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California Overtime Pay, Wage Theft, & Unlawful Pay Lawyers

Have you been denied your rightfully earned wages? Our experienced employment lawyers fight for California workers who have been victims of wage theft, unpaid overtime, minimum wage violations, misclassification as exempt, off-the-clock work, and more. Don't let your employer exploit you. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your unpaid wage claim.

Overtime, Wage Theft & Unlawful Pay Practices Come In Many Forms

California law mandates overtime pay for hours worked beyond set thresholds, protects against wage theft by ensuring employees receive due compensation, and prohibits unlawful pay practices, promoting fair labor standards and equal pay for equal work. California’s labor laws are comprehensive and designed to protect employees across several fronts:

Overtime Pay

California is known for its strong worker protections, especially regarding overtime pay.  The state ensures that employees are fairly compensated for the long hours they put in.

If you work more than 8 hours in a single day or more than 40 hours in a workweek, California law mandates that you receive overtime pay. This overtime pay is calculated at a rate of one and a half times your regular rate of pay. This means you’ll earn 50% more for each hour worked beyond those thresholds.

If you find yourself working incredibly long days (exceeding 12 hours in a single workday), or you’re putting in extra hours on your seventh consecutive day of work (any hours worked over 8 on that seventh day), the overtime pay increases to double your regular rate of pay. This means you’ll earn twice your normal hourly wage for those extra hours.

Wage Theft Prevention

California takes wage theft seriously. Strict regulations ensure employers pay agreed-upon wages on time. Following termination, regardless of reason (resignation, layoff, etc.), employers must provide your final paycheck within specific timelines mandated by California law. These timelines vary depending on your termination circumstances (e.g., voluntary resignation vs. involuntary termination). The final paycheck must also include any unpaid overtime wages, vacation time, sick leave, or other accrued and compensable pay.

Employers who fail to comply face consequences. This includes being required to pay the owed wages plus interest, along with potential additional fines. If you haven’t received your final paycheck on time or suspect you’re owed unpaid wages, contact Matern Law Group today. We can help you navigate the legalities, recover what you’re owed, and hold your employer accountable.

Unlawful Pay Practices

California boasts robust equal pay laws, ensuring employees are compensated fairly regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or national origin. This means if you perform “substantially similar work” (considering skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions) as a colleague, you deserve equal pay.

California law mandates pay transparency as well. Employers must maintain accurate wage records and cannot prohibit employees from discussing their wages with each other.

Violations can be costly for employers. Companies that fail to comply with California’s equal pay and pay transparency laws face significant consequences, including reimbursement of unpaid wages to affected employees and additional financial penalties to compensate employees for harm caused by the pay disparity. Employers may also be responsible for covering the legal costs incurred by employees who successfully sue for equal pay violations.

If you suspect unequal pay or any wage-related issue, California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) offers resources and can mediate disputes. Additionally, you have the right to pursue legal action. Our experienced employment lawyers can help you understand your rights, navigate the legal process, and fight for the compensation you deserve.


California safeguards commission-based employees with clear regulations. The law mandates that commission structures be documented in a written agreement signed by both employer and employee. This agreement should detail how commissions are calculated, earned, and paid.

Even with commission-based pay, California law requires employers to ensure you earn at least the minimum wage for all hours worked. This means if your commissions fall short in a particular pay period, your employer must supplement your earnings to meet the minimum wage threshold.

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California enforces strong equal pay protections through the California Equal Pay Act. This law guarantees that employees performing “substantially similar work” are compensated equally, regardless of their gender, race, or ethnicity.  “Substantially similar work” considers factors like skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions.

Exceptions to this principle exist only for legitimate, job-related reasons documented by the employer. These reasons might include factors like seniority, qualifications, a merit-based pay system, or a system based on a bona fide factor other than protected characteristics (like gender, race, ethnicity).

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California is a national leader in combating the gender pay gap, thanks to its strong equal pay laws. These laws empower employees and promote fairness in the workplace.

One key element is the California Fair Pay Act. This law ensures that men and women are paid equally for “substantially similar work.” This means the jobs require similar skill, effort, responsibility, and are performed under similar working conditions.  Simply put, if you’re doing the same job as a colleague of a different gender, you deserve the same pay.

But California goes beyond just equal pay. Recognizing the importance of transparency, the state also mandates salary range disclosure for certain employers.  If a company with 100 or more employees has a job opening, they are required to provide a pay range to applicants upon request. This allows both men and women to enter salary negotiations with a better understanding of the fair market value for the position. This transparency is a powerful tool in closing the gender pay gap.

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California labor law protects workers from misclassification, a tactic some employers use to avoid providing essential benefits and protections.

Employers may wrongly classify employees with managerial titles who perform significant non-managerial duties. This can deny them rightful overtime pay and meal/rest break compensation. If you hold a managerial title but regularly perform tasks typically done by non-exempt employees, you might be entitled to unpaid overtime and compensation for missed breaks.

Sometimes, employers misclassify workers as independent contractors to avoid providing employee benefits and protections. However, if you’re treated like an employee (set schedule, required work location, etc.), California law may consider you an employee entitled to compensation for minimum wage, overtime, and other benefits.

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California law protects employees from wage theft, including work performed “off-the-clock.” This means any job-related duties you perform for your employer without receiving proper compensation, at either your regular rate or overtime rate.

What qualifies as “off-the-clock” work can vary by industry and employer.  However, a key principle is that all work activities that benefit the employer should be considered compensable work time. For example, arriving early to prepare your workspace or staying late to finish tasks can be considered off-the-clock work if you’re not properly compensated.

If you’re expected to respond to work emails or calls outside your scheduled hours, that time may be compensable under California law. Similarly, if you are required to attend meetings or trainings outside of your scheduled hours, you may be entitled to compensation for the time spent.

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California enforces robust overtime protections for workers.  The state mandates that employers compensate employees at a rate of one and a half times their regular pay rate for exceeding established work hour thresholds.

If you work more than 8 hours in a single workday, you’re entitled to overtime pay calculated at “time-and-a-half” your regular rate. The same principle applies if you surpass 40 hours worked in a workweek. Any hours exceeding that 40-hour mark trigger overtime pay at “time-and-a-half” your regular rate.

If you find yourself exceeding 12 hours in a single workday, or you’re putting in extra hours on your seventh consecutive day of work (any hours worked over 8 on that seventh day), the overtime pay increases to double your regular rate of pay. This means you’ll earn twice your normal hourly wage for those extra hours.

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California allows employers to implement “tip pooling” arrangements, where employees share a portion or all of their collected tips according to predetermined percentages. However, for this practice to be legal, specific regulations must be followed:

California law allows employers to mandate tip pooling, but only under certain conditions. The tip pool can only include employees who customarily and regularly receive tips, such as servers, bartenders, and valets. Those who don’t typically receive tips, like cooks or dishwashers, cannot be forced to participate. Additionally, managers or supervisors who hold the authority to hire, fire, or influence promotions and job assignments are also excluded from the tip pool.

Exceptions exist for rare instances where managers perform the same duties as tipped employees for a substantial portion of their workday. Finally, the tip pool distribution formula must be fair and reasonable, typically based on hours worked or sales generated.

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California safeguards employee rights with robust wage recovery measures. If you haven’t been paid what you’re owed, California law empowers you to fight for what’s due.

California law grants you the legal right to recover all unpaid wages, including compensation for overtime hours worked, minimum wage violations, or any other accrued and compensable pay you’ve earned.  In addition to recouping the unpaid wages themselves, California law may also entitle you to liquidated damages. These liquidated damages are essentially financial penalties imposed on employers to compensate for the harm caused by the wage theft.  The amount of liquidated damages can be equal to the amount of unpaid wages owed to you.  Furthermore, if your employer fails to provide your final paycheck on time (after termination or layoff), California law mandates they pay you a waiting time penalty for each day they are late. This penalty can accrue daily until your final paycheck is issued.

California provides two main options to recover unpaid wages, penalties, and interest: filing a wage claim with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) or pursuing legal action in court. The DLSE offers a free and relatively streamlined process, while a lawsuit allows you to potentially recover more compensation but involves a more complex legal process.

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California takes a comprehensive approach to combatting the gender and racial pay gap through its strong equal pay laws. These laws empower employees and promote fairness in the workplace by ensuring equal compensation for men, women, and people of all ethnicities performing “substantially similar work.” This means the jobs require similar skill, effort, responsibility, and are performed under similar working conditions.  The focus isn’t just on job titles; the law recognizes that duties and experience required for the position are what truly matter when determining equal pay.

California goes beyond equal pay by requiring employers with 100 or more employees to provide a pay range for a job opening upon request. This pay transparency empowers workers in several ways. First, knowing the salary range allows employees to enter salary negotiations with a stronger understanding of the fair market value for the position. This ensures they are negotiating from a position of knowledge and are more likely to secure fair compensation.

Second, pay transparency can help identify potential pay discrimination. If a worker discovers a significant pay gap between genders or ethnicities for similar roles, they can take action to address the disparity. These robust regulations are designed to dismantle systemic wage discrimination and promote a level playing field for all workers in California.

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Your final paycheck must encompass all accrued and compensable wages you’ve earned throughout your employment. This includes your base salary earned during your pay period leading up to termination, any unpaid overtime wages you’re owed, any unused vacation days you’ve accumulated, and any unused sick leave, personal days, or other forms of paid time off (PTO) you’ve accrued.

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Our Approach

Our Practices are Guided by Integrity. We’ll protect what you deserve.

We work tirelessly and fight tenaciously to hold rights abusers accountable.

If you’ve experienced a distressing incident related to an issue like this, call us for a free case evaluation.

Did You Know?

Meal & Rest Breaks
California employees are entitled to uninterrupted meals and rest breaks during their workday.
An employee who is improperly classified as an independent contractor, but treated like an employee, may be entitled to compensation.
Off-the-Clock Work
All job-related activities that benefit the employer should be considered part of the employee’s paid time.

Is It Illegal, or Just Unfair?

Legal cases can be lengthy, complicated, and confusing, but you don’t have to take on the system all by yourself. If you believe someone has violated your individual rights, or the rights of a large group of people in your community, we can help you find the right course of action.

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