Q: I was getting paid below the minimum wage as a leased employee and found out I was a singular case. Is this legal?
I work for a business in Los Angeles but I am considered a contractor or leased employee from a third party staffing agency outside of California. I was getting paid two dollars less than the minimum wage regulations for working in LA and was told at the time of hiring by the manager that I could work for them or Taco Bell. I had over 6 years of experience in the industry. Recently the company hired someone fresh out of high school with zero experience under the same contractor status I have, yet that person is getting paid above minimum wage. I’m told I might have grounds for a civil suit of illegal pay and discrimination as no other staff or contractors, past or present, have been subjected to the same pay rate I was given for almost 2 years. Is this true and if yes what can be done?
First it needs to be determined whether you were properly classified as an independent contractor. If you were misclassified and were in fact an employee, then it is unlawful for an employer to pay you compensation below the minimum wage. If you were an employee, you are also entitled to other derivative Labor Code protections.
Further, if you belong in a protected membership class ( age, race, disability, et cet), you may also have potential claims for discrimination, however, far more would need to be known to determine that.
I suggest you consult an employment law attorney who will further examine your situation and explain your 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 Lawyers Association (www.cela.org), an organization whose members are committed to representing employees’ rights. Best of luck.
Maya L. Serkova
It is highly unlikely that you were properly classified as an independent contractor. By misclassifying you, the employer may well have violated many of your rights as an employee. Minimum wage is one of those rights, but there are likely others when more is learned about your situation.
As to being the only one paid this way, that would only be unlawful if you could prove the reason you were being treated differently is because of your membership in a protected class of people. Otherwise, an employer has the right to pay employees differing amounts of money.
It would be wise for you to locate and consult with an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible to explore your facts and determine your options. I would suggest you look either on this site, or go to www.cela.org, the home page for the California Employment Lawyers Association, an organization whose members are dedicated to the representation of employees against their employers.
Most employment attorneys who practice this area of law offer a free or low cost consultation in the beginning and then, if the matter has merit and value, will usually agree to work on a contingency basis, meaning you can hire an attorney without paying any money until the matter results in a positive outcome for you. Many advance all the costs of the litigation as well. Do not let fear of fees and costs keep you from finding a good attorney.
Good luck to you.
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