What You Can Do When You Think You’re Not Being Paid Properly
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What You Can Do When You Think You’re Not Being Paid Properly

If you’re like most employees, your job probably isn’t easy. But when you think you’re being cheated on your wages, it can be especially frustrating. Unfortunately, sometimes employees aren’t properly paid or reimbursed for expenses for uniforms or other work-related costs. In some cases, workers aren’t paid for meal breaks or rest breaks. Here’s what you need to do if you think you’re not being paid properly at work, along with how a good employment lawyer can help you.  

Not Being Paid for Meal Breaks

One of the main examples of an employee being treated wrongly is not being paid for meal breaks. The United States Department of Labor has different state laws for adult employees who work in the private sector or non-profit businesses.


In California, employees are entitled to ½ hour meal breaks after they’ve worked for five hours. The exception is when they only work six hours or less in a workday, and both the employer and employee have mutually agreed to waive meal breaks. If you work for longer than 10 hours a day, your employer has to give you a second meal break that’s at least 30 minutes long.


Unpaid Rest Breaks

Not getting paid rest breaks is a pay violation. Most states give employees a ten-minute rest break that includes pay, after every four hours of work. However, this isn’t a requirement for employees who work only 3.5 hours a day.


Failing to Pay for Company Uniforms

Most state laws require employers to reimburse their employees for business expenses that are considered reasonable. This may include employee uniforms. If an employer has agreed to reimburse an employee for buying a uniform but fails to do so, this is unfair. Additionally, an employer must pay for protective gear as well as pay for replacing worn out or lost uniforms. Dry-cleaning costs should also be covered by employers.


Overtime Pay Violations

Being denied pay for overtime or being underpaid for working longer than a regular workweek is illegal. According to the United States Department of Labor , employers requiring employees to work overtime have to provide premium pay for their overtime work. The FLSA (Fair Labor Standard Act) states that employees are entitled to receive overtime pay for working more than 40 hours per week. Premium pay should be one to one-half times, or more, of an employee’s regular pay rate.


How an Employment Attorney Can Help

When you’ve been treated unlawfully at work, it’s best to find a reputable employment attorney who can help you. Consider that the Wage and Hour Law is exceptionallycomplex.This is mainly because it’s influenced by federal acts, state statutes, municipal codes, case law decisions and other factors.

  • Besides determining if your employer is guilty of violating a state or federal law, your attorney can discuss how you can fight the injustice and if your case is strong enough to pursue.
  • Rather than sue an employer, often employees file claims with the state labor department for unpaid wages. This option, which is both quicker and cheaper than a lawsuit, involves holding a hearing. On the other hand, it can mean recovering less money for damages.
  • Your lawyer may suggest contacting your employer in an attempt to work out a settlement for a claim.
  • A highly trained and experienced employment lawyer is able to compare the pros and cons of different options so that you can make the best decision on how to proceed.
  • Furthermore, lawyers discuss what’s involved in cost, regarding the various options. They can give a ballpark figure of how much money clients can get for damages and what to expect, regarding attorney fees, for pursuing these damages.

Considerations and Warnings

  • Usually, it’s up to an employer to cover the cost of a uniform that has a company logo, brand or trademark.
  • If your employer doesn’t pay you the minimum wage, you’ve been cheated and need to get legal help. It’s usually tipped workers and day-rate employees who are especially at risk for minimum wage infringements due to the way that these employees are paid.
  • An employer should not pool tips with non-tipped workers, which is a practice known as tip pooling. When this occurs, a tipped worker loses hourly pay that is less that the required minimum wage.
  • You should be paid for any work done for an employer, regardless of where your work is done. Common examples of working outside of an employer’s premises include checking emails for your employer, working through meal breaks, being on-call, cleaning equipment, attending training or safety classes and other work that’s not done at your job site.
  • If you’re forced to work off-the-clock, you may have the right to sue your employer for lost pay.


Do you need sound legal counsel? If so, set up a free consultation with the legal professionals at Aiman-Smith & Marcy. We specialize in employment law, consumer fraud and class actions in California. Please contact us and find out more about our wide range of legal services.