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How to Win a Wage Claim in California? (2024 Examples & How to File One)

To win a wage claim in California, you typically need to follow a number of steps including documenting your hours, gathering evidence, filing the claim, and obtaining the decision. The labor commissioner will review the evidence and issue a decision. If the decision is in your favor, it will include the amount of wages owed to you.
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What is a Wage and Hour Claim?

According to Embroker, the simplest way to define wage and hour claims is to say that they are claims that arise when non-salaried or non-exempt employees make a formal complaint stating that they were unfairly compensated for the work that they performed [1].

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the primary federal law that establishes standards for minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment in the United States. Under the FLSA, wage and hour claims must be resolved through the Department of Labor or with court approval.

Examples of Wage and Hour Claims

While there are numerous ways in which the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) can be violated, here are some of the most common examples:

  • Unpaid Meals and Rest Breaks: Employees have the right to take meal breaks and rest breaks during their shifts. If an employer requires employees to work through these breaks, the employees should be compensated for that time.
  • Compensatory Time: Employers sometimes offer compensatory time off in the future instead of paying employees overtime wages for extra hours worked, which violates FLSA regulations.
  • Unpaid Training, Meetings, and Lectures: If employees are required to attend work-related lectures, seminars, meetings, or training events, they must be paid for the time spent on these activities.
  • Work Travel: Time spent traveling for work purposes must be compensated. Employers cannot consider work-related travel time as unpaid.
  • Minimum Wage Violations: The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Employers may violate the FLSA by deducting expenses from employees’ wages or engaging in other practices that result in employees earning less than the minimum wage.
  • Unpaid or Underpaid Overtime: Non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay at a rate of 1.5 times their regular hourly wage for hours worked beyond 40 in a week. Employers who fail to pay overtime wages or improperly calculate overtime pay are in violation of the FLSA.

Also Read: Order Decision or Award of the Labor Commissioner

How Do I File a Wage Claim with the California Labor Board?

According to the S&S APC, to file a wage claim with the California Labor Board, an employee must complete an “Initial Report or Claim” and submit it to their local Labor Board office [2].

The process of filing a wage claim in California can be challenging. The form itself may appear to ask contradictory questions, leading to confusion. Additionally, any errors made on the form could potentially be used against the claimant later. For example, selecting the wrong option, such as indicating you were paid overtime when you actually have an unpaid overtime claim, might be used by your employer’s lawyer to argue dishonesty.

Another common source of confusion for wage claim filers is regarding waiting time penalties. It’s unnecessary to explicitly state on the wage claim form that you are seeking waiting time penalties under California Labor Code section 203. The Labor Commissioner typically indicates this on the official “complaint” form, which is not required for the initial filing of your wage claim.

You must indicate on the wage claim form how much you are seeking in your wage claim. This may be the most confusing part of your claim. To make sure you are claiming all that you may claim, you may need a lawyer’s assistance. California wage claim lawyers should know each and every type of claim you may make in your wage claim, which should maximize how much you can claim.

Once the form is completed and signed, it must be submitted to your local Labor Commissioner’s office.

California Wage Claim Statistics

  • Each year, approximately 30,000 workers file wage claims.
  • In 2017, these claims amounted to a total of $320 million in unpaid wages, averaging about $10,000 per claim. Of this total, workers were able to recover approximately $40 million.
  • Among the recovered amount, $25 million went to workers who settled their claims, while the remaining $15 million was awarded to those who proceeded to a formal hearing.
  • Less than half of the workers who were awarded unpaid wages were able to collect any amount from their employer.
  • On average, workers had to wait 396 days for the state to resolve their wage claims.

Source: California Legislative Analyst’s Office [3].

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If you or a loved one was involved with these matters, you should contact our law firm immediately for a free case evaluation. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a suit and we can help.



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