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Unpaid Wages

California has strict rules about when wages must be paid. The state has long allowed for civil penalties to be levied against an employer through a civil action. Although civil penalties are paid to the state, aggrieved employees have been able to file such lawsuits on the state’s behalf under the Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) found in the California Labor Code. Since 2019, however, employees have also been able to recover the full amount of the penalty for themselves by filing a wage claim for statutory penalties with the Labor Commissioner’s Office. This change in the law has made it easier and more attractive for employees to go after their employers whenever they are not paid in a timely or proper manner under the law.

Unpaid wage violations can be costly to an employer, especially for repeated violations or violations that affect multiple employees. If you are an employer or employee with concerns that wages are not being paid properly according to the California Labor Code, contact the California employment law attorneys of Rounds & Sutter at our offices in Ventura and Westlake Village. We represent California employers and employees with wage & hour legal issues in Ventura, Oxnard, Camarillo, and surrounding areas in Southern California. Call today to share your concerns with our skilled and knowledgeable California employment lawyers.

When Are Wages Due?

Wages are due twice a month on regular paydays which have been established in advance by the employer. It is against the law in California to only pay employees once a month. Payment for work done between the first and fifteenth of the month is due between the sixteenth and twenty-sixth day of that same month. Payment for work done between the sixteenth and the end of the month is due between the first and the tenth day of the following month. Within these timeframes, the employer should designate regular paydays and pay wages accordingly.

This payment schedule includes all types of wages, including the minimum wage or regular rate of pay, overtime pay, paid vacation days taken during employment, and premium pay for denied meal or rest breaks.

The penalty can be assessed the first day it becomes late. Employees generally have one year to file a claim for unpaid wages in most cases.

How Much Is the Unpaid Wage Penalty?

Unpaid wage penalties are steep: $100 per failure per employee for a first violation, and $200 per violation per employee for a subsequent violation. In the event of a subsequent violation, the employer must also pay 25% of the amount of wages unlawfully withheld as an additional penalty.

The penalty for a willful or intentional violation of the law is $200, even for a first violation, plus the additional penalty of 25% of the amount of wages unlawfully withheld. A willful or intentional violation is one that is deliberate or knowing, compared to accidental or inadvertent. The employee does not have to prove any evil intent to defraud the worker; just that they did it on purpose. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

The unpaid wage penalty includes underpayment of wages as well. If an employer pays less than what is owed, the penalty applies.

A separate type of penalty might be due for unpaid wages after separation from employment. When an employee is fired, their final wages are due immediately upon discharge. If the employee quits, their final wages are due immediately assuming they gave at least 72 hours’ notice to the employer. If they didn’t give notice, then wages are due within 72 hours after quitting. An employer that fails to pay final wages in accordance with the law is subject to a waiting time penalty equal to the employee’s daily rate of pay for each day wages remain unpaid up to a maximum of 30 calendar days.

Contact Rounds & Sutter for Help With Wage & Hour Issues in Ventura, Oxnard and Camarillo

If you are an employer concerned about possible wage violations at your company, or if you are an employee who has not been paid in a timely manner, call Rounds & Sutter LLP at 805-650-7100 for a free initial consultation with our team of experienced and dedicated California wage and hour employment lawyers. From our offices in Ventura and Westlake Village, we serve employers and employees in Oxnard, Camarillo, and surrounding areas throughout Southern California. Let us help you resolve your employment legal issues efficiently and effectively.

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