In California and every other state, employers must pay their employees for the work they do. This may sound obvious, but you can probably think of numerous times when you stepped in off the clock to help a co-worker, agreed to stay and help after your shift ended, or took work home to finish it on your own time. These are just a few examples of wage theft, and they are illegal.
Unfortunately, employers often count on the fact that their workers do not know the laws that protect them from this kind of abuse, so it is important that you monitor your earnings and keep careful records of the time you put in on the job. This way, you may recognize when an employer is denying you your rightful earnings.
What is wage theft?
In some cases, a mistake on your paycheck is just that: a mistake. Your employer may have typed in the wrong numbers or simply forgotten to include some extra time you worked. Wage theft, on the other hand, is a systematic stealing from employees, and you have every right to fight back when this happens. Some common examples of wage theft include the following:
- Paying you less than the state or federal minimum wage
- Refusing to pay you the amount agreed upon at the time promised
- Refusing to pay you at all or disappearing without paying you after you finish a job
- Making illegal deductions from your check, such as charging you for errors, uniforms or other expenses that take your pay below minimum wage
- Taking your tips or forcing you to put your tips into a pool that does not comply with California laws
These deductions or losses may not seem like much when you look at a single paycheck. However, an employer who violates your rights using any of these methods may deny you the chance for earning your overtime rate. This could easily add up to a significant loss of income, which is money you could use to save, invest or pay down debts.
What to do
If you notice something missing from your check, your boss may easily fix the mistake if you bring it to his or her attention. However, your fellow employees may be noticing the same deductions or miscalculations. This may indicate a pattern of wage theft that affects more than just you.
You may wish to obtain a professional opinion of your situation. If you reach out to an attorney who has knowledge and experience in California and federal wage and hour laws, you may find answers to your questions and guidance in taking the next appropriate steps.