Low Wage Workers – San Francisco Unpaid Wage Lawyer
Wage theft occurs when an employer fails to pay workers what they are owed. Many employees are often unaware they may be victims of wage theft. Under California law, all workers have the right to the full, fair and timely payment of wages.
Employees across all income levels may struggle with unpaid wages. However, low-wage workers, particularly immigrant workers, are at a higher risk of wage theft. They frequently experience labor violations such as being paid below minimum wage, not receiving overtime pay, or being forced to work off the clock.
California law allows workers to take legal action against their employer to recover their unpaid wages, regardless of immigration status. Many workers experiencing wage theft do not consider filing a claim for unpaid wages due to fear of retaliation from their employers. They may also lack awareness about the legal resources available to them.
McCormack Law Firm is dedicated to helping low-wage workers fight wage theft. Our San Francisco employment lawyers have represented workers in many different industries across the Bay Area. We understand the challenges you face and are here to help you resolve your problems with unpaid wages.
Common Types of Wage Theft
Unpaid wages threaten the livelihoods of low-wage workers. The theft of seemingly small amounts of money can add up over time and have a huge impact.
Sometimes wage theft is obvious, such as when an employer does not pay their workers. However, it can also occur in more subtle ways. While wage theft can take many different forms, here are some common ways in which employers may commit violations:
- Paying less than minimum wage
- Requiring hourly employees to work through their lunch, but deducting a half-hour from their pay
- Forcing employees to work off the clock before or after shifts
- Withholding overtime pay when it is legally required
- Confiscating tips that workers have earned
- Denying meal breaks or rest breaks
- Misclassifying a worker as an independent contractor
- Failing to reimburse business expenses
- Making illegal deductions from paychecks
Industries with High Rates of Wage Theft
While wage theft can occur in any job, specific low-wage industries in the San Francisco Bay Area have higher rates of wage violations. Workers in restaurants, janitorial jobs, agriculture, manufacturing, and various service industries may experience unpaid wages.
According to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of minimum wage and overtime violations, employers of gas station attendants, child care workers, security guards, and restaurant servers are among the most likely to take advantage of their employees. In 2019, the agency cited about 8,500 employers for wage theft totaling $287 million.
The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor identified the industries that owed the highest back wages to workers. In 2021, the top five industries nationwide were construction, food services, health care, retail, and agriculture. These industries have consistently been the top violators over the years regarding unpaid wages, affecting tens of thousands of U.S. workers.
Employers in the construction industry owed more than $36 million in back wages to 21,341 employees in 2021. Construction workers often work long hours without meal periods or rest breaks. They may be misclassified, with employers trying to pay them under the table without good benefits.
Restaurants have high incidences of wage theft. San Francisco Bay Area eateries like Rangoon Ruby, Z & Y Restaurant, La Taqueria, and fast-food joints have been in the news for underpaying employees. They have also received fines and penalties totaling millions of dollars from the California Labor Commissioner’s Office, along with facing lawsuits.
Restaurant managers sometimes engage in the illegal practice of withholding tips. They may pay below minimum wage based on the idea that servers earn additional money from customers’ tips. California law requires restaurants to pay workers full minimum wage in addition to their tips.
- Janitorial and Cleaning Services
The industry practice of contracting and subcontracting reduces the accountability of employers when it comes to paying workers what they are owed. Even though employers are required to keep detailed records of workers’ hours and pay rates, they may fail to do so.
Not paying overtime is another common violation in the industry. Janitorial companies may also force workers to work long shifts without proper meal periods or rest breaks.
Cleaning staff at hotels are often misclassified as independent contractors even though they meet the legal standards of being considered an employee. They may also be paid below minimum wage.
Employees in the health care industry often work nights and weekends, and regular daytime hours. Staff at busy hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities may be pressured to work off the clock to finish all their duties.
One of the most common types of wage violations in the health care industry is unpaid overtime. While putting in extra hours is often expected, employees should be paid for all hours worked. Employers may try to get away with wage theft when employees are not keeping track of all hours they have worked.
Call For A Free Case Evaluation
If you suspect you have been subjected to wage theft, discuss your case with an experienced San Francisco employment lawyer. We understand it can be challenging to understand your rights regarding minimum wage, overtime pay, and laws about unpaid wages. McCormack Law Firm is available to answer your questions or concerns. Please call us for a free consultation.