Consumer Protection Investigations

Consumer protection laws are designed to ensure a marketplace that is free of fraud and deception. Nevertheless, corporations defraud millions of Americans each year through unfair and fraudulent practices that are designed to increase profits. Ongoing enforcement of consumer protection laws through litigation therefore remains critical to protecting the rights of consumers and preserving a fair marketplace.

The Law Office of Paul K. Joseph is dedicated to enforcing these rights. We investigate unfair, fraudulent, and otherwise unlawful business conduct in some of the most common areas of corporate abuse, as described below.

If you or someone you know has purchased a product that you suspect is fraudulent, contact our office to learn how we can help.

Fraudulent dietary or nutritional supplements

In the United States, dietary supplements are a $20 billion-per-year industry and are used by nearly 70% of adults. But unlike with drugs, FDA approval of the safety, efficacy, and labeling of dietary supplements is not required. This has resulted in rampant fraud in the industry. For example, a 2012 report by the United States Inspector General’s Office found that 20% of the supplements it inspected for the report contained illegal “drug” claims on their labels.1  For this reason, “regulators continue to warn consumers about tainted, dangerous products that are marketed as dietary supplements, [because] these fraudulent products can cause serious injury or even death.”2

Fraudulent labeling claims—promising incredible benefits that the products are incapable of providing—are common across every major dietary supplement category. If you or someone you know purchased a dietary supplement that promised impressive benefits and failed to deliver, please contact our office.

Our office is conducting investigations of the following product categories:

Weight-loss supplements

As the FDA, FTC, and medical experts have explained, no non-prescription pill can provide significant and maintained weight loss without significant changes to diet and exercise. For this reason, dietary supplements that promise to cause weight loss without diet or exercise, allow you to eat as much as you want and still lose weight, maintain permanent weight loss, or help you lose more than two pounds per week (e.g., lose 30 pounds in 30 days) are almost always scams.3

If you bought or have information regarding a dietary supplement that promised similar benefits please contact our office.

Sexual performance or aphrodisiac supplements

Manufacturers often deceptively and misleadingly market their dietary supplements as powerful aphrodisiacs that are capable of enhancing sexual performance and stamina, or treating sexual dysfunction and impotency.

If you bought or have information regarding a dietary supplement that promised similar benefits please contact our office.

Memory loss supplements

With increasing frequency, companies are marketing a category of dietary supplements that claim to improve and enhance memory or recall. They do this despite that there is little or no reliable scientific evidence that these products have any significant effect on memory.

If you bought or have information regarding a dietary supplement that promised similar benefits please contact our office.

Supplements for serious diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or arthritis

It is illegal for nutritional supplements to make claims that they help prevent, treat, or cure any disease. This is because such claims render the products drugs, but supplements do not undergo the FDA approval process for safety and efficacy. As government regulators have noted, besides cheating you out of your money, products with such claims may also be dangerous.4

If you bought or have information regarding a supplement that made any such disease claims please contact our office.

Homeopathic Products

Many consumers who purchase homeopathic products are seeking a natural “remedy.” But most consumers are unaware that in a process called ‘ultra-molecular’ dilution, many homeopathic products are intentionally are diluted to such high levels that there is not even a single molecule of the “active” ingredient in the product.5 As incredible as it sounds, many homeopathic products are nothing more than sugar tablets with “no material trace of the starting substance.” Thus, consumers are unknowingly purchasing nothing more than a placebo.

If you have bought a homeopathic product that did not perform as expected, you may have been a victim of consumer fraud. To learn more, contact our office today.


Cosmetic manufacturers know that they can increase sales by making impressive, scientific-sounding claims that their products not only enhance your appearance, but interact with your skin on a molecular, genetic, or cellular level to produce healthier skin. Although impressive sounding, claims (or variations) that products enhance collagen production, provide cell rejuvenation, reverse the aging process, or target or boost the activity of your DNA or genes are almost always false or misleading. Many manufacturers further try to bolster the credibility of these claims by giving the supposedly “revolutionary” ingredient a scientific sounding name, claiming it was developed by scientists in a laboratory or was the result of clinical testing.

If you purchased a cosmetic product that failed to deliver on its promises, you may have been a victim of false advertising and may be able to pursue your claim as a class action. To see if you qualify, contact our office to learn how we can help.

Employment Law Investigations

In addition to our consumer protection investigations, our office investigates wage-and-hour violations, where employers fail to pay their employees the wages they are entitled to by law. Because there are numerous compensation structures and most employees are not familiar with federal and state labor codes, many of these violations go undetected. However, the result is always the same: employees are not fully compensated for the work they perform as required by law.

There are many ways that your employer may shortchange your wages in violation of state and federal laws. Some of the most frequent violations are described below. If you or someone you know has been deprived of their rightful wages, you may be entitled to compensation. To see if you qualify, contact our office to learn how we can help.

Worker misclassification

Misclassification of employees as “exempt”

Certain employees are considered “exempt” from overtime and other pay provisions. This means that an employer is not required to pay them overtime wages. Employers, however, often misclassify employees as “exempt” to avoid paying overtime. For example, an employer may improperly award a fake “promotion” by giving a worker a new title without changing the worker’s responsibilities in order to classify the worker as “exempt” and avoid paying overtime.

Misclassification of employees as “independent contractors”

Similarly, when a worker is misclassified as an independent contractor, he or she is not subject to California minimum wage and overtime laws. In addition, the worker has no workers’ compensation coverage, no right to family leave, no unemployment insurance, no legal right to join a union, and no protection against employer retaliation. The desire to avoid providing these benefits provides an incentive to misclassify workers.

Wage-and-hour claims

Wage-and-hour violations take a wide variety of forms including:

  • failure to pay an employee for all hours worked;
  • failure to properly pay overtime, commissions, and bonuses;
  • failure to compensate for unused vacation hours;
  • improper deductions from paychecks;
  • failure to pay or reimburse business expenses;
  • failure to provide meal or rest periods; and
  • failure to  pay minimum wage for each hour worked.

While some violations like failure to provide breaks are readily apparent, other violations are more subtle and often go unnoticed for long periods. Many of these violations are described in more detail below.

Failure to pay for employee for all hours worked

Employees are entitled to compensation for all time spent working for the benefit of their employer. This is true regardless of whether the work is performed at the employer’s facility, an off-site location, or at the employee’s home. Violations are particularly common in instances where employees are required to perform certain tasks before clocking in or after clocking out. Examples include:

  • cleaning and turning on equipment;
  • undergoing security checks;
  • working through meal breaks;
  • attending training or safety classes;
  • taking short breaks (up to 15-20 minutes); and
  • checking emails at home.

Failure to pay minimum wage

Federal, state, and certain municipal (local) laws set minimum hourly wages. Employees are entitled to the highest applicable minimum hourly wage. For example, while the federal minimum hourly wage is only $7.25, a California employee is entitled to a minimum wage of $9.00 under California law.

In addition, California employees are entitled to earn minimum wage for every hour worked. This means an employer cannot satisfy this requirement by simply ensuring that an employee’s average hourly wage over the course of a week meets the minimum requirement. Commissioned, tipped, and day-rate employees are particularly susceptible to minimum wage violations because of the structure of their compensation.

Improperly pooling tips with non-tipped employees

Tip pooling happens when tipped employees (e.g., waiters, busboys) combine their tips in a “pool” that is divided equally among the tipped workers. These tips belong solely to tipped workers, but occasionally non-tipped employees (e.g., managers, cooks) are allowed by employers to wrongly collect a share of these tips, which may result in a minimum wage violation.

Overtime violations

In California, an employee must be paid overtime for working more than 8 hours in a single day, over 40 hours in a workweek, and all hours work on the seventh consecutive day of work in a workweek. While few employers outright refuse to pay overtime, employers occasionally attempt to avoid paying overtime through improperly averaging hours, “requiring” permission, or improperly providing alternative forms compensation.

Averaging hours to avoid paying overtime

Another common scheme is to average two weeks together or all days in a week to claim that an employee is not due overtime pay. Under federal law, an employer cannot average hours worked over two weeks and, in California, an employer cannot even average the hours worked each day within a single week. Doing so violates labor laws and robs workers of the overtime pay to which they are entitled.

Requiring approval of overtime

In other instances, an employer may claim that an employee must request and receive approval to be paid for overtime. While an employer may cap an employee’s hours at 8 per day or 40 per week, it cannot refuse to pay overtime when it needs an employee to exceed those normal limits.

Offering “comp time” rather than paying overtime

Some employers offer “comp time” instead of paying overtime wages as required by law. For example, an employer may tell an employee that instead of receiving overtime, he or she can use that time towards vacation time. This is illegal except for state and local government employees.

Failure to provide required information on paystubs

California law requires employers provide a written, itemized statement with each paycheck that contains nine specific pieces of information about that paycheck:

  • gross wages earned;
  • total hours worked (except salaried exempt employees);
  • the number of piece-rate units earned and any applicable piece rates if the employee is paid on a piece rate basis;
  • all deductions (including taxes, disability insurance, etc.);
  • net wages earned;
  • the inclusive dates of the pay period;
  • the employee name and either the last four digits of the social security number or an employee identification number;
  • the name and address of the legal entity that is the employer; and
  • all applicable hourly rates in effect during the pay period and the corresponding number of hours worked at each hourly rate by the employee.

These requirements are designed to help prevent other wage violations and intentional violation entitles an employee to recover all actual damages or up to $50 for the initial pay period in which a violation occurs and $100 for each subsequent violation, up to a total of $4,000.

If you or someone you know has been deprived of their rightful wages, you may be entitled to compensation. To see if you qualify, contact our office to learn how we can help.