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How to File a Labor Board Complaint in California [2024]

Written By: Mo Eldessouky Updated On: April 16, 2024 | Read Time: 9 Minutes

A California labor board complaint is a process whereby employees can report their employers to a state agency for various labor law violations.

The State of California has over 200 administrative agencies, of which only a small portion investigate and handle complaints of labor law violations.

Employees often refer to agencies that handle workplace disputes and complaints as “labor boards,” although there is no agency in California with that specific name.

Most “labor board” complaints in California will fall under the jurisdiction of either:

In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about filing a California labor board complaint with both of these agencies.

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What Types of California Labor Board Complaints Can You File?

While there can be a variety of labor law violations that may be reported to a California state agency, the most common examples of complaints are:

Employment law violations are taken quite seriously in California, and it is important to understand that stiff penalties can be imposed on employers who break the law.

If you have any questions about filing a labor board complaint or what types of complaints are appropriate for your situation, we recommend consulting with one of our California employment lawyers.

What Type of Labor Board Complaints Does the California Labor Commissioner’s Office Handle?

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office is primarily responsible for enforcing laws and regulations that govern the payment of minimum wage and overtime, child labor, meal breaks and rest periods, sick pay (paid family leave), paid family time, special leaves of absence, and other state-specific regulations.

Some common forms of unpaid wage violations, which the Labor Commissioner’s Office typically handles, include:

  • Being paid less than minimum wage per hour
  • Not receiving the agreed-upon compensation (including overtime on commissions, piece rate, and normal pay)
  • Not accruing or being denied the use of paid sick leave
  • Not receiving promised vacation days or bonuses
  • Not being permitted to take meal or rest breaks, as well as preventative cool-down breaks
  • Tips being stolen by the employer or manager
  • Failure to reimburse valid business expenses
  • Having money deducted from your paycheck without your authorization
  • Bounced paychecks
  • Not being compensated for split shift premiums
  • Failure to make personnel files and payroll records accessible on time
  • Not receiving Reporting Time Pay
  • Not receiving final wages in a timely manner
  • Deductions from your pay that you did not authorize

An employee is not limited to bringing a wage theft or unpaid wage complaint to the Labor Commissioner’s Office. An employee can also file these complaints:

Since each labor law violation is handled by a different agency, it’s important to figure out which agency handles a particular issue before filing your complaint. An experienced California employment law attorney can help you identify the appropriate state agency and inform you of your rights and options.

Note: If you are experiencing a labor law violation, it’s important to take action as soon as possible. Failure to file your complaint within the specified time frame can drastically limit what remedies and compensation you may be entitled to.

If you need help filing a labor board complaint in California, we recommend reaching out to our law firm. We can assist you throughout the process and ensure your rights are fully protected.

california labor board complaint
Need help fiing a labor board complaint in California? We can help.

What does the California Labor Commissioner’s Office Do?

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office is responsible for enforcing state employment laws. This includes investigating complaints related to pay, hours, working conditions, and other rights guaranteed by law. Depending on the nature of your complaint and the outcome of the investigation, you may be entitled to various forms of compensation including unpaid wages (including commissions or bonuses), overtime pay, sick leave, vacation days, and more.

The Labor Commissioner’s Office is also responsible for handling some forms of employer retaliation claims. For example, if your employer has wrongfully terminated you or taken other adverse actions against you for filing a complaint, the Labor Commissioner’s Office has the power to investigate your claim and provide legal recourse for any violations.

Workers are not limited to filing wage theft or other labor violations with the Labor Commissioner’s Office. If you have a legitimate wage and hour complaint, you can also file your complaint:

Note: A lawsuit is different from a labor board complaint. A complaint is typically a shorter, simpler process that is handled by the state or federal agency responsible for the relevant labor law. A lawsuit (also known as a civil claim) is a separate legal process that helps employees recover the compensation to which they are entitled.

Each legal route has its own strengths and weaknesses, so it’s important to understand which process is likely to suit your needs before filing a complaint.

How to File a Complaint Against Your Employer with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office

Once you have gathered the necessary documentation and evidence about your employer’s violation, you can file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner’s Office by email, mail or in person.

You will need to download a claim form, complete the form, and mail or fax it to the nearest regional office of the Labor Commissioner’s Office.

In addition, you can file a wage claim online. Here are instructions on how to file a wage claim online.

IMPORTANT: Before you file your complaint, you should consult with an experienced California employment law attorney. The Labor Commissioner’s Office is a state agency tasked with enforcing labor laws. As such, they have limited authority over cases involving violations of federal or other state employment laws.

In addition to helping you understand your rights and options under the law, an experienced lawyer can help prepare your claim for maximum success. This is particularly important if you plan to file a lawsuit against your employer later down the line, as a knowledgeable attorney can help ensure that any evidence you submit during the Labor Commissioner’s Office investigation will be admissible in court.

What Type of Labor Board Complaints Does the California Civil Rights Department Handle?

The California Civil Rights Department (CRD), previously known as the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), is a state agency in California that investigates and addresses complaints of discrimination and harassment.

You can file a complaint with the CRD if you believe that an employer or potential employer has violated your civil rights on the basis of:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex (including sexual harassment)
  • National Origin (including language barriers)
  • Disability (mental or physical)
  • Pregnancy
  • Age (40 or older)
  • Marital Status / Registered Domestic Partner Status (including same-sex relationships)
  • or Medical Conditions.

In addition, employees are not limited to filing discrimination or harassment complaints with the CRD. They can also raise these employment disputes:

Discrimination and harassment in the workplace are prohibited by the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). This law protects employees from being treated unfairly or harassed based on the characteristics listed above.

Since there are a variety of different state and federal agencies where an employee can file a harassment or discrimination complaint, it’s important to choose the right legal route based on your specific situation and goals.

If you are facing discrimination or harassment in the workplace, you should consult with a skilled California employment law attorney who can help you understand your options and choose the right strategy.

What does the California Civil Rights Department do?

The mission of the Department is to protect and safeguard the rights of all persons to be free from unlawful discrimination. This is done through the investigation and resolution of complaints alleging unlawful discrimination, and by providing technical assistance and training to prevent discriminatory practices.

These laws safeguard people from being unfairly treated in their places of work, homes, services, and public accommodations based on race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, medical condition, marital status, sex, age, or physical disability, and denial of family care leave.

How to File a Complaint with the California Civil Rights Department

When an employee files a discrimination complaint with the California Civil Rights Department, the CRD will investigate their claim to determine whether it’s legitimate. If the CRD accepts the complaint, they will continue further investigations into the potential labor law violation(s).

The CRD will interview the employee and any witnesses, evaluate evidence, and take other actions. They may attempt to mediate a resolution between the employer and employee, or they may initiate administrative proceedings (legal action) that could lead to penalties against the offending party.

If you believe you were the victim of either workplace harassment or discrimination, you can contact the CRD:

If you choose to take this route, the CRD will need you to gather the following:

  • Any and all records detailing the incident(s), including but not limited to: the name and contact information of anyone you believe harmed you.
  • Any documents or other pieces of evidence that relate to your complaint.
  • The names and contact information of any known witnesses.

For employment cases, you must file a complaint with the CRD within three (3) years to the date of the alleged discrimination, harassment or retaliation.

Note: To file your own lawsuit in court, you must first obtain a Right-to-Sue notice from CRD. If you would rather bypass the CRD investigation process and go straight to filing suit, you can request an immediate Right-To-Sue notice.

Because every labor law violation or discrimination case is one-of-a-kind, to improve your chances of winning and getting the money you deserve, it’s important to file a complaint or lawsuit with a court that can completely and impartially look at your situation.

Sometimes filing a complaint with the CRD is not enough to resolve your situation, and you’ll need to take things further. In this case, it’s in your best interest to consult with a qualified California labor law attorney who can help you file suit against your employer and aggressively advocate on your behalf throughout the process.

Your attorney can help you gather the evidence and information needed to file your complaint and support you throughout a potentially lengthy legal battle. They will also be well-versed in California employment law, so they’ll know exactly how to build a strong case that maximizes your chances of winning or obtaining a favorable settlement.

How Long Do You Have to File a Complaint Against Your Employer for Unpaid Wages?

It’s important to remember that there are time limits, or “statutes of limitations”, for filing a wage claim. This means that if you do not file your claim within the required time period, you may lose your right to sue for unpaid wages.

There are different time limits depending on the type of claim:

  • You must file a claim within 1 year when dealing with a bounced check or a failure to provide access to pay stub information.
  • You must file a claim within 2 years for an oral promise to be paid more than minimum wage.
  • You must file a claim within 3 years for any violation of minimum wage, overtime, unpaid rest and meal breaks, sick leave, illegal deductions from pay or unpaid reimbursements
  • You must file a claim within 4 years when dealing with a written contract.

How Long Do You Have to File a Complaint Against Your Employer for Retaliation, Discrimination or Harassment?

Complaints of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation are subject to different time limits than other claims.

Complaints must be filed within one (1) year of the last incident of intent or retaliation. The only exception to the rule is:

  • Whistleblowers retaliated – within 90 days
  • Equal Pay Act violations – within two years (three years if willful) of the violation

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office recommends that all employees consult with an attorney if they have experienced any form of workplace discrimination, harassment or retaliation. An attorney can help you ensure that your claim is filed within the correct time period and in compliance with state and federal law.

Get Help With Your Labor Law Complaint – Speak to a California Employment Law Attorney Today

For additional help with your labor law complaint or with filing an employment lawsuit, contact the experienced California employment law attorneys at the Eldessouky Law today.

We offer free no obligation consultations to help you get started, and we can review your case and help you determine the best course of action for resolving your situation.

We have a history of obtaining successful outcomes for our clients, including millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements.

Contact our office at 714-409-8991 or fill out one of our contact forms online.

We are available for video conference calls

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