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November 20, 2023

Average Settlement for Unpaid Wages in California

Legally reviewed by: Jessica Anvar Stotz, JD, MBA

Short answer: The average settlement in wage and hour cases in California typically can range from $7,000 to $2 million or more. However, it is important to note that settlement amounts can vary widely depending on the specifics of each case, with some settlements being significantly higher or lower.

Settlements involving minor wage and hour violations will likely settle between $7,000-$300,0000. Settlements involving major violations can exceed $2 million.

Average Unpaid Wages Settlement in California

Complexity of Case Average California Unpaid Wages Settlement
Minor Approximately: $7,000 – $300,000
Moderate Approximately: $300,000 – $500,000
High Approximately: $500,000 – $2,000,000+

Example Wage and Hour Settlements

  1. Retail Chain Class Action

A class action against a retail chain for multiple California Labor Code violations. Allegations included failure to provide meal and rest breaks, and employees claimed unpaid overtime. This case settled for $3.2 million.

  1. Technology Company Timekeeping Case

Employees filed a case against a technology company, alleging that the electronic timekeeping system used violated California labor laws due to concerns about the program’s time rounding system. This case resulted in a settlement of $800,000.

  1. Oil Refinery Hourly Shift Workers Settlement

$15,250,000 settlement in 2021 for hourly shift workers against a California oil refinery. Allegations included failure to provide rest breaks and accurate wage statements.

  1. Transportation Company Class Action

Details: $2.8 million settlement for a class action against a transportation company for wage and hour violations. Allegations included failure to pay overtime.

Factors That Influence Unpaid Wages Settlement Amounts

Factors that influence unpaid wages settlement amounts in California include:

  • Claim Size: Larger claims tend to settle for a smaller percentage.
  • Personal Finances: Workers who can afford to may insist on a larger settlement or go to a hearing.
  • Advice of the Settlement Officer: The advice given by the settlement officer can influence the settlement amount.
  • Employer’s Interest in a Settlement: The willingness of the employer to settle can also affect the settlement amount.

Please note each wage case is unique and the settlement amount can vary based on the specific circumstances of a given case. If you believe you are owed unpaid wages, we highly recommend consulting with an attorney to better understand your rights and potential remedies for compensation.

Types of Compensation Available for Victims

In California, victims of unpaid wages can seek several types of compensation:

  • Back Pay and Wages: Compensation for the wages that should have been paid.
  • Interest on Unpaid Wages: Interest accrued on the unpaid wages.
  • Lost Wages and Benefits: Compensation for wages and benefits lost due to the violation.
  • Compensation for Emotional Distress: Compensation for pain and suffering arising from the loss of the job.
  • Punitive Damages: Damages designed to punish willful wrongdoing by the employer.
  • Attorney’s Fees and Court Costs: Reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs can be recovered.

how much can you get for unpaid wages

How Do You Prove Wage and Hour Violations?

To prove wage and hour violations in California, you may need to gather evidence and documentation to substantiate your claim. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Collect Supporting Documentation: The supporting documentation in your claim can include but is not limited to a calculation of the unpaid wages, a determination of penalties owed by your employer, and specific types of evidence.
  2. File Applicable Forms with DLSE: To gather supporting evidence for your claim and potentially accelerate the investigation, discovery, and litigation, you can use one or more of the following forms provided by the California DLSE (Division of Labor Standards Enforcement):
  • Meal and rest period violations: DLSE Form 551
  • Unpaid wages claims: DLSE Form 551
  • Unpaid commissions: DLSE Form 1551
  • Unpaid vacations: Vacation pay schedule form
  1. Initiate a Lawsuit: If your employer violated California wage and hour laws, you may find that a lawsuit is your best option.
  2. File a Wage Claim: You can file a wage claim with California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE).

California law prohibits whistleblower retaliation against, or wrongful termination of, employees who assert their rights under the state’s wage and hour laws. If you believe your rights have been violated, it may be beneficial to consult with a legal professional to understand your rights and potential remedies.

When You DO Have a Claim and When You DO NOT

In California, you may have a wage and hour claim if your employer has violated wage and hour laws. This could include failure to pay minimum wage, overtime, illegal deductions from pay, or unpaid reimbursements.

There are situations, however, where you may not have a wage and hour claim. For instance, if you are classified as an independent contractor rather than an employee, or if you are an “exempt employee” under California labor law, the laws on overtime, meal breaks, etc., may not be applicable to your situation. The Labor Commissioner’s Office has no jurisdiction over independent contractors, but, if you believe your employer is misclassifying you as an independent contractor, you can still file a wage claim.

Please note that the statute of limitations for wage-related claims varies depending on the nature of the claim. A legal professional can offer guidance based on your specific situation.

Why Hiring a Lawyer Can Be Crucial in Order to Obtain a Settlement

Hiring a lawyer can be crucial in obtaining a settlement in a wage and hour case in California for several reasons:

  1. Expertise and Knowledge: Lawyers have the expertise and knowledge to navigate the complexities of wage and hour laws. They can help you understand your rights and potential remedies.
  2. Gathering Evidence: Lawyers can help gather necessary evidence and documentation to substantiate your claim.
  3. Negotiating Settlements: Lawyers can negotiate settlements on your behalf, ensuring that you receive a fair amount.
  4. Representation in Court: If your case goes to court, a lawyer can represent you and present your case in the best possible light.
  5. Recovering Damages: In successful wage/hour suits, California wage and hour laws require employers to pay employees’ attorney’s fees. This means that hiring a lawyer will not reduce your total recovery.
  6. Avoiding Pitfalls: A lawyer can help you avoid potential pitfalls and ensure that you do not inadvertently waive any of your rights.

Each case is unique, and the outcome can depend on various factors, so it is always a good idea to consult with a legal professional if you believe your rights have been violated.

Get Connected with a Lawyer

Have you suffered from wage and hour violations at your workplace? The stress of unpaid wages and financial strain can be overwhelming. Now is the perfect time to take action and claim the justice you deserve.

At LawLinq, we can connect you with leading wage and hour violation attorneys in the state, at no cost or obligation. Our network comprises seasoned lawyers specializing in wage and hour cases, ensuring you receive the best representation possible. Contact LawLinq today to get started.

About the Author

Jessica Anvar

California Consumer Litigation Attorney Jessica Anvar, Esq. is the Founder and Managing Partner of Lemon Law Experts California’s leading lemon law firm. She has multiple years’ worth of experience working with both state and federal lemon laws. Her practice focuses exclusively on consumer protection cases. Ms. Anvar received her J.D. from Loyola Law School. She also earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Loyola Marymount University. Jessica is very active in her local legal community and has helped thousands of clients across the state of California. She has an outstanding record as a true advocate for consumers.

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