Unpaid Wages Lawyer, Los Angeles633 West Fifth Street, Suite 2200
Los Angeles, CA 90071
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Unpaid Wages Lawyer, Los Angeles
Hard work can sometimes go unnoticed—but according to the law in Los Angeles, it should never go unpaid.
If you believe that your employer has failed to pay you for your hard work, you may need to hire an unpaid wage lawyer in Los Angeles to help you recover the wages rightfully owed to you.
When employees are cheated out of their wages, many workers may fear retaliation if they speak up. Having the right lawyer on your side, however, can empower you to seek justice and can deter your employer from any illegal tricks.
At Morgan and Morgan, our law firm proudly represents workers that have been mistreated by unethical employers. We aim to make it right and to hold corrupt parties that abuse their power accountable for their actions. As the country’s largest personal injury law firm, working with us will let your employer know that you mean business.
Don’t let your work continue to go unpaid—contact Morgan and Morgan for a free, no-obligation case evaluation to learn more about how you can fight back and get the money you deserve.
Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.
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What Is Wage Theft?
Wage theft is more prevalent than you might think. It's estimated that, in 2015, California workers lost nearly $2 billion in rightful wages due to employer misconduct, which impacted mostly women, immigrants, and people of color. However, wage theft can happen to anyone working in any industry.
In fact, some employers may not realize what they are doing is illegal. Even so, it's not your responsibility to educate your employer on matters they are responsible for understanding. Here are some common methods employers may use to deliberately or mistakenly steal employees' fair compensation for their labor.
- Paying you less than minimum wage
- Paying less than agreed, such as changing commission percentages, piece rates, or regular earnings
- Seizing an employee's tips
- Doesn't pay overtime when hours worked exceed legal guidelines
- Doesn't pay for pledged vacation time or bonuses
- Doesn't pay for final wages in a reasonable timeframe
- Refusal of meal and rest breaks
- Denies accrual of paid leave
- Refusing employee use of paid sick time
- Collection of unauthorized paycheck deductions
- Refusing to reimburse employees for work expenses
- Distributing paychecks that bounce
There are additional ways an employer can steal wages in certain industries. Take the restaurant business, for example. Many workers in the hospitality sector depend on tips to make the bulk of their income. But what happens when tips aren't enough to meet the state or Federal minimum wage? In that case, the employer must make up the difference. If they fail to bridge the gap, they may violate state and Federal laws.
Another common issue is the misclassification of employees as independent contractors. This is often done in an attempt to avoid paying benefits and payroll taxes, as well as being subject to laws that protect workers' rights. The misclassification of employees is more than just a worker problem. Employers are, in effect, evading taxes when they misclassify an employee, which hurts us all. It also puts corrupt employers at an advantage over law-abiding employers because they aren't paying as much for labor, which manipulates the market in their favor.
How Can Los Angeles Workers Get Compensated for Unpaid Wages?
Fortunately, California has the strongest labor laws in the United States, followed by D.C., New York, and Washington. Still, wage theft remains a significant problem. Morgan and Morgan are here to help you overcome some obstacles you might face during your fight. California gives workers a few routes to recover unpaid wages.
In most cases, workers present claims in an administrative hearing procedure that starts with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). From there, claims are channeled to the Labor Commissioner's Office. The system is organized to facilitate the resolution of complaints without getting the courts involved.
Conceptually, it works, but the backlog for a hearing is extensive, which can be very hard for individuals living paycheck to paycheck. In 2023, the state's backlog is nearly 800 days which violates its own law. Generally, the process follows these steps:
- The employee files a claim with the DLSE's Wage Claim Adjudication unit describing how much unpaid wages are in dispute.
- The Labor Commissioner's Office organizes a settlement meeting with the worker and employer. Under California law, this meeting must take place within 30 days.
- If negotiations for a settlement fail, the case is scheduled for a hearing. Again, according to state law, the hearing is to take place within 120 days and is presided over by a deputy labor commissioner where both sides can introduce evidence and testimony.
- The commissioner arrives at a decision in this hearing, but an employer can appeal the decision, which escalates it to court.
- If the employer accepts the commissioner's decision but fails to pay the disputed wages, the decision is then forwarded to the courts as a judgment. The DLSE can enforce the judgment, or the worker can pursue the compensation independently.
In many instances, complaints are resolved through negotiation. However, filing a lawsuit is an alternative, especially when wage theft tends to be an across-the-board workplace problem. If you and your coworkers believe your employer has evaded paying your rightful wages, we may be able to assist in filing a lawsuit under California's Private Attorney General Act. This allows workers to sue an employer on the state's behalf without a judge's requirement to consider a class action.
Morgan and Morgan have been championing workers' rights since the inception of our law firm. In fact, the number one reason the founder of Morgan and Morgan began his career in law was because of a family tragedy that involved injustices in the workplace. Reach out today to talk to a capable unpaid wages lawyer. Los Angeles, like many metropolitan areas, has industries that are rife with labor violations. Unfortunately, Los Angeles ranks number two for wage theft claims in the state. Let's go into further detail.
Which Los Angeles Workers Are Most Vulnerable to Wage Theft?
In 2021, the California Department of Industrial Relations published data that revealed the industries most impacted by wage theft claims. Here is a breakdown of data segments:
12.9%: Healthcare, social assistance, and childcare
10.1%: Hotels and food service
9.9%: Office support and waste management
9.5%: Professional, scientific, and technical services
7.5%: Warehousing and transportation
5.3%: Other services
4.2% Information services
In many instances, the lowest-paid workers are hurt the most because even a small amount of unpaid wages has a considerable impact.
Still, this data doesn't show a complete picture because the most vulnerable are often afraid to speak out because of fear of retaliation or their immigration or citizenship status. Ironically, state and federal agencies do not ask about a worker's standing in the U.S. when filing a wage theft claim.
Workers may be vulnerable to wage theft because some industries often have confusing pay structures. This issue is rampant in the hospitality and healthcare industries. For example, workers may be paid different rates for varied tasks or shifts. Healthcare workers might be subject to wage theft because their role requires them to be on call or have irregular schedules. A restaurant worker might have a hybrid schedule where they are paid server's wages for part of their shift, and then they assume the role of a dishwasher at the standard minimum wage. Complexities in pay structures, hours, and roles could confuse the worker and employer about proper payment for work performed.
Another issue is exempt vs. non-exempt status. Exempt employees are most often salaried, which isn't eligible for overtime according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Incorrect worker classification frequently leads to wage theft, sometimes on purpose. Employers have been known to manipulate employees' job duties to avoid paying overtime. For example, they may give the worker the title of manager, but they are still tasked to do the work of a regular employee most of the time. This provides the employer with the unfair advantage of labor without overtime payment.
One problem that has garnered much attention in California is the misclassification of employees as independent contractors. In 2018, Dynamex, a delivery and logistics company, was sued by drivers in a class-action alleging misclassification as independent contractors. The lawsuit resulted in the California Supreme Court issuing a landmark decision that established a new litmus test for determining the classification of workers. Employers must now presume workers are employees unless they can show the following:
- The worker is in control of their own decisions and is not under the direction of the business concerning their performance of the job
- The worker undertakes tasks that are outside the scope of the business's everyday operations
- The worker is routinely and independently engaged in similar work outside the tasks for the business in question
The Supreme Court's decision had overarching implications for the gig economy at large, impacting many businesses that formerly got away with misclassifying workers, such as rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft.
How Are Workers Protected from Retaliation for Filing Unpaid Wages Claims?
One of the biggest fears workers have when considering legal action against their employer is retaliation. We understand, and that's why you're contemplating working with an unpaid wages lawyer. Los Angeles workers have rights and protections under California and federal laws, and we can help you understand them.
For one, California Labor Code has anti-retaliation provisions prohibiting employers from taking action against employees who exercise their right to pursue unpaid wages or report violations. The labor code also includes whistleblower protection which provides for job reinstatement, back pay, and additional damages against employers who violate the law.
As mentioned earlier, workers can also bring private lawsuits against employers using the private right of action. This means the state allows workers to sue when their rights are violated. Furthermore, workers can file a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner's Office. Finally, workers can engage the DLSE to enforce judgments and investigate violations of labor laws.
We know it's a lot to digest, and fear and uncertainty of your rights may make you hesitate to take action. Even so, Morgan and Morgan will be there for you every step of the way.
Morgan and Morgan Unpaid Wages Lawyers
Los Angeles has no shortage of lawyers. However, getting one to take a wage dispute case usually requires a commitment to justice. Unpaid wages claims can be difficult, but not every claim needs the intervention of a lawyer. If you're having challenges navigating the system, our unpaid wages lawyers may be able to help in a few ways. Here are some examples:
Evaluating your case - One of the most important aspects of a client-lawyer relationship is determining the strength and value of your case. We'll review the facts to assess the veracity of your claim.
Filing assistance - Maneuvering through the complexities of the system is one of labor lawyers' more valuable strong points. It can be exasperating on your own. We make it easy because it's second nature to us.
Negotiating with your employer - Negotiating skills are critical in a wage dispute. Your lawyer must advocate with your best interests in mind but still find common ground that will ultimately lead to a beneficial conclusion. Negotiation in this capacity requires relationship skills and an understanding of the law.
Court representation - Not every dispute can be reconciled through negotiations. If your claim must be taken to court, your lawyer will be prepared to see it through.
Providing legal advice - You may have options to recover unpaid wages you never realized. Our legal advisors will explain the routes available and guide you toward a successful resolution.
If you're having issues collecting unpaid wages or have other questions regarding California labor laws, we’re here to support you. Contact Morgan and Morgan today for a free case evaluation. Our fees are based on our success, so if we can't recover compensation, you won't be responsible for paying for our services. Let us help you find the right unpaid wages lawyer in Los Angeles today.
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