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Nonpayment of Wages in California

“Wages” includes all amounts for labor performed by an employee, whether the amount is calculated by time, piece, task, commission, or any other method. Wage claims are governed by two sources of authority: the provisions of the Labor Code and a series of eighteen wage orders, adopted by the Industrial Welfare Commission

Elements the Plaintiff Must Prove

According to CACI 2700 in case the plaintiff claims that the defendant owes him unpaid wages he must be able to establish the following elements:

  • Plaintiff performed work for the defendant
  • Under the terms of the employment, the defendant owes to the plaintiff wages
  • The amount of unpaid wages.

The Limitation Period to Bring a Claim

  • One year for penalties regarding a bounced check or failing to provide access to or a copy of personal or staff records
  • Two years for an oral promise to pay more than minimum wage.
  • Three years for violations of the minimum wage, unpaid rest, overtime, sick leave, unpaid meal breaks, illegal deductions from pay or unpaid reimbursements
  • Four years for a written contract.

Minimum Wage

According to the State law, almost all employees must receive the minimum wage. The current minimum hourly wage in California for businesses with twenty-six or more employees is $12. For businesses with twenty-five or fewer employees, it is $11 for an hour. The required minimum wage is an obligation of the employer and can’t be waived by any agreement, including collective bargaining agreements. An employer can’t use an employee’s tips as a credit toward the obligation to pay the minimum hourly wage.

Overtime Wages

According to California Labor Code Section 510 the employers are required to pay their employees for overtime work which exceeds the maximum number of hours. Employees who work more than 8 hours in a workday, more than 40 hours in a workweek or more than 6 days in a workweek are entitled to overtime pay. Overtime laws don’t apply to all workers and certain workers, such as farm workers and domestic workers and, are covered by different overtime laws.

Vacation Pay

In California employers aren’t obliged to provide paid time off or paid vacations to their employees. Though, the employers who choose to offer vacation should follow some certain guidelines. According to California law accrued vacation is considered a form of wages that have already been earned by the employee, this means that accrued vacation can’t expire and must be paid out to an employee upon the employment termination. The same rule is applicable to paid time off.

Rest and Meal Breaks

According to California Labor Code Section 512 non-exempt employees are entitled to rest and meal breaks. Thus, an employee must receive a thirty-minute meal break in case he works more than five hours a day. Employee is entitled to a second thirty-minute meal break, if he works more than ten hours in a day.

Wages Due Upon the Termination

In case the employee is fired he must receive his final paycheck on his last day. In case he isn’t paid when the job ends, he may be entitled to receive an additional payment of a day’s wages for each day his employer withholds the final paycheck, for up to thirty days.



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