Written by: John Dalton
| Read Time: 3 minutes

If you are living paycheck to paycheck, you are not alone. In fact, one study reported that about 63% of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck in 2022. So when an employer fails to compensate you according to applicable wage and hour laws, the financial results can be stressful (at the very least). Fortunately, unpaid wages laws in California protect employees from employers withholding their income. 

If you believe your employer is illegally withholding your wages, you have a right to sue for those wages and, in some instances, recover damages as well. At the Law Office of John Dalton, we represent employees whose employers have improperly withheld wages or violated California wage and hour laws. Our office has decades of experience dealing with employment law matters, and we are here to help you hold your employer accountable. 

Below, this post will discuss some of the laws that protect employees in California. Further, we will talk about how to recover unpaid wages in California. This way, you can be more fully informed before bringing your legal claim. 

So What Are Unpaid Wages? 

An employee has unpaid wages when they are owed compensation for their work but the employer has not yet paid them. When your employer does not pay you what they owe you, it is a form of wage theft, which is illegal.

What Is an Unpaid Wages Claim? 

If you were wondering, Can I sue for unpaid wages in California? The simple answer is: yes. 

If you have any unpaid wages, it is likely that you have an unpaid wages claim against your employer. You can usually recover these wages either by filing a claim with the labor commissioner or by filing a lawsuit against your employer. Some instances in which you can file an unpaid wage claim include: 

  • When your employer fails to pay you minimum wage,
  • When your employer fails to pay you on time,
  • When your employer fails to pay you overtime wages, and
  • When your employer does not pay you for break time as required by law.

In addition to these unpaid wage claims, you can also sue your employer for: 

  • Requiring you to work off the clock, 
  • Failing to provide required meal breaks, and
  • Misclassifying you as an independent contractor or exempt employee.  

If you believe your employer is violating California wage and hour laws, you should reach out to an unpaid wages attorney as soon as possible. They can help you begin to build a strong legal claim and follow the proper filing procedures. 

Which Employees Are Protected by California Wage and Hour Laws? 

Generally, there are two categories of employees: those who are protected by wage and hour laws and those who are not. The first category of protected employees are referred to as “non-exempt” employees, as these employees are not exempt from applicable wage and hour laws. 

Non-exempt employees include employees who receive hourly wages as opposed to a salary. However, some salary workers whose salaries do not exceed a certain threshold are still considered non-exempt employees. 

Some examples of workers who are often non-exempt include: 

  • Interns, 
  • Retail workers, 
  • Restaurant staff, 
  • Manufacturers, and
  • Clerical workers. 

These are just some of the types of work that are often non-exempt. However, there are a number of different non-exempt positions. 

Exempt employees, on the other hand, are exempt from many of the wage and hour laws. These types of employees are exempt from overtime pay, and their employers do not have to meet minimum wage requirements. Some examples of fields that usually have exempt employees include: 

  • Human resources,
  • Accounting, 
  • Management, 
  • Finance, 
  • Payroll, and
  • Compliance. 

An employment law attorney can help explain whether you are an exempt or non-exempt employee. 

Can My Employer Fire Me for Suing Them? 

In California, it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you in any way after you have exercised your legal rights under relevant wage and hour laws. Retaliation can include: 

  • Terminating your employment, 
  • Threatening to terminate your employment, 
  • Taking responsibilities away;
  • Giving you less pay, 
  • Demoting you, 
  • Reprimanding you, and
  • Giving you a poor performance evaluation. 

So if you are fired because you fought for your unpaid wages in California, it would likely be considered a wrongful termination

How Can The Law Office of John Dalton Help You? 

At the Law Office of John Dalton, we know that when an employer illegally withholds an employee’s pay, it can have disastrous financial and emotional consequences for the employee. 

Attorney John Dalton has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements on behalf of his clients, and he is here to help you get the justice and compensation that you deserve. 

If you are worried about the financial burden of consulting with an attorney, you do not need to worry if you consult with us. We offer free case reviews for our prospective clients. To schedule a consultation, you can reach out to us online or call us today.

    “I highly respect John and his dedication and integrity. You will not be disappointed.” John Dalton went to work for me and delivered great results. I wasn’t sure what to do and when I found John, he explained everything nicely and he was able to get me the settlement I truly deserved. He was easy to work with and I always felt like I was kept in the loop - it was really fantastic service all around. - Steve K.
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