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How to File a Wage Claim in California

Has your employer failed to pay you minimum wage or overtime? You may have an unpaid wages claim. Employers have a responsibility to provide employees with meal and rest breaks and follow state wage laws. When an employer fails to do so, you can hold them liable for their wrongdoing.

Filing an unpaid wages claim can be a long and complicated process. Thankfully, our team at Hennig Kramer Ruiz & Singh, LLP has put together a step-by-step process you can follow.

#1: Determine If You Have a Claim

The first step to filing an unpaid wages claim is to determine if your situation qualifies. You can file a claim if your employer has violated any federal or state laws regarding your work hours or wages. California has one of the most strict employment protections laws that ensure employers are held accountable for:

  • Minimum wage violations
  • Meal and rest break violations
  • Unpaid tips or commission
  • Unpaid vacation
  • Overtime violations
  • Unauthorized deductions
  • Final paycheck violations

#2: File a Claim with the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement

If you believe that you have an unpaid wages claim, you can file an Initial Report or claim with the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). DLSE is a division of the California Department of Industrial Relations. The form will ask you to provide information about yourself, your employer, your regular work schedule, and what wages or penalties you are claiming.

Depending on your unique situation you might be required to fill out other supplemental forms.

#3: Gather Documents

After filing a claim, you should gather all relevant information pertaining to the claim. Although you don’t need the documentation when filing your claim, the DLSE may ask you for additional information to evaluate your case. Some of the information you should gather include:

  • Pay stubs: Have copies of all your paystubs received for the time period during which you are claiming unpaid wages.
  • Time records: If you are filing an unpaid overtime claim, you should keep tabs on the extra hours you worked and compare it to your employer’s time records.
  • Bounced checks: Keep records of any checks from your employer that bounced due to insufficient funds.
  • Notice to employee: Keep a copy of the “Notice to Employee” that your employer gave you when you were hired. This should clearly list your agreed-upon hourly or salary rate.

#4: Prepare for the Settlement Conference & Hearing

After the DLSE reviews your claim, they will ask you to attend either a conference or hearing (or both). You will receive a notice about 30 days after filing the claim.

A settlement conference will try to resolve your claims informally without holding a court hearing. The Deputy Labor Commissioner will talk to you and your employer at the conference to find out both parties can agree on a settlement. However, employees can reject the settlement if they believe the outcome doesn’t fulfill their unpaid wages.

A court hearing will require you to testify under oath about your claim, as well as your employer. After the hearing, the hearing officer will make a decision about your claim within 15 days. If you win, your employer will be required to compensate you for your unpaid wages. Hearings often take place when an agreement wasn’t reached at a settlement conference.

Experienced California Employment Law Attorneys

Filing a claim is a complex legal process that you shouldn’t handle alone. Our team at Hennig Kramer Ruiz & Singh, LLP has helped employees throughout Los Angeles recover the compensation they deserve after dealing with unpaid wages. Employees should always be compensated for their work, and when they are not, our team can help. We can analyze your situation, help you determine if you have a case, and help you file a claim to get compensated.

Contact our Los Angeles employment law attorneys today at (213) 292-5444 to schedule a consultation!

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