So, while my current job is going pretty well in general, I have recently noticed by tracking my pay stubs that I am being paid appx. 3 hours short per workweek. While I was going through the process of comparing my records to the company records, one of my coworkers mentioned that this is happening to him as well, and is the result of the employer not paying overtime wage increases as well as not paying for the extra hour of time legally required when employees are required to skip their mandated lunches and instead subtracting a half-hour's pay as if an unpaid lunch was taken. Upon further discussion this appears to be the case for a least everyone who was on shift at the time (I'm the new guy), the people who have worked at the place the longest were already aware of it but many other people weren't, and no one has talked to or is planning on talking to the owners on the assumption that they must already know and are doing this on purpose and there's nothing we can do.
The current business owners bought the place in October of last year and the changes in payment started then. My job includes a stable schedule and I started off work having to skip one lunch per week, but later agreed to change to skipping two lunches per week and working an hour less time since the pay would be roughly equivalent (I get a half-hour more hourly pay, but I have a half-hour less in which to earn tips, which normally double my hourly pay) and an hour more free-time a week is fair trade for the more strenuous work. I explained my reasons for accepting the schedule change to my employer when I did so, and they did not seem surprised about my expectation of receiving the legally mandated pay for working without a lunch break, which lends some credence to the idea that the employers already are aware they ought to be paying, but I think it's more likely that they aren't paying because no one's brought it up.
I'm concerned that if I bring it up, I will be fired, as the amount owed in back wages to all of us is extremely high-- I only skip two lunches a week but my coworker skips 6 and the store runs on two dish washers who each work 10-12 hour shifts 6 days a week and apparently haven't been being paid overtime. There's also two chefs that organize the rest of the chefs, sort of like a manager, and they work overtime pretty regularly as well and don't ever get breaks (they're not salaried). So just running off of the people who directly participated in the one conversation that was had about this, it sounds like they owe a rather absurd amount of money, and I'm not sure that they actually have the funds to pay us. What should I do? It seems mean not to say anything, since they very well might not realize what's going on and it could seriously disrupt their business at some point in the future. Also if they're gonna stick to not paying for overtime or skipped lunches then I want to switch back to the old schedule but I'm not sure how to bring that up.
My coworkers were pretty adamant that talking to the boss about this would be career suicide, and that I should drop this immediately, but I don't really trust them on that because it seems to me that a lack of communication often breeds that attitude.
My friend-I-normally-ask-about-work-advice says I should file a wage claim with the Labor Commissioner's Office, but that seems like a really bad idea because then I would be out of a job and blacklisted for having sued an employer.