LABOR CODE PENALTIES

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Labor Code Sections 201 et seq. mandate that employees be paid all wages owed to them upon termination of their employment.  Without a contract, an employee who quits is entitled to all wages owed within 72 hours of quitting. If mailed, the check must be mailed within 72 hours of quitting.

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The Private Attorneys’ General Act

Many sections of the Labor Code have penalizing provisions, such as for failure to pay wages upon termination of employment, failure to provide meal and rest periods, failure to proviee itemized wages statements, and others. Under the Private Attorneys General Act, (PAGA) Labor Code Sections 2698 et. seq., employees can act as a private Attorney General, enforcing the rights for not just themselves, but for all employees in the same situation.

PAGA divides Labor Code violations into three categories: Serious Labor Code Violations; Health and Safety Violations; and other Labor Code violations. If the Labor Code provision which forms the basis of the PAGA has its own civil penalty, then the employee can seek to collect that penalty for themselves and other aggrieved employees. If the Labor Code section does not provide a civil penalty, the PAGA penalty is $100 for each employee per pay period for the initial violation, and $200 for each employee per pay period for subsequent violations.

In an action filed under this section, if an employee is suing for civil penalties that would normally be assessed by the Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LDWA), an employee may sue on behalf of other employees without the requirement of certifying the action as a class action. The LDWA collects 75 percent of the penalties recovered, and 25 percent goes to the aggrieved employees.

This law essentially allows employees to stand in the position of a private Attorney General, vindicating the rights of employees, without necessarily involving the aid of the agency itself, so long as certain requirements are met. The employee must commence with giving notice to the employer and the LWDA of the facts and theories of the violations. If the LWDA does not act within 60 days, the employee may file a civil action for penalties.

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Paying All Wages Upon the End of Employment

However, the check must include all wages earned.  If the employee’s check is shorted due to the employer’s failure to pay all wages, the employee is legally entitled to penalties of up to 30 days wages, per Labor Code Section 203.  Sometimes, employers fail to pay premium rates for all overtime worked or require employees to work while “off the clock”.  Another area for possible employer misconduct includes requiring an employee to be “on call” or ready to work at a moment’s notice.  If an employer requires you to be ready to work during certain hours, and you are sufficiently under the employer’s control during that time, you could be technically working, even though you are off the clock.

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