All workers in the state of California have rights. No matter what field or position they may work in, these rights are always guaranteed. These rights are meant to ensure equality and provide protection from employers and corporations who may not always have the workers’ interests in mind. Employment laws are also made to make sure that workers are correctly compensated for their work and for their time. After all, it is crucial that workers are compensated and treated fairly since they are the backbone of any job site. Warehouse workers are no different. When it comes down to fair treatment and pay, warehouse workers occupy a vulnerable position. As men and women who work behind the scenes, their situations can remain invisible; thus, injustices and issues may commonly arise without any consequences for the employers or companies.
Yet, warehouse workers must know that they are not forgotten, and they can receive help if they need it. At Stop Unpaid Wages, we specialize in employment law and in helping California’s workers receive their proper compensation and recovering lost wages. Our lawyers may assist any worker dealing with issues related to improper compensation and unpaid wages. With the assistance of one of our lawyers, you can be assured that all options will be explored and all necessary steps will be taken in order to fight for you. If you are facing an issue like this, contact us today—you should not have to suffer any more losses.
Phoenix Warehouse Case in Los Angeles, CA
In order to begin delving into wage-related issues in the warehouse industry, a recent legal case in the Los Angeles area can provide some insight to common problems that warehouse workers may face regularly.
Recently, in 2017, warehouse workers filed a suit against their company employer, Phoenix Warehouse of California. The workers represented consisted of around 1,500 men and women—a majority of whom only spoke Spanish. The case revolved around illegal practices dealing with overtime and making employees work without taking their lunches or breaks. Also, the workers claimed that their employer allegedly threatened deportation if they did not comply with these demands.
According to the lawsuit, the workers claimed that they were forced to work between eight (8) and twelve (12) hours a day. Even more so, they claimed that they were forced to work through their breaks and their lunches. Along with this, these workers did not receive the proper overtime compensation for all of the time they were made to work.
The lawsuit also alleges more shady practices on the part of the company. This included changing workers’ time cards to reflect only eight (8) hours of work a day. Also, the company would use three different staffing agencies to fill their warehouses. Thus, when a worker did eight hours at one warehouse, an employer would tell that worker to work at another warehouse through a different agency. Through this method, the company would allegedly avoid having to pay overtime.
Lastly, the lawsuit also claimed that workers who complained about these issues were threatened with deportation and/or termination. If a worker was fired, they would not receive their final payment.
This type of case in the warehouse industry brings up multiple different illegal practices, especially in terms of a worker’s wage. These include:
- Not compensating for overtime,
- Working through lunches and breaks,
- Timesheet manipulation, and
- Withholding payment.
Simply put, this type of employment case displays a form of wage theft on the behalf of the employer. As a result, the lawsuit itself could cost them millions of dollars in restitution, legal fees, and penalties on the behalf of the workers. Not does this lawsuit display malpractices in this field, but it also brings up issues where workers received unfair treatment and had their rights violated. Below, we will look more in-depth into issues that plague this industry and what steps you need to take should any similar situation happen to you.
Industry Issues for Warehouse Workers
Similar to any other job field, there are multiple types of cases in which a warehouse worker may be wrongfully compensated. Every workers’ situation is different. So, it is crucial to understand your rights and to be aware of any way in which your employer may be treating you unfairly.
As stated before, all workers in the state of California have rights—including a right to fair and lawful compensation. Under California’s Labor Code, all employers need to follow specific guidelines and procedures when it comes to wages and proper compensation for workers. Also, most of the laws are enforced under the state’s Department of Industrial Relations, or more specifically the Division of Labor Standard Enforcement (DLSE). This is where you would usually need to file any claims you may have about lost wages and more.
For warehouse workers, common issues relating to wages include overtime, discriminatory practices, employer retaliation, back pay and more. This represents just a limited scope of issues that may arise for warehouse workers. However, they represent common issues that plague the industry. Of course, should you feel that you are being treated unfairly in terms of compensation, you can still contact a lawyer or file a claim to ensure that your rights are not violated in the workplace.
Late & Unpaid Wages
All employers are required to pay their employees the wages that they have earned. More importantly, all employers are required to pay these wages on time. Also, it is important to know that wages mean any payment for any sort of labor performed by an employee. Not only does wage include one’s paycheck, but it may also include other forms of compensation like vacation pay, benefits, and sick pay.
In California, all workers are entitled to wages earned from their labor, regardless of what their immigration status may be as described under Labor Code Section 1171.5. Alongside this, workers are entitled certain wages, such as minimum wage or overtime pay should they meet the proper requirements. These are guaranteed under state policies, and an employer may not pay less than these wages.
Also, an employer must pay a worker any wages promised. This can mean more than just minimum wage. Any sort of promise of a wage increase must be fulfilled. For example, if your employer promises to pay you $20 per hour, but actually only pays $15, you may file a claim to get the owed $5 per hour.
Lastly, once you have taken a job, your payment terms must be agreed upon with your employer. In California, there are certain specifics that an employer must adhere to when it comes to when payments are made. First of all, most employees must be paid at least twice a month as described under Labor Code Section 204. Also, if you have done any overtime during a work period, then your employer must pay for by the regular payment for the next work period.
When it comes to proper compensation for labor, overtime is an important area of consideration. This is also an area that can lead to issues, especially for warehouse workers. Overtime wages are different from standard wages in that the amount per hour is increased. This is to compensate for working over a certain number of hours during a work day or work week. It is also meant to compensate for working more than the necessary hours.
In California, the overtime rates and requirements are as follow:
- Greater than 8 hrs. in a workday = Time and a Half
- Greater than 40 non-overtime hrs. in a workweek = Time and a Half
- 7th day in a row within a workweek = Time and a Half
- Greater than 12 hrs. in a workday = Double Time
- Greater than 8 hrs. on a 7th straight day in a workweek = Double Time
Unpaid overtime is one of the greatest wage-related issues in California. It is important for employers to understand wage laws related to overtime. Often times, issues may arise when they do not fully understand what overtime entails. However, in some cases, employers may disregard overtime wages which may be seen as wage theft against their workers.
There are a couple of laws that deal with overtime. These include the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and California’s Labor Code Section 510. These laws provide protections to employees and provide the guidelines for overtime.
However, it is important to take note of certain special circumstances where a worker may not receive overtime pay. In some cases, an employer may be approved to have employees work for up to ten (10) hours a day as long as it adds up to forty (40) or fewer hours a week. Of course, there is a special process for this alternative scheduling that the employer must undertake.
Within overtime, there are more issues that may come up. For example, it is illegal for an employer to make an employee take paid time off instead of being paid for overtime. However, a worker may ask for it off if approved under certain circumstances as described under Labor Code Section 204.3. Also, if an employer asks you to work through your lunch or break, they must compensate you for this time. This break time will be counted among the regular and overtime hours if you are made to work through them.
Lastly, an employer cannot make an employee work off-the-clock—an employee must be compensated for all hours worked. It is the duty of the employer to keep track of all hours worked and properly compensate for them. Even if an employee works without the authorization of the employer, the must still be compensated—even if it is overtime.
Within a warehouse environment, there may be situations in which discriminatory behavior affects a worker’s wages. Under California Government Code Section 12940, it is illegal for an employer to refuse to hire someone, terminate, or to discriminate in terms of compensation and/or benefits based upon their race, religious beliefs, color, disability, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, or military status. Also, it is still unlawful for any employer to discriminate against immigrates or to discriminate on the basis of language. This type of behavior also violates federal laws as well as California’s laws and policies. Discrimination may not only lead to unfair treatment, but it can have serious financial effects, especially when it comes to a worker’s wages.
When it comes to discriminatory practices, this means that an employer has specifically targeted a worker or group of workers based on non-performance affecting characteristics such as race, gender, and more. Targeting a specific group of people may be either positive or negative. For example, an employer likes male workers better so he pays them more. This is still considered to be discrimination.
A prominent example of discriminatory practices, especially in the workplace, include discrimination on the basis of sex. Unfortunately, female workers are often paid less than male workers for the same work and duties. Employers are required to pay all workers with the same tasks and duties the same pay. If not, they may be liable for lost wages.
- Martha learns that all of the men in the warehouse are paid $15 per hour; however, all of the women are only paid $13 per hour. Not only is this a discriminatory practice, but it creates lost wages for all of the female workers.
With a discrimination case, employers are subjected to civil damages and penalties, as well as paying the worker backpay to compensate for the illegal acts, paying the damages equal to the amount of money the worker may have lost from unequal pay and more.
Another serious matter that may affect warehouse workers is employer retaliation. This simply indicates a situation in which an employer has targeted you in some way because you have filed a lawsuit, made a complaint, or anything else against their wishes. Retaliation may come in the form of demotion, termination, reduced pay, reduction of benefits if any, and more.
Under California Labor Code Section 98.6, all employees are protected if they file or threaten to file a complaint or claim with the Labor Commissioner. This can relate to cases in which a worker complains about unpaid wages, demands a payment of wages due, supports or opposes an alternative workweek, or any other right protected under the Labor Code. Common instances of employer retaliation may include termination, suspension, demotion, and unfair immigration-related practices. This can also be related to pay inequalities based on sex, race, or ethnicity.
With this law, it ensures that all workers are protected in situations where they feel that their rights as a worker have been violated. This also allows for workers to feel safe when reporting any issues regarding wages or relating to it.
Also, if your employer does terminate you, then you must receive a final paycheck with all of the hours you worked before termination. If your employer, fails or refuses to give you this final payment, then they owe you all of those wages plus a day’s wages for every day it is withheld from you.
Steps to Take When Recovering Lost Wages from Your Employer
If you are a warehouse worker who has dealt with, or is currently dealing with, a labor law violation regarding your wages, you may be unsure of what to do. You may even feel helpless or alone when dealing with an issue like this in the workplace. However, you should know that there are a couple of steps you should take to begin the process of getting your wages back. Even more so, you may receive assistance from a qualified and experienced employment lawyer to discuss your options and what to do next.
Naturally, the first option you should consider undertaking is speaking up about the wage-related issue with your supervisor or employer. After all, it should be their duty to take on and fix any issues that a worker may have. Of course, if seeking help from your employer proves to be unfruitful, or should they refuse to help, you may prepare to file a claim with California’s Labor Commissioner. Also, if your employer is the problem in your case, then you may proceed to file a claim as well.
When preparing to file a claim, there are a couple of things to remember. If your claim is regarding minimum wage, overtime pay, any unlawful deductions from pay or proper reimbursements, then you must file in a period of three (3) years. If your claim is regarding a spoken promise to pay a higher rate than the minimum wage by your employer, then you must file in a period of two (2) years. Lastly, if your claim is regarding a written contract, you must file in a period of four (4) years. Also, during this phase, you should organize documents pertaining to your cases, like pay stubs, time sheets, notes of work hours, and more.
After this, you will file a claim with the Labor Commissioner. This means filling out the “Initial Report or Claim” form. When you submit the claim, you will need to include the necessary documents. When this is done, you along with your employer will receive a notification about the status of your case.
Once your claim has gone through, you and your employer must attend a settlement conference. During this meeting, you both may reach a settlement for the lost wages with the help of a Deputy Labor Commissioner. If this proves to be unsuccessful, then your claim will move onto a hearing.
At a hearing, you and your employer will provide testimony and any kind of evidence about your claim to be reviewed. In this situation, you must prove that your employer owes you wages. Also, you must resubmit any and all documents relating to the situation. In the end, a decision will be made. The decision will include the amount that your employer must pay to you. If there is an appeal, then the claim may be taken to court.
Simply put, the steps you should take when recovering lost wages include:
- Talk to your employer
- Prepare to file a claim
- File a claim with the Labor Commissioner
- Attend a settlement conference
- Prove your claim at a hearing if the conference is unsuccessful
- Review the decision, and get more help if needed
Of course, you do not have to be alone in this process, especially if it gets confusing or if you are unsure of what to do. You may discuss your options with a certified employment lawyer who will make sure you complete all the proper steps.
Finding an Employment Lawyer Near Me
All workers deserve to be treated fairly and compensated rightfully for their work—no matter what their job position is or what field they occupy. However, this is not always the case. For warehouse workers, workplace issues may arise where you do not receive your wages or the proper compensation. Whether it is not being compensated for overtime or being paid less due to discrimination, there are multiple situations that can lead to unpaid or lost wages. Not only can these situations lead to financial suffering, but they can also provide unnecessary stress. Your labor is valuable and it should be treated as such by your employers. Remember: any violation of labor law protections, like not paying minimum wage and overtime, are considered wage theft.
Do not wait to file a claim if you believe there is something wrong. This will only make the losses greater. Contact Stop Unpaid Wages as soon as possible. This way we can review your case and help you determine what steps you should take next. With lawyers who specialize in employment law and have had experience dealing with wage issues, you can be sure that you will be receiving the best help around. If you need assistance, do not hesitate to contact our unpaid wage attorney at 424-781-8411. We will fight for you and make sure your rights as a worker are protected.