Written by: John Dalton
| Read Time: 4 minutes

When your employer does not pay you your full wages or fails to pay you on time, it has committed wage theft. State and federal laws take wage theft seriously, which is why they provide multiple avenues for reporting unpaid wages through civil lawsuits or administrative complaints. 

At the Law Offices of John Dalton, we also take wage theft very seriously, and we do not tolerate the mistreatment of employees. This is why our firm is 100% focused on handling employment matters for individuals throughout California. And with his decades of experience, John Dalton can show you how to report unpaid wages in California and effectively fight for every remedy available to you in an unpaid wage complaint.

Know Your Wage and Hour Rights 

Before you file a wage complaint, your lawyer can identify all of the wage and hour laws your employer has violated. This is why you should speak to an attorney as soon as you sense that your employer is not properly paying you. Your right to file a claim and the types of relief you can recover will depend on whether you start a state or federal legal action and whether you initiate your claim in court or through a government agency. A lawyer can guide you through all of this. Let’s review your options. 

Your Federal Wage Rights

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers must pay their non-exempt employees at least $7.25 per hour and 1.5 times their regular pay rate when they work more than 40 hours in a workweek. Employers must also provide reasonable breaks to nursing employees who need to express breast milk. But while you can file an unpaid wage claim under FLSA, your rights and options will likely be greater under California’s laws and procedures. 

Your State Wage Rights

In general, non-exempt employees in California have legal rights to the following

  • Meal and rest breaks,
  • Overtime, 
  • Minimum wage,
  • Paid sick leave
  • Split shift premiums, 
  • Reimbursement for work-related expenses, 
  • Pay for reporting time, 
  • Promised hourly wages, and 
  • Timely final paychecks.

Non-exempt employees in California are entitled to a minimum wage of $15.50 per hour for their labor, but this minimum wage could be more depending on where in California an employee works. And all non-exempt employees are entitled to 1.5 to 2 times their regular pay rate if they work more than 40 hours in a week, six days in a week, or eight hours in a day. 

How to File a Wage and Hour Complaint in CA

Many underpaid workers choose to file their complaints with the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor. They can also file it with California’s Labor Commissioner’s Office, which is also called the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). Through either of these complaints, government agents investigate whether an employer has violated the wage and hour laws, and we resolve disputes through settlement negotiations or administrative hearings. If you do not want to handle your dispute through a government agency, you also have the option of suing your employer in state or federal court. 

Collect Evidence

You should be ready to defend your position in a wage and hour claim before you start the complaint process. Again, effectively gathering evidence requires a lawyer. They can help you gather proof of your employer’s violations and resources as soon as you contemplate filing a complaint. Evidence can include the following: 

  • Work schedules,
  • Pay stubs,
  • Timesheets, 
  • Employment agreements, 
  • Property records for your employer,
  • Employer policies, 
  • Employment-related correspondence, and 
  • Witness testimony (including your own). 

We can help you identify the information that is most helpful to your case. We also know how to gather all the evidence you need to make a successful complaint. 

File Your Complaint

To start your legal action through the DLSE, you must submit an Initial Report or Claim with copies of your supporting documents and your employer’s contact information. And you can initiate your claim with the WHD by filling out their online form or speaking to the WHD over the phone. Filing a claim through the WHD or DLSE is free, but if you choose to handle your wage dispute through civil court, you will need to file a complaint and serve your employer with the action. 

Attend Conferences or Mediation

Before you take your wage case to trial in a civil court, a judge might suggest that you attend mediation with your employer. During mediation, you and your employer might be able to negotiate a settlement agreement that covers your lost wages, benefits, or break rights. And employees who file their cases through the state or federal government might be required to attend a settlement conference with their employer. 

Any settlement agreement that you enter should cover all remedies you are entitled to. In a WHD complaint, you could be entitled to back pay and liquidated damages. But in a civil lawsuit or DLSE complaint, you could be entitled to the following:

  • Back pay,
  • Penalties,
  • Liquidated damages,
  • Attorney fees, and 
  • Legal costs. 

An attorney’s presence during a settlement conference is crucial to ensuring that you do not accept a lowball offer. Your lawyer will know how much your case is worth. They will work to ensure you only accept a settlement offer that is adequate in light of your circumstances.

Take Your Case to Trial

If your employer refuses to offer you sufficient settlement money for its violations, you can take your case to trial. At trial, you can present your evidence, examine witnesses, and argue your case to a judge or jury. And if you have a knowledgeable attorney at the helm, you dramatically increase your chances of a favorable outcome throughout the case and at trial. 

John Dalton’s Law Offices: Your Comprehensive Legal Support

A good advocate can make a world of difference between a victorious or unsuccessful wage complaint. And the Law Offices of John Dalton can give you the best legal representation. John Dalton has won some of the largest employment law verdicts in the State of California, and he is passionate about championing the rights of employees. If you need help, please call our office at 858-720-8422 or contact us online.

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