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5 ways your employer may be robbing you of your hard-earned wages

California wage-and-hour laws are comprehensive, yet companies continue to violate these laws every day. Some employees may be surprised to find that they are being cheated out of the money they worked so hard for.

Many workers don't know when their employers are participating in unlawful activity, so most of these incidents go unreported. If you are an hourly employee, be aware of these common tactics employers use to take advantage of their workers.

1. Misclassifying you as an independent contractor

As an employee, you are often eligible to receive a range of benefits from your employer - including vacation time, health insurance, taxes deducted from your paycheck and more. But as an independent contractor, you aren't entitled to any of that.

To skirt around wage-and-hour laws and avoid giving their employees their deserved benefits, businesses often unlawfully classify their workers as independent contractors. If you are considered a contractor for your employer, you may be missing out on hard-earned benefits.

2. Making you work before you clock in or after you clock out

In order to avoid paying their employees for overtime, many employers coerce their workers into working off the clock. They may make you come in early and perform prep work prior to clocking in, or make you stay after you clock out to wrap up your duties. These practices are often illegal - employers are required to pay you for your work, and if you are not being paid then you need to take immediate action.

3. Not paying you for overtime work

There is a variety of other tactics businesses use beyond those in #2 to rob their workers of overtime pay. If you are working over 40 hours in a week, you are entitled to overtime pay, often 1.5 times your hourly wage.

Some employers will make their workers log their hours in the following week to avoid going over the 40 hour cap, while some simply round their employees' hours down so they don't go over 40. Regardless of the tactic, you are being robbed of this extra wage.

4. Not paying you the correct minimum wage

While there is an established minimum wage across the country, in California and in certain California jurisdictions, there are also separate minimum wages for younger workers and those training for the job. "Learners," for instance, can be paid as low as 85 percent of the minimum wage for their first 160 hours of work. Employers may be purposely paying you the wrong minimum wage just to avoid paying you the wage you deserve.

5. Not giving you the required amount of break time

Hourly workers in California are entitled to a certain amount of paid rest time, as well as meal time, depending on how many consecutive hours they are working. Many employers find ways around these rules - such as forcing you to work through your break, not paying you for your rest time, not giving you long enough of a break or simply not telling you to take a break at all.

Regardless of how your employer acts, you deserve to be paid for every hour you work. California is very protective of its workers, so don't be afraid to take a stand against your employer if they are using any of these tactics against you.

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