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Richmond, CA asked in Employment Law for California

Q: What can my girlfriend do if her aunt does not want to pay her for those first 3 months? Can she force her to pay?

My girlfriend worked for 6 months in her Aunts restaurant. The Aunt was having a very difficult time with the business and asked my girlfriend for help her with the business (my girlfriend having much experience in the restaurant business), the Aunt had told her they would be business partners and she would add her to the business as a partner.

My girlfriend agreed, drove to and back from the City ( paying tolls, parking and much gas) and put in 40-50 hour weeks for months, basically managing and running her restaurant, without getting paid. After a successful 3 months the Aunt finally started paying her from then on, but later on said that she did not want to be partners, and wanted her to be just a worker, devastating my girlfriend.

My girlfriend did the calculations for the time she worked for the first 3 months, and the amount the aunt owed her came down to well over $6,000 (based on San Francisco minimum wage) All they had was an oral agreement.

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2 Lawyer Answers
Maya L. Serkova
Maya L. Serkova
Answered
  • Orange, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Your girlfriend should be paid for all hours she worked and was not compensated for. Additionally, your girlfriend may have a claim for breach of an oral contract. Given that there is no written agreement, it may be a very difficult claim to prove. As an employee, however, she may also get damages and penalties under other applicable Labor Codes. To enforce her right to be properly compensated, your girlfriend can try to demand payment yourself, she can hire an attorney to demand payment, file an administrative wage claim with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, or file a lawsuit.

There are pros and cons to each of these approaches. It would be wise to locate and consult with an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible to explore the facts and determine her options.

Most employment law attorneys in California offer free of charge initial consultations, and thereafter may take your case on a contingency basis, meaning you do not have to pay attorney’s fees unless and until there is a positive outcome for you. They may also advance either all or partial costs of litigation.

You can look either on this site in the Find a Lawyer section or go to California Employment Layers Association (www.cela.org), an organization whose members are committed to representing employees’ rights.

Sincerely,

Maya L. Serkova

Maurice Mandel II
Maurice Mandel II
Answered
  • Newport Beach, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Sorry to hear this happened, not nice to cheat people out of wages. Your girlfriend can certainly show the time she was working with the toll records. She does not need a written agreement for her wages, as long as she claims minimum wage, and even if she claims the agreement was for more than minimum wage. She should go to the local office of the Cal. Labor Commissioner to file a wage claim. She cannot get transportation costs because she doesn't get money to get to work. She should also ask for Liquidated Damages, and waiting time penalties of up to 30 day's wages at her average daily rate including overtime.

You can find out info online about the Labor Commissioner, by Googling that, it is part of the DIR/DLSE which Ms. Serkova mentions, but not very clearly. There is a form "DLSE 55" which she should fill out for all days worked that went unpaid.

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