California Unpaid Wages Attorney

At the Mara Law Firm we are proud to fight for the rights of California workers through individual litigation and class action lawsuits.


In California, non-exempt employees, are entitled to compensation at the state minimum wage for all hours worked. Hours worked are defined in California as all time the employee is (a) subject to the control of the employer, and (b) all time the employee is suffered or permitted to work, regardless of whether the employer requires the work. For more information, a California Unpaid Wages Attorney is here to help you.

California Unpaid Wages Lawyers

Under this standard, you have to be paid even if you are not performing any work for your employer. Under the “subject to the control of the employer” test, if the employee is off-the-clock, meaning not being paid, and has been relieved of all work-related duties, the employee must be paid if they remain subject to employer controls or restrictions on their personal activities. For instance, if the employee has clocked out for a 30-minute meal period, but is required to stay on the company’s premises during the break, he or she would be under the employer’s control and entitled to compensation at the regular rate or applicable minimum wage. The employee in this example would be entitled to pay regardless of whether he or she performed any work-related activities.

Many workplace practices render employees under the employer’s control while they are off the clock, meaning they are not getting paid. The time spent under these employer controls must be compensated for but is often overlooked by employees, resulting in substantial amounts of unpaid time for California employees. The following is a list of typical employer restraints or controls that are pervasive in the California workplace and result in massive wage theft or unpaid wages for California employees.

Unpaid Security Searches

Many employers these days require employees to undergo security searches before they leave the workplace. The majority of these searches, however, occur after the employee has clocked out. Employees subject to these search practices have to wait in lines and get searched before they are free to leave. This results in a substantial amount of time employees are under the employer’s control and not being paid. Employees having to endure these searches without any compensation are treated like thieves, when, in reality, it is the employers who are stealing their wages during the searches and saving millions of dollars every year in unpaid wages. Employees we typically see who are subject to these unpaid security searches are those working in retail, warehouses, pharmaceutical, cannabis, and logistics industries. If you have suffered unpaid wages in California or California wage theft from unpaid security checks, please contact our lawyers immediately, as there may be a limited time frame for you to bring your claim for unpaid wages.

Unpaid Waiting Time in California

California Unpaid Waiting Time Attorneys

Employees are said to be under the control of the employer if the employer’s restraints effectively prevent them from using the time for their own purposes. A classic – and typical – example, of where employees suffer unpaid wages, is when the employer makes them endure periods of unpaid waiting time before the performance of actual job duties will be needed. This practice is rampant in, but certainly not limited to, the trucking industry.

Truck drivers pick up and deliver freight. Many get paid, not by the hour, but by the miles driven and/or the amount of freight hauled. In other words, they don’t get paid unless they’re actually driving. Almost every day they have to endure hours upon hours of unpaid waiting time when they are stuck at a terminal waiting for their freight to either be loaded or unloaded. This time must be paid under California law because it prevents the employee from using the time for his or her own purposes, even if the employee, like the truck driver, does not perform any work duties during the time.

If you have suffered wage theft in California from unpaid waiting time, contact our lawyers immediately, as there may be a limited time frame for you to bring your claim for unpaid wages.

Unpaid On-Call Time

Like waiting time, employees often have to be on-call, where they have to stay by their phone, stay local, and forego many important personal activities, such as any travel outside the immediate locality, child care, sports, religious services, etc. On-call employees who endure substantial restrictions on their freedom while they are waiting to get called, likely have to be paid for that waiting time. Most, if not all, employers only pay for the time that the on-call employee is actually called into work.

The hours upon hours – or days in some circumstances – that on-call employees have to sit and wait for the phone to ring and not use the time to do what they want is all unpaid and likely unlawful under California law. If you have suffered wage theft in California from unpaid on-call time, contact our lawyers immediately, as there may be a limited time frame for you to bring your claim for unpaid wages.

Unpaid Compulsory Travel Time

Under California law, employees are said to be under the employer’s control and have to be paid if the employer controls the manner and means the employee travels to and from work. For instance, if the employer has the employee take the company vehicle home, the commute time to and from the workplace in that car must be compensated. This is because the employee is unable to exercise their freedom to choose their mode of transportation.

In almost every instance, employers do not pay for this travel time. In addition, employees must be paid for all time associated with any travel beyond and from the normal workplace that the employer requires. That is, if the employer requires presence at a seminar two hours away from the workplace, the employer must pay for all time associated with the employee accommodating that travel requirement.

If you have suffered wage theft in California from unpaid travel time, contact our attorneys immediately, as there may be a limited time frame for you to bring your claim for unpaid wages.

Unpaid Meetings, Lectures, Training, and Company Parties

Like travel time, employers must pay for all time spent in and preparing for meetings, lectures, training, and company parties. So many employers will either not pay for any of this time or will only pay for the time spent in the actual lectures, meetings, or training. Whenever these events require employee preparation, the employer must also pay for all time spent during that preparation time.

If you have suffered wage theft in California from unpaid time spent during and preparing for meetings, lectures, training, and company parties, reach out to our California unpaid wages attorney immediately, as there may be a limited time frame for you to bring your case for unpaid wages.

Unpaid Time Spent Putting on and Taking Off Uniforms

Many employers require employees to leave their uniforms at the workplace. This means they have to change into uniforms when they get to work. When employees have to put on and take off uniforms at the workplace, they have to be paid. In California, it does not matter how little time it takes to put uniforms on or take them off. All time, no matter how small, must be accounted for and must be compensated.

Best Unpaid Wages Attorney in California

The best California unpaid wages attorney will take action for you immediately. First, if you have been unfairly underpaid, your attorney will conduct an in-depth investigation of your case, and guide you through the exact steps when presenting your minimum wage claim to protect your rights as an employee, and get the compensation you deserve.

Contact our California Unpaid Wages Attorneys

California Employment Attorney David Mara

If you have suffered wage theft in California from unpaid time spent putting on and taking off uniforms, contact our California Unpaid Wages Attorney immediately, as there may be a limited time frame for you to bring your claim for unpaid wages.

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California Unpaid Wages FAQs

What is wage theft in California?

Employers can violate many wage laws and resulting in unpaid wages. Some common examples include:

  • Failing to pay minimum wage for all hours worked
  • Not paying overtime rates or misclassifying employees as exempt
  • Not permitting employees to take a required meal or rest breaks
  • Taking unauthorized deductions from an employee’s paycheck
  • Not issuing a final paycheck on time
  • Paying less than agreed upon in an employment contract
  • Not providing paid sick leave as earned by an employee

In any of these situations, a California unpaid wages attorney can identify whether you were the victim of wage theft.

What laws protect employees from wage theft?

Both federal and California state laws protect employees from wage theft. Some of the prominent laws include the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the California labor code. The Wage Theft Protection Act of 2011 provides additional protections, as it requires employers to inform non-exempt employees of their wage rights.

How can you seek unpaid wages?

The first step in seeking unpaid wages is consulting with a wage attorney. We can assess your rights and advise you whether you have a valid claim. We can then complete all the documentation that we need to file with the California Department of Labor Standards Enforcement. We will also help you gather the evidence needed to prove your wage claim, which might include:

  • Pay statements
  • Timesheets
  • Employee handbooks, contracts, or benefit explanations
  • Records of failed deposits or bounced checks

We can help request any necessary documentation from your employer, as well.

How much time do you have to file a claim for unpaid wages?

In many situations, you have three years from the most recent wage violation to file a claim and seek unpaid wages. This timeframe can change, however, if your unpaid wage case is based on getting paid less than your employer promised in a contract. If your claim involves a breach of an employment contract, you only have two years to bring a claim for verbal agreements and four years for written agreements.

Because the rules can be different for different types of wage violations, you should never wait to consult with an employment law firm. We can evaluate how much time you have to file and start protecting your rights as soon as possible.

Do you have to hire a California unpaid-wage lawyer?

The law does not require you to hire a lawyer for your wage claim. However, it is very advisable to do so. Employers fight against liability for wage violations, and some might refuse to settle the matter. You might need to file a civil lawsuit to seek the wages your employer owes you.

If you think you have unpaid wages, never wait to speak with the legal team at Mara Law Firm. We take on employers of all types and sizes to protect the rights of California employees. Contact us for a consultation so we can answer your questions and advise you of your options.

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