Fail to Pay Wages in California? Prepare for Higher Penalties.

California employees have the right to be paid – in full and on time. Yet wage theft is still a prime source of labor law violations in this state.

That’s why lawmakers enacted AB 673, amending Chapter 716, Section 210 of the Labor Code. wage and hour lawyer

Existing law provides for a civil penalty – both additionally and entirely independent from all other fines or penalties – on anyone who fails to pay the wages of every employee. The law also includes a provision that bars differential pay or pay schedules on the basis of gender. It allows for the state Labor Commissioner to recover that penalty as part of the hearing that’s held to recover any unpaid wages/penalties or independent from the civil action. A portion of those penalties go to a specific fund in the Labor and Workforce Development Agency for the express purpose of educating workers about state labor laws. The rest goes to the State Treasury/General Fund.

AB 673 allows for the workers who have been affected to bring an action to recover certain penalties against employers who failed to pay them.

With new changes in the law, employees will be entitled to collect $100 each for every initial failure to pay wages. For every subsequent violation OR any initial violation that is intentional/willful, employees can collect $200 for each PLUS 25 percent of the amount of wages illegally withheld.

Workers can recover for either the statutory penalty provided by this new law or they can choose to enforce a civil penalty per Section 2699 of California Labor Code, but not both, for the same violation.

An experienced Los Angeles wage and hour lawyer should be called to advise wronged employees of their rights and best course of action in these instances.

What Are “Wages”? 

In California, “wages” are payments made for labor performed by an employee (not an independent contractor, though a fair number of wage and hour lawsuits are predicated on the assertion that employees are misclassified as contractors). This is any work, not just physical labor. Some various forms of wages include:

  • Hourly pay
  • Fixed salary
  • Commissions
  • Piece-rate payments
  • Payments that vary by task or project

Wages can also mean benefits received as part of one’s compensation for work, including money, room & board, vacation pay, sick pay, uniforms, etc.

The right to wages is not impacted by a person’s immigration status, and is protected both in the state’s contract law as well as the California Labor Code.

When Do Wages Need to Be Paid? 

Generally speaking, the terms of employment – including when wages will be paid – can be set by agreement between the worker and the employer. However, state law does impose some requirements about when wages need to be paid. Most workers should be paid at least twice monthly, with regular paydays established.

If an alternative pay schedule is established, employers shouldn’t pay wages later than 7 days after the end of each work period. Overtime wages need to be paid by the regular payday for the next pay period.

There are exceptions to some of these rules, so it’s important if you believe you have been the victim of wage and hour law violations that you speak with a local employment law attorney.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949-375-4734.

Additional Resources:

AB 673, Oct. 10, 2019, Legislative Counsel’s Digest

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