Minimum wage laws in California have few exceptions. You, as an individual, cannot agree to accept pay below minimum wage. Employers cannot reduce wages based on tips received. If your employer failed to meet pay standards, you may file a wage claim for unpaid compensation with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE).
Review by Deputy Labor Commissioner
Deputy Labor Commissioners handle wage claims. The person assigned to your claim will decide whether to schedule a conference between you and the employer or go straight to holding a hearing with the Labor Commissioner. The option to dismiss your claim for lack of evidence exists as well.
Wage claim conference
Typically, DLSE schedules a conference where the Deputy Labor Commissioner, employer and employee meet to discuss the wage dispute. This conference could result in the employer agreeing to pay the outstanding amount. Otherwise, DLSE will either dismiss the claim or schedule a hearing to investigate the matter further.
Wage claim hearing
Witnesses give testimony under oath at the hearing. Both sides may present evidence and give testimony. Based on this information, the Labor Commissioner issues an Order, Decision or Award (ODA).
Either you or the employer may choose to contest the ODA. This requires taking the matter to civil court. If you are denied your rightful pay, then you can present your evidence during a civil trial. Similarly, an employer seeking to avoid paying you, may argue against the decision of the DLSE. The trial acts as a new airing of the evidence, and the court decides the final outcome regardless of what the original decision was at your DLSE hearing.