If your employer has violated California wage and hour laws, you may find that your best option is to initiate a lawsuit.
Bringing a claim against a current or former employer can be stressful and confusing. Our California employment lawyers are here to help.
Frequently asked questions about California wage and hour lawsuits include:
Which California wage and hour laws can I sue my employer for violating?
We often see clients who have viable court cases against their employers for:
- Misclassifying employees as “exempt employees” or as “independent contractors” in order to avoid paying overtime or providing required breaks;
- Failure to abide by California overtime laws, often by requiring or encouraging “work off the clock”;
- Not providing employees with mandatory meal or rest breaks, or requiring them to work during their breaks; and
- Failing to provide hazard pay even when such pay is provided as part of the employment agreement.
We also see employees whose employers are violating California minimum wage laws. (This is increasingly common following minimum wage increases in California in recent years.)
Note that California’s pay transparency laws (Senate Bill 1162) mandate most employers with 15 or more employees to include a pay range in their job postings. If you are a current employee, you can request a pay range for your own position. Otherwise, you can sue the employer or file a claim with the Labor Commissioner.
How long do I have to bring a California wage/hour suit against my employer?
The “statute of limitations” for California wage and hour lawsuits is three (3) years from the date when the most recent violation has occurred.1
What damages can I receive in a California wage and hour lawsuit?
The damages you can expect to receive in a successful wage and hour suit depend on the type of law your employer has violated.
If your employer has failed to pay the minimum wage or failed to pay overtime, you are able to collect the unpaid amounts--plus interest and reasonable attorney’s fees/litigation costs.2
In addition, if you were paid less than the minimum wage, and this was not due to your employer’s good faith error, you may be able to win an additional “liquidated damages” award equal to the amount of the unpaid required wages plus interest.3
If your wage/hour lawsuit is about an employer’s failure to provide the required meal or rest breaks, then you may receive one hour’s pay at the regular rate for each break that you did not receive.4
Note that you may also be able to sue your employer’s officers, directors, owners, or managing agents if they caused your wage and hour rights to be violated.5
Can my employer retaliate against me for bringing a wage/hour lawsuit?
California employment laws clearly specify that workers may not be retaliated against for bringing wage and hour claims, or complaining about wage/hour law violations.6
It is considered “wrongful termination” for an employer to fire you for asserting your rights under California wage/hour law. Other forms of workplace retaliation that do not rise to the level of termination are forbidden as well.
If your employer retaliates against you for bringing a wage/hour lawsuit, you will have an additional cause of action against them.
What if I cannot afford to hire an attorney?
Many California employment lawyers who represent employees will work on contingency.
This means that they do not get paid until you do. If your wage/hour lawsuit is successful, your lawyer will then receive a portion of your total damages. Because California wage and hour laws require employers to pay employees’ attorney’s fees in successful wage/hour suits, this will not reduce your total recovery.
It is also common for California labor attorneys representing plaintiffs to bring class action lawsuits on behalf of a large number of employees.
Typically when an employer underpays one employee, s/he is underpaying others as well. Class action suits allow employment attorneys to devote more resources to a wage and hour suit.
Call us for help…
For questions about California wage and hour lawsuits or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our skilled California labor and employment attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
We have local employment law offices in and around Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.
- Code of Civil Procedure 338 CCP — Statutes of limitations for wage/hour lawsuits. (“Within three years: (a) An action upon a liability created by statute, other than a penalty or forfeiture.”)
- Labor Code 1194 LC — Action to recover minimum wage, overtime compensation, interest, attorney’s fees, and costs by employee. (“(a) Notwithstanding any agreement to work for a lesser wage, any employee receiving less than the legal minimum wage or the legal overtime compensation applicable to the employee is entitled to recover in a civil action the unpaid balance of the full amount of this minimum wage or overtime compensation, including interest thereon, reasonable attorney’s fees, and costs of suit. (b) The amendments made to this section by Chapter 825 of the Statutes of 1991 shall apply only to civil actions commenced on or after January 1, 1992.”)
- Labor Code 1194.2 — Liquidated damages [in wage/hour suits]. (“(a) In any action under Section 98, 1193.6, 1194, or 1197.1 to recover wages because of the payment of a wage less than the minimum wage fixed by an order of the commission or by statute, an employee shall be entitled to recover liquidated damages in an amount equal to the wages unlawfully unpaid and interest thereon. Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to authorize the recovery of liquidated damages for failure to pay overtime compensation. A suit may be filed for liquidated damages at any time before the expiration of the statute of limitations on an action for wages from which the liquidated damages arise. (b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), if the employer demonstrates to the satisfaction of the court or the Labor Commissioner that the act or omission giving rise to the action was in good faith and that the employer had reasonable grounds for believing that the act or omission was not a violation of any provision of the Labor Code relating to minimum wage, or an order of the commission, the court or the Labor Commissioner may, as a matter of discretion, refuse to award liquidated damages or award any amount of liquidated damages not exceeding the amount specified in subdivision (a). (c) This section applies only to civil actions commenced on or after January 1, 1992.”)
- 8 California Code of Regulations (“C.C.R.”) 11040. (“11 . . . (B) If an employer fails to provide an employee a meal period in accordance with the applicable provisions of this order, the employer shall pay the employee one (1) hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation for each workday that the meal period is not provided. . . . 12 . . . (B) If an employer fails to provide an employee a rest period in accordance with the applicable provisions of this order, the employer shall pay the employee one (1) hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation for each workday that the rest period is not provided.”)
- Labor Code 558.1 LC.
- Labor Code 98.6 LC — Discharge or discrimination, retaliation, or adverse action against employee or applicant for conduct delineated in this chapter or because employee or applicant has filed complaint or claim, instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or relating to his or her rights or testified relating to the same on behalf of that person or another [whistleblower protection for reporting wage/hour or labor law violations].