How to File a Wage Claim in California
California employees can file a wage claim with the California Labor Commissioner (aka CA Labor Board), or they can file a similar action in civil court.
How to File a Wage Claim with the CA Labor Board
To file a wage claim with the California Labor Board, an employee must fill out an “Initial Report or Claim” and deliver it to their local Labor Board office.
Filling out the initial report or wage claim form is difficult. The wage claim form seems to ask contradictory questions; they are confusing too. The most troubling thing about filling out the wage claim form is that any mistakes you make may be used against you later. For example, if you mistakenly click the box “Were you paid overtime?” but you really have an overtime claim (even one you did not know you had), the lawyer for your employer may try to claim that you lied on your wage claim form.
You do not need to write on your wage claim form that you are seeking “waiting time penalties” under California Labor Code section 203. The Labor Commissioner usually indicates on the official “complaint” form, which you do not need to fill out initially to file your wage claim, that you are seeking these penalties.
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. 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 you fill out and sign your form, you must deliver it to your local Labor Commissioner office.
Some labor board offices in California require you to fill out another form along with your wage claim. This form, which we call the Overtime and Meal Period Calculation Form, can be found here. This form is very difficult to fill out.
Strauss & Strauss, APC has a tried-and-true system for filling out the Overtime and Meal Period Form. If you are hung up on how to fill out this form, contact Strauss & Strauss, APC to see if we can represent you in your wage claim.
Once these forms are filed, your wage claim is initiated. The Labor Commissioner will contact you, usually by mail, sometimes as soon as two or three weeks later. Sometimes it takes them many months later to contact you. If it has taken too long for the Labor Commissioner to get back to you, you may want to seek legal representation. The lawyers at Strauss & Strauss, APC know many of the employees of the Labor Board offices in California, so we can try to find out why there is a delay. It may be that the Labor Board lost your claim form, so you may have to file another one.
How to File Your Wage Claim in Civil Court
Filing your wage claim in civil court, which may make sense because you can reach back four years in a civil court wage claim instead of only three years in a labor board wage claim and you can recover your attorney’s fees (which are unavailable in a labor board wage claim), is more difficult. Most people need a lawyer to file a civil court wage claim. The process includes drafting a complaint and filing it with the clerk of the superior court for the county in which you performed work for the defendant-employer. You may also file in the United States District Court for the district in which you performed work for the defendant-employer.
You may also file a small claims action to recover wages owed. You cannot have a lawyer in a small claims action.
We represent employees in California wage claims every day. Contact us today if you are in need of representation in your Labor Commissioner wage claim action.
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