How Do I Recover Unpaid/Withheld Wages? Do I Need a Labor Attorney? By Gregory Thyberg on February 28, 2024

woman looking at a document and holding her hand to her forehead in frustrationWhen wages go unpaid, employees may feel helpless in recovering their hard earned pay. Fortunately, California has strong legal protections regarding unpaid wages for non-exempt employees. 

The process for recovering unpaid wages can be complicated and overwhelming. If you believe your employer has withheld your wages, unpaid wages lawyer Gregory Thyberg can help guide you through the process of recovering unpaid wages in Sacramento, CA

What’s Considered Unpaid Wages?

Unpaid wages, sometimes called wage theft, occurs when an employer fails to pay an employee their full wages. When wages are withheld, employees can suffer great financial hardship and stress. 

Employers can illegally withhold wages in many ways. Some common types of wage theft include: 

  • Not paying minimum wage
  • Requiring employees to work off the clock (i.e., working through lunch or on their day off without pay)
  • Illegally deducting costs of uniforms, meals, or other expenses from an employee’s paycheck
  • Failing to pay overtime
  • Misclassifying a worker as in independent contractor instead of a full-time employee
  • Failing to reimburse employees for work-related expenses

Employees and Wage Laws 

California has strong wage protection laws for employees that fall under a “non-exempt” classification. Generally speaking, non-exempt employees are those who are paid an hourly wage and work under the control and direction of their employer. 

Under California law, non-exempt employees are entitled to:

  • Being paid on time
  • Being paid immediately if terminated
  • Being paid within 72 hours of final day of work if the employee quit
  • Being paid the required minimum wage and overtime when applicable
  • Reimbursement for job-related expenses
  • A 30-minute unpaid meal break during every shift over 5 hours

When employers do not meet these and other wage requirements, non-exempt employees have a right to recover their unpaid wages. 

How Do You Recover Unpaid Wages?

Employees have several courses of action they may take to pursue recovering their unpaid wages in Sacramento. One of the first things to consider is speaking with an employment law attorney who can help determine which option is likely to provide the best outcome for your situation. Based on your attorney’s recommendation, you may: 

  • Try to resolve the matter with your employer: Some may benefit from first trying to resolve their unpaid wages issue directly with their employer. One way to do this is providing a formal letter from your attorney describing the dispute and desired resolution to your employer.
  • File an unpaid wage claim: File an unpaid wage claim with California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) so that they can conduct an investigation and determine whether unpaid wages are owed.  
  • File a civil lawsuit against an employer: A civil lawsuit may be the preferred option if legal issues surrounding the unpaid wages are complex. 

Schedule a Consultation with Thyberg Law

If you believe your employer owes you unpaid wages, it’s important to speak with an attorney to learn more about your options for recovering the wages you’re owed. We encourage you to schedule a consultation with Sacramento employment law attorney Gregory Thyberg to discuss your claim.

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Thyberg Law

Since 1981, Gregory A. Thyberg has been providing legal services to clients throughout Sacramento. With a focus on employment law, he can help you find a solution when facing discrimination, harassment, or other workplace injustices. Mr. Thyberg is affiliated with organizations like the:

  • California Bar Association
  • San Francisco Trial Lawyer’s Association

If you're experiencing unlawful discrimination in the workplace, request a consultation with Mr. Thyberg or call (916) 204-9173.

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