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San Diego Wage And Hour Lawyer

Although wage and hour violations are incredibly common, it can be challenging to stop them. Workers who experience pay violations are frequently ill-prepared to take their employers to court, while employers who violate California labor wage and hour laws may have substantial financial resources.

If you believe your employer has violated wage and hour laws, explore your legal options by contacting the experienced San Diego wage and hour lawyers at the Hamparyan Law Firm. Call (619) 550-1355 for a free consultation.

Overview of Wage and Hour Dispute Laws

What are Wage and Hour Laws?

Wage and hour laws are regulations at the federal and state level that mandate standards for employee pay and work hours. These laws ensure workers receive fair compensation and reasonable conditions.

Key federal wage legislation includes the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which sets benchmarks like minimum wage and overtime eligibility. Meanwhile, states often have additional worker protections regarding pay frequency, meal breaks, business expense reimbursements, final pay rules, and more.

For example, California wage and hour laws require that most hourly employees receive overtime pay for a workday exceeding 8 hours or a work week exceeding 40 hours. The state also has daily meal-and-rest break requirements. Employers in California must also pay all final wages owed to terminated employees within 72 hours.

Why Do We Have Wage and Hour Labor Laws?

Wage and hour rules prevent worker exploitation and maintain decent living standards. Without such safeguards, employers could underpay staff while demanding excessive hours. That could endanger employees’ health and well-being over time while making it impossible for them to afford basic needs.

By mandating fair pay for hours worked, wage and hour regulations let employees earn reasonable, livable wages. The laws also promote safer, more humane working conditions through limitations on excessive hours.

Who Enforces San Diego County Wage and Hour Laws?

There are a few avenues for wage and hour law enforcement:

  • Federal Department of Labor (DOL) – Investigates FLSA complaints and non-compliance
  • State labor agencies – Handle claims under state wage and hour laws. In California, the primary enforcing agency is the Labor Commissioner’s Office.
  • Employee lawsuits – Workers can pursue private cases for violations.

Government agencies like the DOL and state labor boards can impose penalties, order back pay, and require policy changes. However, their enforcement tends to be limited by resources. Employees encountering wage theft or other violations may need to contact an attorney. An experienced wage and hour lawyer can calculate all owed wages, negotiate with the employer, and file a lawsuit if necessary.

Common Wage and Hour Violations

Many employees deal with wage theft and other violations at some point. Some of the most common illegal practices include:

Failure to Pay Minimum Wage

Federal law requires a $7.25 minimum wage, but states and cities can mandate a higher rate. In California, the current minimum wage as of January 1, 2024 is $16.00 per hour. California fast food employees will also be entitled to a $20 minimum wage starting April 1, 2024. Some employers, however, violate minimum wage laws such as by:

  • Paying a flat daily rate that falls below the hourly minimum when divided across actual hours worked
  • Making improper deductions from paychecks that cut into minimum wage earnings
  • Forcing off-the-clock work hours that drive pay below the legal floor.

Unpaid Overtime

The FLSA requires 1.5x regular pay for hours over 40 per week for eligible employees. Salaried positions are typically exempt but most hourly or low-level workers qualify. Some ways employers avoid overtime include:

  • Misclassifying employees as exempt from overtime
  • Manipulating time cards to limit recorded hours
  • Implementing comp time policies instead of overtime pay
  • Discouraging reporting of extra hours worked
  • Failing to include bonus, commission, or piece rates in calculating the regular rate.

Meal and Rest Break Violations

California mandates a 30-minute meal break within the first 5 hours of a shift as well as 10-minute rest breaks every 4 hours. Many employers violate these rules by:

  • Failing to provide legally compliant breaks
  • Not providing breaks at all
  • Interrupting legally protected break times
  • Discouraging employees from taking breaks they are entitled to.

Illegal Pay Deductions

Employers cannot make deductions from paychecks that cut into minimum wage or promised wages. Common illegal deductions include:

  • Uniform costs
  • Cash or inventory shortages
  • Cost of breakage or loss
  • Recouping business expenses or losses.

Tips Manipulation

Employers must pass along tips, gratuities, and service charges to the employees who earned them. However, violations like the following are common:

  • Confiscating tips from workers
  • Failing to distribute service charges, banquet fees, or porterage fees to service staff who earned them
  • Requiring tip pooling with managers or positions that do not customarily receive tips.

Other wage-and-hour violations include bouncing payroll checks, employee misclassification, unpaid commissions and promised bonuses, failing to pay wages owed at termination (or three days after a voluntary termination in the case of an involuntary termination), and more. If you experienced any of these, talk to a San Diego employment lawyer regarding possible options for building a wage and hour employment dispute case.

Consequences of Wage Theft

Wage and hour violations severely impact workers relying on every dollar they earn to get by. When wages go missing or get cut, it can mean missed rent, credit card debt, and tough choices like whether to pay for utilities or groceries.

Beyond individual worker challenges, wage theft also harms communities. Lost earnings mean less spending at local businesses. It also represents lost tax revenue for funding schools, infrastructure, and other public assets.

For employers that engage in illegal pay practices, consequences can include lawsuits, government fines, and serious reputational damage. Once exposed, wage theft greatly diminishes public trust in a business. It also opens companies up to further legal scrutiny going forward.

How a San Diego Wage and Hour Lawyer Can Help

If you suspect you are dealing with wage theft or pay violations, a dedicated wage and hour attorney can help recover owed payments. A competent lawyer can build a strong case using their detailed knowledge of federal and state wage regulations. An attorney also knows how to compile evidence, demonstrate damages, and negotiate aggressively with employers.

At the Hamparyan Law Firm, our qualified wage and hour lawyer can provide services like:

Investigation of Potential California Law Violations

  • Reviewing timecards, paystubs, policies, procedures, and other documentation for compliance
  • Confidentially interviewing coworkers to corroborate experiences with violations

Calculation of Unpaid Wages

  • Factoring overtime, deductions, missed breaks, unreimbursed expenses, and other lost wages
  • Determining the willfulness of violations based on policies and manager direction

Settlement Negotiation or Lawsuit Filing

  • Sending demand letter detailing violations and amount owed
  • Filing wage claim or lawsuit if employer refuses reasonable offer

Ongoing Legal Advice and Case Updates

  • Advising on best next steps based on employer response and strength of case
  • Managing all aspects of the legal process across investigation, filing, and court phases.

Dedicated wage and hour lawyers in San Diego understand how violations occur across industries. They can recognize non-compliance, prove damages, and pursue full back pay compensation. In some cases, double or triple damages may also be warranted based on the willfulness of employer actions.

Key Factors in Wage and Hour Cases

Determining Employee Classification

Whether employees qualify for minimum wage, overtime, and other protections depends partly on how they are classified. Two employee categories are:

  • Exempt – Salaried professional, administrative, and executive staff who are paid full time at higher rates. “Exempt” means they are not covered by wage-and-hour protections of the state.
  • Non-exempt – Hourly workers and lower-level staff entitled to minimum wage, overtime, meal and rest breaks, and the like. Their non-exempt status makes them subject to wage-and-hour rules.

Unfortunately, many employers misclassify workers as exempt to avoid paying overtime and providing breaks. There are detailed federal and state rules regarding which duties and pay levels allow exempt classification. Experienced wage and hour lawyers can assess whether workers were misclassified as exempt. That involves examining job duties, pay structure, manager directives about hours worked, and other evidence.

Calculating Back Pay Owed

Determining the full scope of unpaid wages requires a detailed calculation. Most claims will factor in:

  • Unpaid regular wages due to minimum wage violations
  • Unpaid overtime at 1.5x rate
  • Meal and rest break premiums of 1-hour wage per missed break
  • Illegal deductions and unreimbursed expenses
  • Other lost wages like tips confiscation or final pay violations.

For willful violations, double damages may apply. Damages also continue accumulating until employers make proper payments. Thorough wage calculations require examining policies, timecards, workplace practices, and accounting for all lost pay components. Experienced lawyers handle this complex process regularly.

Assessing Meal and Rest Break Violations

California employers must provide a 30-minute uninterrupted and duty-free meal break within the first 5 hours of a shift. They must also offer a paid 10-minute rest break for every 4 hours worked. To determine whether these rules were violated, our rest break attorneys will:

  • Review written break policies
  • Examine timekeeping records for missed or short breaks
  • Interview staff on actual break experiences.

Even if policies seem compliant, many employers discourage or interrupt legally protected breaks. Missed breaks trigger additional wages — one hour of pay per violation in California. Start compiling evidence and consulting a lawyer early on.

Uncovering Off-the-Clock Work

Wage theft through unpaid “off-the-clock” work is common and hard to prove, but savvy lawyers know how to uncover these violations. Warning signs include:

  • Direct orders to work before or after shifts to finish tasks or prepare for the next shift
  • Automatic time deductions for breaks not actually taken
  • Manipulated time cards to reduce paid hours
  • Time shaving through punching in or punching out policies.

Alongside compiling documentation, we at Hamparyan can confidentially interview other staff to find similar experiences. Detailed accounts from multiple workers help demonstrate a pattern of violations.

About the Hamparyan Law Firm

The Hamparyan Law Firm is a highly-rated office based in San Diego with over 20 years of experience successfully representing Southern Californians. Our wage and hour lawyers are strategic, assertive advocates for workers experiencing violations such as:

  • Minimum wage and overtime violations
  • Missed meal and rest breaks
  • Employee misclassification
  • Illegal paycheck deductions
  • Tips manipulation
  • Final pay violations.

Through the decades, our firm has recovered over $100 million for Southern Californians harmed by others. Our lawyers are praised for their relentless commitment to client interests, willingness to go to trial for maximum compensation, and track record of exceptional case results.

If you are dealing with wage theft or other pay violations, we offer a free case evaluation and only collect fees if we recover unpaid wages for you. Call (619) 550-1355 today to schedule a free appointment.

Top 10 Questions Related to San Diego Wage and Hour Lawyers

What makes someone exempt from overtime pay?

The main exemptions are for executive, administrative, and professional staff who earn at least twice the state’s minimum wage. Other professions are also exempt such as outside salespersons, drivers, actors, commercial fishing crew, and more.

Meanwhile, most hourly workers are non-exempt.

Can I afford a wage and hour lawyer?

Many wage and hour firms work on contingency, meaning you don’t have to pay upfront fees and they take a percentage of back pay you recover. If they get you no wages, you pay nothing.

What if my employer retaliates after I file a claim?

Retaliation for exercising wage and hour rights is illegal. If it occurs, additional damages may be warranted. An attorney can help address retaliation appropriately.

How long do I have to file a wage claim in California?

California employment law gives employees three years to file a lawsuit for most wage violations, but additional procedural deadlines may apply within this period. If you are filing against a government employer, the time limit to sue may be shorter. Regardless of which field you are in, it’s best to consult an employment lawyer as soon as possible.

What types of damages can I recover in a wage claim?

At minimum, you can claim all unpaid regular and overtime wages illegally withheld. If violations were willful, you may recover equal amounts in liquidated damages. Premiums for missed meal breaks or rest breaks and other penalties may also apply. Attorneys maximize total damages.

How quickly does an employer have to pay my final wages after termination?

California employers must pay all final wages owed to terminated employees within 72 hours. Late final pay allows for penalties under state law.

Can I file a claim for unpaid expenses my employer owes me?

Yes, California law requires employers reimburse necessary business expenses. If they cut reimbursements or forced you to cover costs personally, you can claim those amounts as owed wages.

What proof do I need to show I worked off-the-clock hours?

Testimony from yourself and other employees confirming similar experiences can serve as convincing evidence of off-the-clock work directives. You may also include circumstantial evidence like tasks requiring work beyond paid hours.

Is there still a claim if I agreed to my employer’s illegal pay practices?

Yes, an employee cannot legally waive rights covered by wage and hour laws. So even if you agreed to an unlawful policy, violations still create employer liability.

Do I have to report wage theft to a government agency first before filing a lawsuit?

No, employees have a private right of action allowing you to sue an employer directly for wage violations without first filing an agency claim. A direct lawsuit may be an opportunity to comprehensively recover what you’re entitled to, including legal fees.

However, other avenues for justice exist, such as filing a claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Ask an experienced attorney in San Diego to learn which legal recourse is best for your situation.

Need a San Diego Employment Lawyer? Hamparyan Law Firm Offers Free Consultation.

When it comes to addressing wage and hour violations, the experienced San Diego wage and hour lawyers at the Hamparyan Law Firm stand out as the ideal choice for California workers. With over 20 years of successful representation, our firm is knowledgeable in California law and well-equipped to stand up to unfair employers.

If you believe your employer has violated wage and hour laws, don’t hesitate to contact Hamparyan Law Firm at (619) 550-1355 for a free consultation. We are your trusted advocates in the pursuit of fair pay and workers’ rights.


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