Labor Commissioner Encourages Employees to Come Forward to Recover Back Wages

Posted by: CEA's HR Advisor Team on Wednesday, August 9, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

The case below highlights the importance of properly paying hourly, nonexempt employees and documenting all hours they work. The consequences of paying someone incorrectly are high, often times much higher than an employee first claims. In many cases, the hearing officer will increase the employer’s liability.

A Northern California convenience store owner paid a clerk $48,860 in back wages after the wage claim hearing officer ruled that the worker was not making minimum wage and was not paid overtime or double-time, according to the state Labor Commissioner’s Office.

The clerk for Mike’s Food & Liquor, located in Olivehurst, filed a wage claim on March 17, 2015. His initial claim was for $14,520 in underpaid regular wages from January 1, 2013 to October 31, 2014. The claimant filed his claim without an attorney or other advocate representing him. The Labor Commissioner’s wage claim hearing officer found that the worker was underpaid much more than he originally claimed, determining the clerk was owed $42,980, consisting of $22,162 in regular and overtime wages, $14,707 in liquidated damages, $3,586 in interest and $2,524 in waiting time penalties.

“Workers that are not paid correctly are victims of wage theft and my office can help them get back what they have earned,” said Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su. “This case shows that when workers exercise their labor rights and come forward to report wage theft, they can do so on their own without an attorney, they can receive the wages they are owed, and in some cases even more.”

The clerk worked on average 62.2 hours per week, earning an average of 20.2 overtime hours and two double-time hours for working more than eight hours on the seventh consecutive day of the workweek. Regardless of the number of hours actually worked the employer paid the clerk for 80 hours every semi-monthly pay period, which resulted in an underpayment of regular wages because most months exceed four weeks.

The Labor Commissioner’s Office entered a judgment after the employer failed to pay the award and successfully recovered $48,860, the balance of the award plus post-judgment interest.

Most workers in California, unless exempt from overtime laws, must receive overtime pay of 1.5 times the regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 8 hours in a workday or over 40 hours in a week, and double the regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 12 hours in a workday. Workers paid less than minimum wage are entitled to receive liquidated damages, which equal the amount of underpaid wages plus interest. Waiting time penalties are imposed when the employer fails to provide workers their final paycheck upon separation.

Don’t let this happen to your business! Ask CEA to come on site and conduct a two-hour HR Check Up for you.  We can review your wage and hour policies and help you stay in compliance with California labor laws.

Source: State of California, Department of Industrial Relations, News Release No. 2017-50, June 27, 2017,


4 comments on "Labor Commissioner Encourages Employees to Come Forward to Recover Back Wages"

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Jessica - HR Director on September 1, 2017 at 8:26:15 am said:
In California if an employee works more than 8 hours in a day or more than 40 hours in a week, the employee is owed overtime. A part time employee may only work 10 hours one week, but if those 10 hours are in the same workday, then that employee is owed 2 hours of overtime.
Marcie Wells on September 1, 2017 at 7:39:37 am said:
Are Part-time employees eligible for overtime pay?
HR Director on August 10, 2017 at 2:17:34 pm said:
The process for resolving a disputed claim is lengthy. As this article notes, the employee filed the claim in March 2015 and it was just resolved.
Al Christenson on August 10, 2017 at 12:42:09 pm said:
What this doesn't describe is how long it takes to get resolution. We have been waiting over a year since filing a claim with EDD / FEHC WITH an attorney, and over 90 days from the date of the final hearing and still no decision rendered. Employment wage claims are really SLOW, SOOOO Slow.

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