It is completely unfair for an employee to put in the effort without receiving compensation.; employees need money to pay their bills and rent.
Failure on an employer’s part to pay their employees on time is not only illegal, it can also have devastating consequences.
Are you considering suing your employer for unpaid wages? Depending on the specifics of your situation, an employment lawyer can provide helpful advice and represent you in court.
Employees struggling to receive the wages that are owed to them (including benefits, overtime, and commissions) can get help from n California employment attorney.
If your employer has not paid you the wages or benefits to which you are entitled, you have the right to file a wage claim.
Filing a wage claim is the first step to receiving unpaid wages or benefits. A wage claim can be submitted online, by email, mail, or in person. It doesn’t matter what your immigration status is–California’s labor laws protect everyone.
What Are Unpaid Wages?
Unpaid wages are any wages or income that you have earned but have not been paid for by your employer. If your employer has failed to pay you for the work that you have done, you may be entitled to sue for unpaid wages in California.
If you are an employee in California, you have the right to be paid for all the work that you do. This includes regular wages, overtime pay, commissions, tips, and more.
Unpaid wages, which is sometimes referred to as “withheld wages” or “withheld salary”, can happen for a number of reasons and is illegal.
Some common examples of unpaid wages include:
- The employee is not being paid for all the hours you worked (or when an employee is made to work “off the clock” without pay)
- The employee is not being paid the correct minimum wage
- The employee is not being paid any overtime wages (if the employee worked more than 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week)
- The employee is not being paid commissions that are owed
- The employee is not being paid vacation pay or other earned time off
- The employer has illegally deducted money from the employee’s paycheck
- The employee is not being paid for all the tips you earned
- The employer withholds a salary when an employee files for disability
- Business expenses paid out of pocket by the employee aren’t being reimbursed
The above list is not exhaustive–there are many other examples of unpaid wages. If your employer has failed to pay you any wages or income that you have earned, you may be entitled to sue for unpaid wages in California.
Does My Employer Owe Me Unpaid Wages?
If you are an employee in California, your employer owes you the wages or income that you have earned for the work that you have done. This includes regular wages, overtime pay, commissions, tips, and more.
An employer who fails to pay an employee the wages or income to which he or she is legally entitled may be required to pay the employee’s unpaid wages, plus interest and penalties.
How to File a Wage Claim in California
If you are an employee in California and you believe your employer has not paid you the wages or income to which you are entitled, you have the right to file a wage claim with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE).
When a wage claim is filed, the DLSE will investigate the claim and determine whether the employer owes the employee any unpaid wages. If the DLSE finds that the employer does owe the employee unpaid wages, they will order the employer to pay the employee his or her unpaid wages, plus interest and penalties.
Filing a wage claim is the first step to receiving unpaid wages or benefits from your employer.
IMPORTANT: The Labor Commissioner’s Office does NOT have jurisdiction over independent contractors. Many employers misclassify their workers as independent contractors to avoid providing them with basic labor rights. If you believe your employer has miscategorized you, file a wage claim. The Labor Commissioner’s Office will likely hold a hearing to determine if the worker was in fact misclassified as an independent contractor.
Related Read: How to File a Labor Board Complaint in California
Make Sure to File Your Claim Within the Time Limit
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.
As each timeline is different, it is important that you speak with an experienced California employment law attorney to ensure that you file your claim within the required time period.
Gather All the Documentation You Need
When filing a wage claim, it is important to have all the documentation you need to support your claim. This may include and is not limited to:
- Information on Your Employer and any Other Responsible Parties – Be sure to include the name, address, and phone number of your employer, as well as the name and contact information of any other responsible parties.
- Your Employment Dates – Include the dates of your employment, as well as the dates of any unpaid work hours.
- Documentation of Your Unpaid Wages – Be sure to include copies of any documentation you have of your unpaid wages, such as pay stubs, time sheets, or bank statements.
- Copies of Any Contracts or Agreements – If you have a written employment contract or agreement, be sure to include a copy of this agreement with your claim.
- Track Hours Worked as Accurately as Possible – One of the most important pieces of evidence in a wage claim is documentation of the hours worked. Be sure to track your hours as accurately as possible, and include this documentation with your claim. If you do not have some of this information, do not worry. The DLSE will still investigate your claim and may be able to obtain this information from your employer.
- Keep All of Your Pay Stubs – It is a good idea to keep all of your pay stubs, even if you are paid in cash. These pay stubs will be important evidence if you need to file a wage claim.
If you have any questions about what documentation you should include with your claim, an experienced California employment law attorney can help.
IMPORTANT: By California law, your employer is required to keep accurate records of the hours you worked and the wages you were paid. If your employer does not have accurate records, the DLSE may rely on your records to determine how much unpaid wages you are owed.
Speak with an Employment Attorney Licenced in California
Once you have gathered all the documentation you need, it is time to speak with an experienced California employment law attorney. An attorney can help you determine if you have a valid claim and how much unpaid wages you may be owed.
An attorney can also help you file your claim with the DLSE, and represent you at any hearing or trial. If you do not have an attorney, you may represent yourself in court. However, it is important to note that the law surrounding wage claims is complex, and an experienced attorney will likely have a better chance of success than someone who is representing themselves.
An attorney can also help you negotiate a settlement with your employer outside of court.
In addition, it’s not uncommon for wage theft to be part of a larger pattern of illegal activity by an employer. An experienced attorney can help you investigate whether there are other potential claims you can bring against your employers, such as discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.
If you have questions about wage violations, please contact us. Eldessouky Law is a California-based employment law firm that represents employees who have been the victims of wage theft and other illegal employment practices. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
File Your Claim With the DLSE
The final step in filing a wage claim is to file your claim with the DLSE. You can do this by mail, fax, or in person. The DLSE
The DLSE will then investigate your claim and determine whether you are owed any unpaid wages.
If the DLSE finds that you are owed unpaid wages, they will order your employer to pay you the amount of unpaid wages you are owed, plus interest. The DLSE may also order your employer to pay you an additional amount, known as a penalty.
Do You Need an Attorney when Suing an Employer for Unpaid Wages?
You are not required to have an attorney to file an unpaid wage claim. However, as mentioned above, the law surrounding wage claims is complex, and you may have a better chance of success if you are represented by an experienced attorney.
As such, we recommend that you speak with an experienced California employment law attorney before filing a claim. An attorney can help you determine whether you have a valid claim, and how much unpaid wages you may be owed.
Are You a Victim of Wage Theft?
If you believe that your employer has stolen your wages, we want to hear from you.
At Eldessouky Law, we are dedicated to fighting for the rights of employees who have been the victims of wage theft and other illegal employment practices.
Contact us today at (714) 409-8991 or fill out one of our contact forms online. We offer free, confidential consultations and will gladly answer any questions you have.