Updated on April 19th, 2023
Your employer is legally required to pay you at your regular rate of pay for every non-overtime hour you work. For all overtime hours you work, you must be paid at the overtime premium rate. If your employer does not pay your hours correctly or on time, you can recover:
- The unpaid wages
- Interest on the unpaid wages
- Penalties in some circumstances
All employees must be paid the minimum wage or higher. If the state or local wage is different from the federal minimum wage, the employee must be paid the higher one. If in the contract or offer letter a higher wage than minimum wage is agreed upon, the employee must be paid that hourly rate.
The employee can claim damages if their employer pays them less than the minimum wage. The employee can either file an administrative claim with the state’s labor department or file a lawsuit in court.
If you work more than the federal hours, then you are entitled to overtime. Federal law requires 1.5 times pay for working more than 40 hours a week. California law requires double pay for working more than 12 hours a day. If your employer fails to pay you overtime at the correct rate, you have a legal claim.
Damages refer to the amount of money you can recover in your lawsuit or wage claim. There are a few different categories of damages which can be claimed depending on your circumstances:
- Unpaid wages- You will be entitled to the wages you were not paid. This includes unpaid overtime premiums.
- Interest – You will be entitled to interest on the unpaid wages for the length of time your employer took to rectify the situation. This interest rate will be set by state law. In some cases you may be awarded liquidated damages instead, which is set in advance for the law. If your employer willfully underpaid or didn’t pay you, then they may have to double the liquidated damages they pay you.
- Penalties – In some states, your employer will have to pay the penalty for unpaid wages. In California, the employer has to pay the penalty equal to 30 days of the unpaid wages for “waiting time.”
- Attorneys’ Fees – If you win your case, your employer will have to pay your attorneys’ fees.
Brad Nakase, Attorney
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