Can I Sue My Employer for Paying Me Under the Table in California?

can i sue my employer for paying me under the table

Getting paid under the table might seem like a convenient arrangement at first, but it raises significant legal concerns. If you find yourself questioning, “Can I sue my employer for paying me under the table?” or wondering about the legality of such payment practices, you’re not alone. In California, where labor laws are robust, employees have rights and avenues for recourse. This article will delve into the intricacies of being paid under the table, the potential legal actions you can take, and how to report such practices.

Understanding “Under the Table” Payments

Being paid “under the table” typically means receiving wages in cash or through other unconventional means without the necessary tax deductions. While it might seem like a straightforward arrangement, it often puts employees at a disadvantage. Employers engaging in such practices may be doing so to avoid paying taxes, unemployment insurance, and other statutory obligations.

Is Getting Paid Under the Table Illegal?

Yes, paying employees under the table is illegal. In California, as in many other states, employers are obligated to abide by employment laws and maintain accurate records of wages paid. When an employer pays you under the table, it not only violates tax regulations but also infringes on your rights as an employee.

Can I Sue My Employer for Paying Me Under the Table?

Absolutely. If you’ve been paid under the table, you have legal grounds to seek redress. You can sue your employer for various reasons, including unpaid wages, overtime pay, and other violations of employment laws. To understand your specific situation, it’s crucial to consider the details of your employment, such as the hours worked, job responsibilities, and the terms of your agreement.

  1. Unpaid Wages: One of the primary reasons to sue an employer paying you under the table is for unpaid wages. You have the right to receive the full compensation for the work you’ve done, and being paid under the table doesn’t absolve your employer of this responsibility.

  2. Overtime Pay: If you’ve worked more than the standard hours in a workweek and haven’t received overtime pay, you may have a legitimate claim against your employer. Overtime laws apply regardless of whether your employer paid you under the table or through conventional means.

  3. Avoiding Paying Taxes: Employers often pay employees under the table to evade taxes. This not only puts you at risk but also undermines the tax system. By reporting such practices, you contribute to upholding the integrity of the tax structure.

How to Report an Employer for Paying Under the Table

If you’re considering reporting your employer for paying you under the table, there are specific steps you can take to ensure your complaint is heard:

  1. Document Everything: Maintain a detailed record of your work hours, cash payments received, and any communication with your employer regarding your gross wages. A paper trail can significantly strengthen your case.

  2. Verify Employment Status: Confirm your employment status, such as whether you are classified as an employee or an independent contractor. Misclassification can affect your entitlement to benefits and protections under employment law.

  3. Consult an Employment Attorney: Seek legal advice from an experienced employment attorney who specializes in wage and hour laws. They can assess the validity of your claim and guide you through the legal process.

  4. File a Complaint with the Labor Commissioner’s Office: In California, you can file a wage claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). This government agency handles disputes related to unpaid wages and can initiate an investigation into your case.

  5. Explore Legal Action: If the Labor Commissioner’s Office does not resolve your issue or if you are seeking additional compensation, you may consider filing a lawsuit against your employer. An attorney can guide you through the process and represent you in court.

Reporting an Employer for Paying Under the Table

If you’re contemplating reporting your employer for paying you under the table, it’s important to follow the right procedures:

  1. Contact the Tax Authorities: Report the issue to the appropriate tax authorities, such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the California Employment Development Department (EDD).

  2. Use Anonymity if Necessary: You can report your employer anonymously to protect yourself from potential retaliation. Both the IRS and the EDD allow anonymous reporting.

  3. Provide Detailed Information: When reporting, provide as much detailed information as possible, including the employer’s name, address, your employment details, and any evidence you may have.

Penalties for Employers Paying Under the Table

Employers who engage in the illegal practice of paying employees under the table can face a range of penalties and consequences. These may include:

  1. Monetary Penalties: Employers may be required to pay penalties for each violation, including failure to provide accurate records, unpaid wages, and failure to withhold taxes.

  2. Criminal Prosecution: In severe cases, employers may face criminal charges for willful violations of labor laws. Criminal charges can result in fines and, in extreme cases, imprisonment.

  3. Additional Damages: Employees who successfully sue their employers may be entitled to additional damages, including interest on unpaid wages and attorney fees.

  4. Tax Liabilities: Employers may be held liable for unpaid payroll taxes and other tax obligations resulting from paying employees under the table.

  5. Revocation of Business Licenses: In some cases, the state may take action against the employer’s business licenses, further impacting their ability to operate.

The Importance of Accurate Records and California Labor Code Compliance

California labor laws are designed to protect California employees and ensure fair treatment in the workplace. Employers are obligated to maintain accurate records of employees’ work hours, gross wages earned, dates of the pay period, net wages earned, last 4 digits of their social security number and any deductions made.

Your employer must deduct and contribute their portion for the following from your cash payments: Social Security and Medicare (FICA); State and federal income taxes; Unemployment insurance (FUTA); State disability insurance (SDI); State unemployment insurance (SUI); Workers’ compensation; Overtime compensation; and certain other employment benefits.

Failure to comply with the California Labor Code Section 226(a) can result in severe consequences for employers, making it crucial for both parties to understand and adhere to these regulations.

Wrongful Termination and Retaliation Concerns

If you are paid under the table and decide to assert your rights, it’s essential to be aware of potential wrongful termination or retaliation by your employer. California law prohibits employers from terminating or retaliating against employees who assert their rights to fair wages. If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated or subjected to retaliation, consult with an employment attorney to explore your legal options.

How an Attorney Can Navigate the Complexities of Being Paid Under the Table in California

Engaging an attorney is a crucial step when considering legal action against your employer for paying you under the table. An experienced employment attorney can provide invaluable assistance in various aspects of your case, ensuring you navigate the complexities of California labor laws effectively. Here’s how an attorney can help you in this particular situation:

  1. Case Analysis: Attorneys conduct a thorough analysis of your employment situation, examining contracts, pay stubs, and related documents.

  2. Violation Identification: They identify potential violations of employment laws, such as unpaid wages, overtime issues, or other concerns arising from being paid under the table.

  3. Clarification of Rights: Attorneys explain your rights under California labor laws, ensuring you understand entitlements like minimum wage, overtime pay, and other benefits.

  4. Guidance on Legal Options: They guide you on the available legal options, including filing a wage claim, reporting to tax authorities, or pursuing legal action against your employer.

  5. Evidence Collection: Attorneys assist in collecting crucial evidence, such as pay stubs and time records, to strengthen your case.

  6. Negotiation Skills: They leverage negotiation skills to engage with your employer for a fair settlement, advocating for the compensation you are owed.

  7. Expert Representation: In legal proceedings, attorneys represent you, navigating court procedures and presenting your case convincingly.

  8. Filing a Wage Claim: They guide you through the formal process of filing a wage claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE).

  9. Protection Against Retaliation: Attorneys provide advice on protecting yourself from retaliation, ensuring your rights are safeguarded during the legal process.

  10. Insights into Penalties: Attorneys offer insights into potential penalties and consequences your employer may face, which can be used strategically during negotiations.

can i sue my employer for paying me under the table

Secure Your Employment Rights with BLG

If you find yourself asking, “Can I sue my employer for paying me under the table?” the answer is a resounding yes. California’s employment laws are designed to protect the rights of workers, and being paid under the table doesn’t exempt employers from these regulations. Taking legal action and reporting such practices not only safeguards your rights but also contributes to maintaining a fair and just employment system. If you’re unsure about your specific situation, consulting with an employment attorney can provide valuable insights and guidance tailored to your case. Remember, as an employee, you have the right to fair compensation and a workplace that abides by the state and federal law.

Are you facing issues with under-the-table payments or unpaid wages? At BLG, we understand the complexities of California employment laws, and we’re here to help. Our experienced team of attorneys specializes in navigating the intricacies of wage disputes and ensuring you receive the compensation you deserve.

Contact us today for a free consultation.


What to do if your employer wants to pay you under the table?

Politely decline and insist on legal and transparent payment methods. Accepting under-the-table payments may lead to legal consequences for both you and your employer.

What happens if you get paid under the table?

Getting paid under the table means receiving income off the record. While you may get immediate cash, it can result in legal issues such as tax evasion, lack of employment benefits, and difficulties proving income for loans or visas.

What to do if your boss won’t pay you?

If your boss refuses to pay overtime, document your hours and wages, communicate with your employer about the issue, and check relevant employment laws. If the issue persists, you may need to contact your local labor board or seek legal advice to resolve the matter.

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