Knowledge of employment law in California can be particularly beneficial in situations involving hour and wage disputes. Most California workers are aware of the basics. For example, you should have regular break periods and be paid overtime when you exceed 40 hours a week. You must be paid a minimum wage in accordance with California law and be taxed accordingly. This all may be common sense to you, but what do you do in special circumstances when there are multiple factors working against you in a case involving an hour and wage dispute between you and your employer? Or perhaps you are the employer attempting to keep up with ever-changing California laws?

There are many examples of special circumstances that can make hour and wage disputes, and other matters regarding employment law, particularly tricky. Perhaps there was no time clock, or other form of punching in and out, making it difficult to prove the hours you have worked. Perhaps you weren’t able to give breaks to your employees for special reasons. Maybe your employer refused to pay drive time to and from the job when drive time was substantial. Or you could discover that your wages were not being taxed as you had thought and now you owe a heavy tax bill to the IRS that you were not aware was due. Typically, the larger the amount of unpaid hours/wages the more beneficial hiring an attorney will be. There can be many causes of hour and wage disputes being more complicated than expected, but regardless of your specific circumstances, a professional California business attorney can make the biggest difference in the outcome of your case.

Know Your Rights

time clockUnderstand that wage claims may be adjudicated on behalf of affected workers for nonpayment of wages, overtime, or vacation pay (including sick leave if applicable), pursuant to California Labor Code sections 96 and 98. Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) deputies hold informal conferences between employers and employees to resolve wage disputes. If a matter cannot be resolved at that time, an administrative hearing is held to make a final determination on the matter.

If the DLSE is unable to handle your situation for any reason or if you just need support during the proceedings, consulting with an attorney is your best bet. Many times, employers will try to bully an employee into accepting a lowball settlement or backing down completely without compensation with threats of slander or withholding wages or benefits permanently. Often times, these employers will be successful even if they have no case as if they can bully you into backing down, they won’t have to pay you fairly. Employers with such motivations will be less confident making such threats to a professional employment lawyer able to back up their client with the law.

Under both California and federal law, travel time to and from work does not ordinarily constitute “hours worked” and is not compensable. There are circumstances, however, where there may be an exception. For example, commuting travel time may be compensable under California law if the employee is subject to the control of the employer during the commute.

It’s also important to note that your employer is required by law to ensure your paycheck is taxed unless you fulfill requirements by law to be considered a contractor. The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) is the federal law that requires your employer to withhold three separate taxes from the wages they pay to their employees, including a 6.2 percent Social Security tax, a 1.45 percent Medicare tax, and a 0.9 percent Medicare surtax when the employee earns over $200,000. They are required to withhold federal income tax, meaning if you receive a large tax bill and were not a contractor, you may have grounds to pursue damages against your employer.

You May Have a Case Even if You Think You Don’t, or a Defense if You Are an Employer

Even if you are not certain you have a case, it’s worthwhile to consult with an attorney particularly if the losses are substantial. Many times an employee will not pursue damages if there was no punch in/out record due to the nonexistence of a time clock or if their employment arrangement wasn’t fully documented. There may still be other ways to verify employment occurred and that California law was not followed. Often times an employer will try to hold something over their employees. It could be threatening slander against their employment record or denying benefits that were due. Regardless, this is all against the law and a reputable employment attorney can better estimate your chances of proving such unlawful behavior in a court of law.

Finding a Professional California Employment Attorney

Webb Law Group is a reputable employment law firm with experience in matters involving California law. Having a reputable attorney by your side for these matters will help give you the best possible chance of a positive outcome in your case. If you feel you need legal representation, we are happy to review your legal needs and provide consultation and support where necessary.

For questions, or to schedule a consultation, contact us today at 559.­431.4888 (Fresno) or 619.399.7700 (San Diego).