How long do I have to file a rest period wage claim after an incident occurs?
The answer depends on whether you file with the Labor Commissioner or in civil court.
If you file your rest break wage claim with the Labor Commissioner, you can go back three years.
A rest period wage claim in California must be filed with the Labor Commissioner within 3 years of the incident. That means that, if you wait to report a “violation” 4 years after your employer violated your guaranteed rest period, your wage claim will be dismissed by the Labor Commissioner. For every rest period violation, your employer must pay you “one additional hour of pay” in California. You can get this one hour of pay for every denied rest period going back three years from the date you file your rest period wage claim with the Labor Commissioner.
If you file your rest period wage claim in civil court, you can go back four years.
The same rules above apply to rest period wage claims brought in civil court, except you can go back four years instead of three.
Joe’s employer refused to let Joe take his 10-minute breaks for every 4-hour shift for 5 days of work. Joe’s employer did not pay Joe for 5 additional hours of compensation to make up for his violation of California rest period law. Joe has 3 years from the first violation to file a rest period wage claim in California. If Joe waits longer than 3 years from the first violation to file his wage claim with the Labor Commissioner, Joe will not be able file a rest period wage claim in California.
Assuming that Joe worked at this same job for the last five years and was denied rest breaks going back that entire five-year period, if Joe files his rest break wage claim with the Labor Commissioner he can only go back three years to reclaim the one extra hour of pay. If he files in civil court, he can go back four years to reclaim the extra one hour of pay. It may make more sense to file in civil court. Read about the differences between the Labor Commissioner and civil court here.
If you have a question about California rest period law or want to file a rest period wage claim, contact Strauss & Strauss APC now.