The Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, which is enforced by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, says that employers must pay employees what they’re owed – and if your employer hasn’t paid you, you could have an unpaid wages claim under California employment law.
Unpaid wages are employee earnings that an employer has not paid. When your employer doesn’t pay you what it owes you, it’s a form of wage theft. Wage theft is against the law.
What is an Unpaid Wages Claim?
An unpaid wages claim is a claim you make when your employer owes you money for hours you worked.
For most people, it makes sense to talk to an unpaid wages lawyer about cases like these. An attorney can give you legal advice that helps you get back the money your employer owes you, even if you no longer work for that employer.
When Can You File an Unpaid Wages Claim?
You can file an unpaid wage claim if your employer:
- Fails to pay you minimum wage
- Does not pay you for break time as required by law
- Fails to pay you for time you worked “off the clock”
- Does not pay you for time you need to prepare for the job, such as the time you spend putting on or taking off safety gear
- Fails to pay you for untaken, accrued vacation time that it is required by law to pay you for
- Does not pay you overtime or double time
- Fails to pay you for work-related travel time during the workday
There may be other cases in which you’re entitled to file an unpaid wages claim. If you’re not sure about your own situation, it’s a good idea to get in touch with a Los Angeles labor lawyer to get some clarification.
Related: How does overtime work in California?
About Unpaid Wage Claims
The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (also called the Labor Commissioner’s Office) is the entity that decides on claims for unpaid wages. The same division enforces minimum labor standards to make sure employees aren’t working under substandard, unlawful conditions, and it helps protect employers who do comply with the law from being forced to compete with those who don’t.
You do not need a Social Security number or photo ID to file an unpaid wage claim. You can file a claim regardless of your immigration status, no matter what an employer or other employees have told you.
When an employer does not pay you what it owes you, that is a form of wage theft – and it’s against the law. Companies can get into a lot of trouble for failing to pay unpaid wages.
Deadlines on Unpaid Wage Claims
You must file a claim for unpaid wages within three years. Things become a little tricky with deadlines; if you’re filing a claim related to an oral promise to pay more than minimum wage – such as when your boss verbally tells you that he or she will pay you $20 per hour rather than $15 per hour – you only have two years to file an unpaid wage claim. If you have a written contract, you only have four years to file a claim.
What Your Lawyer Needs
Your attorney will need you to provide proof to back up your claim. Gather everything you have, such as:
- Pay stubs
- Time sheets
- Notes about your work hours
Your attorney can help you make copies of these documents – you will need to hang on to your original copies, because you may not get back the documents that accompany your claim.
What Happens Next?
If your claim is valid, you may be asked to participate in a settlement conference. Sometimes you can participate by phone if you’re not able to attend in person. If you and your employer don’t reach a settlement at the conference, you’ll be put on the schedule for a hearing. At the hearing, your attorney can speak on your behalf to prove to the Labor Commissioner that your employer owes you unpaid wages.
What’s a Settlement?
A settlement is an agreement between you and your employer that says you agree to accept a certain amount of money. Sometimes employers offer less than they really owe, hoping that employees will accept it to avoid a hearing.
You do not have to accept a settlement offer. Your attorney can give you guidance about whether accepting a settlement is a good idea – there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for everyone.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About an Unpaid Wages Claim?
If you believe your employer has violated your rights or gone against California employment law, you could be entitled to financial compensation.
Call an experienced Glendale employment lawyer right now for a free unpaid wage consultation on your case. We’re available at 818-617-9713 or 800-774-4163, and the sooner you get in touch with us, the sooner we can start to help you get the compensation you deserve.