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September 6, 2023

25 Most Common Wage and Hour Violations in California

Legally reviewed by: Jessica Anvar Stotz, JD, MBA

As a certified California attorney referral service, we have many people reach out to us about wage and hour violations they are experiencing at work. Below is a list of those the most common violations we hear and see.

Common California Wage and Hour Violations

  1. Failure to pay the minimum wage.
  2. Overtime violations, such as not paying overtime rates for eligible employees.
  3. Misclassifying employees as exempt from overtime.
  4. Not providing required meal and rest breaks.
  5. Failing to compensate employees for missed breaks or interrupted meals.
  6. Off-the-clock work violations.
  7. Failure to provide accurate wage statements.
  8. Payroll record-keeping violations.
  9. Not reimbursing employees for work-related expenses.
  10. Tip pooling and distribution violations.
  11. Misclassifying workers as independent contractors.
  12. Failing to pay final wages on time after termination.
  13. Not providing paid sick leave as required by law.
  14. Violating reporting time pay rules.
  15. Paying subminimum wages to certain employees.
  16. Not complying with child labor laws.
  17. Failing to provide proper notice of work schedules.
  18. Illegal deductions from employee paychecks.
  19. Not allowing employees to inspect their personnel files.
  20. Discrimination or retaliation against employees for wage-related complaints.
  21. Miscalculating the regular rate of pay for overtime.
  22. Not providing accurate wage and hour information to employees.
  23. Violating the state’s minimum wage order for specific industries.
  24. Failure to keep accurate time records.
  25. Failing to provide required notices about employees’ rights and protections.

These are general categories of wage and hour violations, and each can have specific details and variations. It’s crucial for both employers and employees in California to be aware of these regulations and consult legal counsel when necessary.

What Do People Think Are Wage and Hour Violations but They’re Actually Not

There are instances where people might perceive certain actions as wage and hour violations, but they may not be in violation of labor laws. It’s essential to distinguish between misunderstandings and actual violations. Below are a few examples:

  • Salary Pay: Some employees might believe that being salaried automatically means they’re exempt from overtime pay. However, exempt status depends on job duties and meeting specific salary thresholds.
  • Flex Time: Employers can offer flexible work hours or allow employees to adjust their schedules without necessarily violating wage and hour laws, as long as overtime rules are followed.
  • On-Call Time: While on-call time can be challenging, it’s not always a violation if employees are compensated appropriately for the time they’re required to be available.
  • Volunteer Work: Unpaid volunteers in certain settings, such as non-profit organizations, may not be considered employees, so wage and hour laws may not apply.
  • Meal and Rest Breaks: Some employees might think they’re entitled to a break at a specific time, but labor laws generally provide flexibility in scheduling breaks.
  • Travel Time: Travel time for work purposes is typically compensable, but there can be exceptions depending on the circumstances.

It’s crucial for both employers and employees to understand their rights and responsibilities under labor laws, and consulting with legal experts or the California Department of Industrial Relations can help clarify any uncertainties about potential violations.

How to Prove a Wage and Hour Violation

Proving a wage and hour violation in California, or any jurisdiction, typically involves gathering evidence and following specific steps. Here’s a general guide on how to prove a wage and hour violation:

  • Keep Records: Maintain thorough records of your work hours, pay stubs, timecards, and any relevant documents related to your employment. These records will be crucial in establishing your case.
  • Review Labor Laws: Familiarize yourself with federal and state labor laws, such as minimum wage, overtime, and meal/rest break regulations, to understand your rights and the specific violations you believe have occurred.
  • Consult with an Attorney: If you suspect a wage and hour violation, consider consulting an experienced employment attorney who specializes in labor law. They can assess the situation, provide legal advice, and guide you through the process.
  • Gather Evidence: Collect evidence that supports your claim, such as emails, texts, or witnesses who can testify to the violations. This evidence should demonstrate the employer’s actions or policies that led to the violation.
  • Report the Violation: In many cases, employees should report the violation to their employer or HR department first. Ensure you do this in writing and keep a copy of your complaint.
  • File a Complaint: If your employer does not address the issue or if the violation continues, you can file a formal complaint with the appropriate government agency. In California, this is typically the Labor Commissioner’s Office or the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE).
  • Attend Hearings and Mediation: If your complaint proceeds, you may be required to attend hearings or mediation sessions to resolve the issue. Your attorney can represent you during these proceedings.
  • Pursue Legal Action: If informal resolution attempts fail, your attorney may advise you to file a lawsuit against your employer in court. Your attorney will guide you through this process.
  • Maintain Documentation: Continue to keep records of any actions taken during the legal process, including correspondence, court filings, and evidence.
  • Seek Remedies: If you successfully prove the wage and hour violation, you may be entitled to remedies such as back pay, unpaid overtime, penalties, and attorney’s fees.

Remember that wage and hour violation cases can be complex, and the specific steps and agencies involved may vary depending on the circumstances and jurisdiction. Consulting with an attorney is often the most effective way to navigate this process and ensure your rights are protected.

What’s the Best Way to File a Claim in CA

In California, if you believe you have a wage and hour claim against your employer, the best way to file a claim is to follow these steps:

  • Consult an Attorney: Consider consulting with an experienced employment attorney specializing in wage and hour issues. They can evaluate your case, provide legal advice, and guide you through the process.
  • Notify Your Employer: Before taking legal action, it’s generally a good practice to notify your employer of the wage and hour violation. This can be done in writing, detailing the issue and requesting resolution. Keep a copy for your records.
  • Contact the California Labor Commissioner’s Office (DLSE): If your employer does not address the issue or if you prefer to involve a government agency, you can file a wage claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), also known as the Labor Commissioner’s Office. You can do this online or by visiting a local DLSE office.
  • Gather Evidence: Collect and organize all relevant documentation, such as pay stubs, time records, emails, and any communication related to the violation. This evidence will be crucial to support your claim.
  • Complete the DLSE Form: When filing a wage claim with the DLSE, you will need to complete a wage claim form. You can find this form on the DLSE website. Be thorough and accurate when filling out the form.
  • Submit the Claim: Submit the completed wage claim form to the DLSE along with any supporting documentation. You can file online, by mail, or in person at a local DLSE office.
  • Wait for a Response: After submitting your claim, the DLSE will review it and may schedule a hearing or investigation. Be prepared to provide additional information if requested.
  • Attend the Hearing: If a hearing is scheduled, attend it and present your case. You may want to have legal representation at this stage.
  • Follow-Up: Stay in contact with the DLSE throughout the process to ensure your claim is progressing. Be responsive to any requests for information or documentation.
  • Receive a Decision: The DLSE will issue a decision on your claim. If you win, you may receive remedies such as back pay, penalties, and interest.
  • Consider Legal Action: If you are dissatisfied with the DLSE’s decision or believe you are entitled to more than what was awarded, consult with your attorney about the possibility of pursuing a civil lawsuit against your employer.

Remember that wage and hour claims can vary in complexity, and the process may take time. Consulting with an attorney can help you navigate the process effectively and ensure that your rights are protected throughout.

Pros and Cons of Filing With Yourself vs With a Lawyer

Filing Without an Attorney


  • Cost Savings: You won’t incur attorney fees (these are often recouped after a settlement is reached).
  • Control: You have complete control over your case and decisions.
  • Informal Process: Filing directly with the government agency (e.g., DLSE in California) is a relatively straightforward process.


  • Legal Knowledge: You’ll need to research and understand wage and hour laws, which can be complex.
  • Limited Resources: You may not have access to the legal expertise and resources an attorney can provide.
  • Risk of Mistakes: Filing incorrectly or missing important details could weaken your case.
  • Negotiation Challenges: If your case progresses to negotiation or litigation, you may face experienced opposing counsel.

Filing with an Attorney


  • Legal Expertise: An attorney can provide valuable legal knowledge, strategy, and guidance throughout the process.
  • Stronger Case: Attorneys can help you gather evidence, build a compelling case, and navigate complex legal procedures.
  • Negotiation Skills: They are skilled negotiators who can advocate for a fair settlement.
  • Reduced Stress: Having an attorney handle the legal aspects can relieve the stress of managing your case alone.


  • Cost: Hiring an attorney typically involves legal fees (these are often accounted for during a settlement).
  • Less Control: While attorneys provide advice, you may have less direct control over every decision in your case.
  • Time: Legal processes can be time-consuming, and it may take some time to resolve your case.

Overall, the choice between filing a wage and hour claim with or without an attorney depends on your comfort with legal processes, the complexity of your case, and your financial resources.

If your case is relatively straightforward, filing without an attorney may be feasible. However, for more complex cases or if you’re unsure about the process, consulting with an experienced employment attorney can increase your chances of a successful outcome and help protect your rights.

Get Connected with an Attorney

If you want help with your wage and hour violation claim, contact LawLinq today. We’ll refer you to some of the best wage and hour attorneys in the state free of charge.

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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