How can I protect myself from wage theft?

Ideally, if you believe you have been shorted any amount on your paycheck, you will want to politely and professionally ask your supervisor, payroll person, or Human Resources contact about the issue; and then they should either correct the mistake or give you a satisfactory explanation of the difference in your pay.

If you’re afraid that you will be fired for simply asking such a question, and you need to keep your job, then you will be in a difficult bind. It’s rare that you can take any action against an employer for failure to pay all due wages, while keeping your identity anonymous. One possible exception is that if a large number of employees are all being cheated out of their wages or other compensation, then perhaps one or more current (or former) employees can file a “class action” suit on behalf of the entire group.

California law protects workers from retaliation, such as termination or disciplinary action, when they complain about unpaid wages. So if you are terminated for no good reason shortly after you complained of wage theft, then you may have a very good case for wrongful termination, which if successful could recover your lost wages, plus emotional distress damages, and punitive damages, on top of whatever amount the employer stole out of your check. However, you should be aware that lawsuits may take a year or longer to get resolved.

California wage laws can be tricky, especially regarding issues such as who is entitled to overtime pay, independent contractor versus employee classification, overtime rates for employees who earn commission, and numerous other issues. An experienced employment lawyer can advise you of your rights, help you recover your owed wages, plus interest, and collect numerous penalties against your employer. Since most people cannot afford a lawyer, most employment attorneys handle wage theft cases on a “contingency” (i.e., you don’t pay until you win) basis.

If you decide to pursue a wage claim, you will need evidence to substantiate your wage theft allegations. Hold on to all payment-related documentation such as your employment contracts and paystubs. Try to keep records of the amount of time you are working, or compile any other evidence of wrongdoing by your employer. California employers are required by law to give workers itemized wage statements. However, some employers fail to automatically provide them, and they may be doctoring time records – such as deducting a half hour for a lunch you never took. You can protect yourself by keeping updated records of the hours you work and documenting any time your employer denies you legally required meal or rest breaks or fails to pay you overtime.

Fighting wage theft on your own can be stressful and difficult, which is why it is a good idea to consult an experienced employment lawyer, who can protect your rights and help you gather evidence to support your claim.

McCormack Law Firm has represented many workers in unpaid wage and hour cases. We are dedicated to helping hardworking employees recover the wages they are owed. Contact us today for a free initial consultation to discuss your wage theft case with an experienced San Francisco employment attorney. We can help you understand your legal options.

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I can honestly say that my experience with Bryan was all the way positive from day one… We had very high expectations about our case and in the end we got what we hoped for. – Roger J.

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