Workers in California who believe they have not been paid the wages or benefits owed by their employers may take their claims to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). This state agency is responsible for the enforcement of wage and hour laws.
When an employee files a complaint, the employer receives a letter of notification. Important: the employer is prohibited by law from retaliating against an employee who files a wage and hour complaint.
Once the complaint is filed and any supporting documents have been provided, there are generally two rounds in the process. In the first, a conference is scheduled to allow the employee and the employer to present their sides. Neither party is required to have a lawyer present, but legal representation is highly recommended.
If you are the employee bringing the claim, it is important to appear for this first meeting because your claim could be dismissed if you do not have a good reason for your absence. The deputy labor commissioner has the option to dismiss the employee’s claim if it is found to be invalid, but most claims move forward to a hearing.
During the initial meeting, there may be settlement discussions, and the employee might reach an agreeable settlement with the employer. However, if a settlement is not reached, a more formal hearing will be scheduled.
At this second stage in the process, each side may present more evidence, including any witnesses who could testify. Again, it is a good idea to have an employment law attorney on your side to offer counsel and represent you.
Wage and hour violations happen in a variety of ways, including failure to issue a final paycheck, failure to pay overtime, failure to pay the minimum wage, and failure to provide the required meal and rest breaks. A California employment law attorney can investigate the factors in your case, as well as represent you in the hearings and help you get the compensation you are owed.
Note: you can still bring a wage and hour claim against a past employer if you do so within a certain timeframe. For more on that, please see our previous post, “How far back can you claim unpaid wages in California?“