Unpaid Wages

California employers are obligated to pay the wages of their employees. They have a duty to pay those wages on time. Employees who experience late wages are protected by the law.

Wages Not Paid on Time

California law requires that employers must pay workers at least twice a month. If you quit or get fired or laid off, the employer must pay you on or before a strict deadline. Here’s a checklist to determine if you’ve experienced a violation:

  • You were fired but did not immediately receive all the wages you were owed
  • You quit with 72-hours-notice but were not paid all of your wages at that time
  • You quit without giving 72-hours-notice but were not paid all of your wages within 72 hours of quitting
  • Your employer had you sign a “waiver” or “release” of any right to be paid when wages were due
  • You earned overtime pay but did not receive the overtime pay in the paycheck you received for the pay period immediately following the one you earned your overtime in
  • Your employer failed to clearly post a notice specifying what days are paydays
  • You’re a farm laborer and you were not paid at least once a week on a business day designated in advance

In addition to the general rules above regarding the timely payment of your wages, certain industries have special rules that might apply to you. These industries include entertainment/movies, agriculture, and employees working at performance venues. Take action now.

Working Off-the-Clock

Working “off-the-clock” simply means that you’ve clocked out but you’re still working without being paid. You may have an off-the-clock claim if your employer requires that you:

  • Change in and out of special clothes
  • Change in and out of protective gear
  • Wait for a handbag or backpack to be inspected or x-rayed before entering or leaving a worksite
  • Wait to enter or be shuttled to your worksite
  • Attend lectures, meetings, or other training programs in connection with your employment
  • Spend time walking to and from a production or other working area before and after your shift

Remember, you’re entitled to be paid for all of the time that you work. Even if the additional work is a short task, you’re still entitled to be paid for your time—and it doesn’t matter that other workers or managers might say “that’s how things are done.”

If you believe you’ve been working on certain tasks or in certain situations that add unpaid time to your workday, you may very well have a claim for additional pay. If this is the case or even if you’re not sure and need advice, take action now.

Unreimbursed Expenses

Employers must reimburse employees for all work-related expenses. If your employer has not reimbursed you for any of the following, you may very well have a claim for unreimbursed expenses:

  • Driving to and from required work
  • Cellphone charges for work-related purposes
  • Postage or overnight mail fees for work-related mail
  • Subscriptions to work-related publications
  • Buying office supplies
  • If you work for any employer with highly specialized equipment requirements and you purchase the equipment yourself (such as buying a required gun or ammunition as well as paying required license fees if you work for an armored courier service)
  • Buying uniforms—which includes ordinary clothes that are distinctive design or color required by the employer

Even if your employer doesn’t have a procedure for reimbursing employees for necessary work-related expenses, you’re still entitled to your reimbursements. In fact, you don’t relinquish your right of being reimbursed if you haven’t asked for the reimbursement. As well, you don’t give up your right to be reimbursed even if your employer claims you signed a waiver of your reimbursement rights.

It’s your employer’s responsibility to make sure that you’re reimbursed. If you believe you haven’t been reimbursed for valid expenses, take action now.

Improper Paycheck Deductions

While employers are allowed to withhold taxes, Social Security contributions, as well as your share of certain benefits from your paycheck, employers cannot make deductions prohibited by law. Take a look at this checklist to see if your employer has made any of the following prohibited paycheck deductions:

  • Deducting money from your paycheck to cover a cash shortage, breakage, or shrinkage—defined as theft or shoplifting
  • Making deductions for unidentified returns from commission sales
  • Reducing the bonus paid to you (if you’re a manager) to cover losses in another department or division
  • Taking back a commission (if you’re a salesperson) because a customer has defaulted on a payment installment
  • Charging employees for lost keys, tools, supplies, or other company materials
  • Deducting any amount at all from a tip left for an employee
  • Deducting the cost of work-related expenses for items provided by the employer, including a required photograph, bond, or uniform; this also includes any pre-employment physical or medical examination that is a condition for employment

If you believe that your employer has attempted to make you pay for business expenses that are by law the employer’s responsibility, you may very well have a claim. Take action now.

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