If your employer fails to pay you the minimum wage or failed to compute your overtime correctly, you might have to file a wage dispute lawsuit to get your unpaid wages.
In California, wage dispute lawsuits are usually filed if the employer does not comply with a decision given by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement after you filed for a wage claim.
To give you an idea, here is a summary of the process of filing a wage dispute claim and lawsuit in the state of California.
Filing a Wage Claim
Employees should first try to settle the wage dispute within the company before taking external actions.
If the company is unwilling to pay you your unpaid wages, you can file a wage claim with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE).
If you no longer work under the employer, you can also file for waiting time penalty where the employer can be required to pay you up to thirty days from the due date when the payment should have been given.
The Wage Claim Process
Once the claim is received by the DLSE, it will be assigned to a Deputy Labor Commissioner.
The Deputy Labor Commissioner will then review the claim to decide on how to proceed.
The decision could be a referral for a conference, referral for a hearing, or dismissal of the claim.
The purpose of the conference is to determine the validity of the claim and to try to resolve the dispute without going into a hearing.
If it cannot be resolved, then a hearing will be scheduled where both you and your employer are given the chance to present evidence and call on witnesses to testify in your behalf.
After the hearing, the Labor Commissioner will serve an Order, Decision or Award (ODA) that could be for or against you.
Either party can appeal the ODA to a civil court if they do not agree with it.
If the ODA is not followed by your employer, the DLSE can have the courts enter the ODA as judgment.
You can collect the judgment yourself or have the DLSE do it for you.
Filing a Wage Dispute Lawsuit
Another option you can explore is to file a lawsuit against your employer instead of going through the wage claim process.
Instead of being handled by the DLSE, the case will be handled by a judge assigned by the court and the decision or judgment will be made by the judge or a jury.
In any case, whether you plan to go through a wage claim or a wage dispute lawsuit, you have to have your employment law attorney beside you throughout the process to guide and represent you.