The San Francisco Bay Area has experienced tremendous economic growth in recent years due to the booming technology sector. However, it also has one of the highest levels of economic inequality of any region in the country.
Over the last year, state and local authorities have worked to improve labor conditions and increase the minimum wage for workers. Unfortunately, many employers refuse to comply with these laws and instead engage in widespread WAGE THEFT.
Low-wage immigrant workers and people of color are particularly at risk of being subjected to wage theft. Language barriers, unfamiliarity with U.S. labor standards, fear of deportation, criminalization of undocumented workers, and trafficking drive immigrant workers into the underground economy and these exploitative conditions.
Immigrant workers in low-wage service industries, such as restaurant, janitorial, domestic, car wash, agricultural, construction, manufacturing, and warehouse workers, are among the most exploited workers in the Bay Area labor market. Immigrant workers are often unaware that they are being unlawfully denied compensation. Even those who suspect underpayment may be afraid to complain of unfair working conditions due to fear of illegal retaliation.
Minami Tamaki’s Consumer and Employee Rights Group represents low-wage immigrant workers in and around the Bay Area to recover unlawfully withheld wages. We are currently representing workers who allege that they were paid less than $4.00 per hour in popular Bay Area restaurants. The employees also allege that they received no overtime pay, were denied meal breaks and rest breaks, and had their tips withheld by their employers.
Common wage and hour violations include:
- Minimum wage violations – As of January 1, 2016, the California minimum wage is $10.00 per hour. The minimum wage in San Francisco is currently $12.25 per hour, and will increase to $13.00 per hour in July 2016.
- Overtime violations – Employees must receive overtime pay of 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for work that exceeds 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week.
- Meal and rest break violations – California workers are entitled to unpaid meal breaks and paid rest breaks. California law requires a ten-minute rest break for every four hours worked, and a 30-minute meal break for an employee working more than five hours in a day.
- Withholding tips – Employers may not keep any portion of a tip left by a patron for an employee.
- Off-the-clock work – Employees must compensate employees for any time spent performing work.
Restaurant owners sometimes pay servers at hourly rates far below the minimum wage on the rationale that they earn additional compensation from tips left by customers. However, the state of California requires restaurants to pay employees the full minimum wage for every hour worked in addition to tips earned.
Low-wage immigrant workers may be unaware that they have the right to fair wages even if they are not U.S. citizens. The law protects the right to full payment of wages regardless of immigration status.
These workers are also often paid in cash, which makes claims of labor violations more difficult to verify. However, an employer’s failure to keep adequate pay and time records is itself a violation of the law and is not a bar to an employee’s claims of underpayment.
The right to be paid a fair wage is a fundamental workplace right. Wage theft produces an underclass of workers whose labor is exploited. Wage theft has significant negative effects not only on these workers, but on their families and on immigrant communities. Moreover, employers underpaying their employees harm law-abiding employers who cannot compete with establishments profiting off of low-wage workers. These unfair business practices lead to the creation of more low-wage jobs and ever-worsening labor conditions.
Employees who believe they have not received the full amount owed for their work may set up a free consultation with Minami Tamaki by contacting us at (415) 788-9000 or through our online form.