legal consultation to discuss your claim, contact our firm today. We will answer all your questions and help you understand how lawsuits work, as well as what to expect. We will also give you our zero fee guarantee – you will pay us no fees from start to finish. We only get paid if we win, and if we lose, we get nothing.
For the most experienced employment attorneys who can help you sue for off the clock wage violations, contact the California Labor Law Employment Attorneys Group.