California, with its thriving industries and diverse job opportunities, offers numerous employment avenues for residents. But like anywhere else, not all workplaces are as they seem on the surface. While many employers act in good faith, some might be guilty of wage theft, depriving employees of the earnings they rightfully deserve. The California Department of Industrial Relations found that from 2017 to 2022, workers across the state reported over 60,000 incidents of wage theft.
As an employee, recognizing the signs of wage theft is the first step towards addressing the issue and ensuring you receive fair compensation for your hard work.
If you work more than the standard workweek hours, your employer should pay you overtime. In California, any work beyond 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week qualifies for overtime. If you are not receiving this additional pay, it might be a clear sign of wage theft.
The law mandates that employers provide certain breaks during the workday. This includes a 30-minute meal break for shifts over five hours and 10-minute rest breaks for every four hours worked. If you are not getting these breaks or if you are working through them without additional pay, you could be a victim of wage theft.
Working off the clock
If your employer requires you to perform tasks before clocking in or after clocking out, you should be wary. Any job-related task you perform should count as working hours, and you deserve compensation for that time.
Misclassification of employment status
Sometimes, employers classify workers as independent contractors rather than employees to avoid paying benefits, overtime or minimum wage. If you feel that your responsibilities and working conditions resemble those of an employee, but your employer classifies you differently, it might be a red flag.
Tips not adding up
For jobs that rely on tips, like in the service industry, employers might sometimes take illegal deductions or fail to compensate workers up to the minimum wage when tips do not suffice. Make sure you are keeping track of your earnings and that they align with legal standards.
What you can do
If you believe your employer is not paying you fairly, it is important to keep detailed records. Document your hours worked, any overtime, breaks and all your pay stubs. These records can serve as evidence if you need to take further action.
Earning a fair wage for your work is not just a right; it is a matter of respect and dignity. Remember, standing up for your rights ensures not only a just workplace for you but also paves the way for a fairer work environment for everyone.