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Know Your Rights: Navigating Wage & Hour Laws in California

As an employee in Los Angeles, it’s crucial to understand your rights regarding compensation and benefits under California law. However, navigating wage and hour laws can be complex, and many employers fail to fulfill their obligations. If you’re facing unpaid wages or benefits denial, consulting a skilled Los Angeles unpaid wage lawyer is essential for protecting your rights and seeking appropriate remedies. Wage and hour violations are common, and they provide employees with clear legal rights. 

If you believe your employer has wrongfully denied you compensation or benefits, you should speak with a lawyer promptly. Attorneys For Employees can provide a comprehensive assessment of your legal rights, and if you have a claim, your lawyer can seek all available remedies on your behalf.

Who is a Wage and Hour Employee?

A wage-and-hour employee is anyone who is paid per hour. Often employees in the following industries are paid hourly and therefore, wage and hour employees. This designation typically applies to individuals compensated on an hourly basis, including those in industries such as restaurants, hotels, IT, sales, administration, and retail. If you’re unsure about your classification, seeking guidance from a Los Angeles unpaid wage attorney can provide clarity.

Wage and Hour Employees Include:

  • Restaurant workers – Cooks, bartenders, wait staff, host staff
  • Hotel workers – Housekeepers, front desk representatives, concierge employees, food and beverage servers
  • IT/computer workers – Software developers, IT support roles, network administrators, data entry clerk
  • Sales – Sales representative, account manager
  • Administration – Administration assistance, office manager, executive assistance, receptionist
  • Retail workers – Sales associate, cashier, store manager or clerk, customer sales representative

Unpaid Wage Representation Across Industries

Our Los Angeles unpaid wage lawyer team provides representation to a diverse range of California wage and hour clients from the private sector, including those listed above and others not listed. We cater to clients across various industries and handle claims against employers of all sizes, including both large corporations and small businesses.

Minimum Wage & Overtime Laws

In recognizing that a minimum wage is rarely a living wage, California has been steadily increasing the minimum wage for workers throughout the state. Currently, the California state minimum wage is $16.00 for all employees. California also authorizes localities to increase their minimum wage above the statewide minimum. The minimum wage in the City of Los Angeles is $16.78 and $16.90 for Los Angeles County. There are no increases scheduled for either the City or County of Los Angeles for 2024. Under these laws, employers are required to pay their full-time and part-time minimum wage employees these rates for every hour worked. 

Workers in California and LA are entitled to overtime pay in the following situations and at the following rates: 

  • Between 8 and 12 hours in a single day – time-and-a-half (1.5 x your hourly wage)
  • More than 12 hours in a single day – double-time (2 x your hourly wage)
  • More than 40 hours per week – time-and-a-half 
  • More than 8 hours on the 7th consecutive day of work in a workweek – double-time

Minimum wage and overtime violations can sometimes be difficult to identify. If you suspect that you have not been paid the wages you earned, a Los Angeles unpaid wage attorney can make sure you are getting the wages you deserve. 

Unpaid Wages Can Take Many Different Forms

Unpaid commissions, failure to provide meal breaks, unpaid overtime, and employee misclassification are all violations of California state and federal law. Whether an employer commits these and other violations inadvertently or intentionally, they must be held accountable.

As experienced employment law attorneys, our team understands how the types of violations facing employees varies based on their job role and industry. For example, individuals employed in the technology industry often experience issues with employers misclassifying them as exempt from overtime pay. These employees frequently work more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week without receiving proper overtime compensation. In contrast, wage and hour violations commonly affecting restaurant and hotel employees are different then tech workers. Employees in these industries are more likely to encounter violations such as: 30-minute meal period violations, 10-minute paid rest period violations, forced overtime, time clock violations, and being required to report to work for less than half of their regular shifts.

At Attorneys for Employees (AFE), our employment attorneys understand the laws and regulations that employers must abide by, and when they fail to do so, a lawyer can assist you in recovering the compensation you’re owed. 

Common Wage & Hour Violations

While there are numerous wage and hour violations, some of the most common include:

  • Overtime: There are certain conditions that must be met for an hourly employee to be entitled to overtime, including working more than 8 hours in a workday or 40 hours in a workweek. When all conditions have been met, an employee is entitled to receive 1.5 times (or in some cases 2 times) their normal rate of pay. Failure to pay can expose an employer to legal ramifications.
  • Withholding Earned Pay: Termination of an employee does not entitle the employer to withhold pay the employee has earned. Employees must also be paid all accrued but unused sick and vacation pay at the time of termination. Failure to pay employees these wages may subject employers to additional penalties. 
  • Reimbursement of Expenses: An employer is required to reimburse employees for any necessary expenses they incur in carrying out their job-related duties. Included in this are cell phone fees and mileage. 
  • Minimum Wage: There is a minimum amount all employers must pay employees. Whether or not an employer is violating California’s minimum wage laws can be confusing as it depends on several factors, including the number of hours worked as well as the number of employees working for the employer, and the location of the workplace. Determination of whether or not a minimum wage violation exists is best made by a knowledgeable labor lawyer.  “Off-the-Clock” Work: Employees must be paid for all job duties, which means an employer who requests tasks be completed before or after a shift or during launch break is in violation. 

Misclassified Worker? Get the Wages & Benefits You’re Due

How an employee is classified can make a huge difference in how they are paid, taxed, and whether or not they are entitled to overtime pay and benefits. Because of this, some employers misclassify employees to save money. An example of this would be when an employer classifies an actual employee as an independent contractor. This benefits the employer because independent contractors are not entitled to the same protections as employees in matters involving overtime, paid sick leave, paid time off, and worker’s compensation insurance. 

Employers will also attempt to avoid paying for overtime by classifying “non-exempt” employees as “exempt.” Generally speaking, non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay, while exempt employees are not. Exempt employees are typically those who receive a salary (as opposed to hourly wages) and who work in professional occupations such as finance, accounting, law and medicine.

Just because your employer calls you an independent contractor or an exempt employee, this does not mean that your employer’s classification is correct. To determine your employment status, your Los Angeles unpaid wage lawyer at Attorneys for Employees will thoroughly examine all aspects of your employment. If your employer has misclassified you, you could be entitled to weeks, months or even years’ worth of unpaid overtime and benefits, and your lawyer can use the law to help you recover the compensation you are rightfully owed.

Meal & Rest Breaks

California law mandates that any employee working longer than five consecutive hours is entitled to a minimum of 30 minutes (unpaid) for a meal break. It also states that an employee is entitled to a 10-minute paid break for every four hours they work or a major fraction thereof. There are specific requirements regarding these mandatory breaks that an attorney at AFE can explain in more detail. 

Off-the-Clock Work? Your Los Angeles Wage and Hour Lawyer Will Fight for Pay

If you are an employee who is paid by the hour you need to be aware and knowledgeable of your rights regarding compensation for work performed outside of your regular shift. In some cases, your employer may have a rule that requires you to start or perform a specific task before your shift begins, or, sometimes, after it ends, but they only allow you to clock in for your eight-hour shift, excluding the additional “mandatory” work. This is an example of an “off-the-clock” work violation, and if this is happening to you, you and your colleagues may be entitled to proper compensation for the extra work you performed while clocked out.

Both the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and California law mandate that hourly employees should be paid for all hours worked. Any employer who requires an employee to work without compensation is in violation of these regulations. Unfortunately, this type of wage and hour violation is prevalent, as many employers expect their employees to engage in unpaid “off-the-clock” work. Some common examples of such tasks include equipment check-out procedures, starting work computer programs, warming up vehicles, loading equipment, preparing a worksite before a shift, cleaning up after a shift, or returning equipment after regular working hours. “Off-the-clock” work can also encompass rounding down working time, which unfairly disadvantages the employee.

Whenever an employer demands, permits, or expects an employee to carry out any of these tasks without proper compensation, it constitutes an “off-the-clock” violation. Frequently, this unpaid time occurs when working beyond eight hours in a day, which should be compensated at overtime rates.

It’s essential to be aware of your rights and consult with a lost angeles wage and hour lawyer to address any “off-the-clock” violations and ensure you receive the proper compensation you deserve. Not sure if your employer is engaging in an “off-the-clock” violation? Call us and let’s talk it out. Our California employment lawyers are happy to answer your questions.


There is a common misconception that employees are not entitled to overtime pay if they work extra hours without authorization or permission from their employer. However, under California law, employees are still eligible for overtime pay even if they were not explicitly given permission to work overtime, as long as their employer had reason to be aware of their continued work.

For example, a salesperson assists customers who arrived shortly before closing time, resulting in them staying over an hour after their regular 8-hour shift. In this case, the salesperson would be entitled to overtime pay, despite not receiving explicit authorization, because their employer was aware of their ongoing work and waited for them to finish in order to close the business.

Conversely, if employees are instructed to leave work and are not aware that they are still expected to work, they may not be entitled to overtime pay if their employer can demonstrate that they genuinely had no knowledge of the continued work. Employers have the right to take disciplinary action against employees who fail to obtain permission to work overtime when it is required by company policy or exhibit insubordination.

It’s important to understand these regulations to ensure that you, as an employee, are fairly compensated for the hours you work, even in situations where overtime was not explicitly authorized. 

People deserve to be paid the wages they earn, including overtime wages. If you are owed time and a half or double-time wages, we can help you hold your employer accountable. Contact us today to discuss your case and how we can help.

How Can I File a Wage and Hour Claim?

If your employer has committed a wage violation, you have options. The first step in filing a wage and hour claim is to determine which course of action would be best for you: 

  1. File a lawsuit in court; 
  2. File a wage claim with a federal agency under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA); or
  3. File a wage claim with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). 

Filing a lawsuit in court is perhaps the most difficult option and we would strongly recommend that you do not proceed with this option without first hiring a Los Angeles wage and hour lawyer. This option is typically best suited for cases that present numerous complex legal issues or involve substantial amounts of unpaid wages. In most cases, the best option is to pursue an administrative claim either under the FLSA or with the DLSE. A Los Angeles unpaid wage attorney can discuss with you what option would be best for you. 

Experienced Wage & Hour Attorneys by Your Side in Los Angeles

There are many different ways that employers can violate your right to fair payment. In some cases, these violations are obvious, while in others, violations can be subtle and difficult to detect. As a result, you need a lawyer who not only knows the law but has the experience needed to identify possible wage violations. At Attorneys for Employees, we have broad experience in handling all types of wage claims, including the following: 

  • Minimum wage violations
  • Unpaid overtime
  • Failures to reimburse expenses
  • Meal and rest period violations
  • Late payment of wages
  • Late final paycheck
  • Illegal payroll deductions
  • Unpaid sick leave
  • Unpaid commissions

It is unlikely that your employer will admit that they have failed to pay you the wages you are owed. In some cases, they may claim that it was a mere oversight and they will correct it as soon as possible. Regardless of what they say, you have rights and should discuss your case with a Los Angeles unpaid wage attorney to make sure you get all of the wages you are entitled to. 

Speak with a Los Angeles Unpaid Wage Lawyer Today

If you believe your employer has failed to comply with wage and hour laws, contact an attorney at our firm to find out what claims and remedies are available to you. We may be reached by filling out our intake form.