How to File a Wage Theft Claim in California
Have you discovered that your employer isn’t paying you fairly?
Federal law requires employers to pay employees all earned wages and give employees legal options to recover compensation.
However, sometimes employers intentionally or unintentionally cheat employees out of earned wages.
If your employer has failed to pay you what you’re owed, you may be able to file a California wage theft claim.
Here, we’ll explain what is wage theft and highlight steps you can take to recover unpaid wages.
What Is Wage Theft?
Wage theft occurs when an employer doesn’t pay an employee the wage they’ve earned.
This could happen in many circumstances, including these:
- An employer fails to pay you for overtime,
- A boss asks an employee to work “off the clock,”
- An employer denies meal breaks,
- Your employer pays you as a contractor when you are an employee, and
- Your employer doesn’t reimburse you for purchases for the workplace.
Wage theft can impact just you or a whole group of workers. Sometimes an employer habitually deprives workers of the wages owed.
Whether your California wage theft was a one-time incident or part of an ongoing deceptive practice, your employer should pay all money owed.
What Should You Do to Recover Wages?
If you discover that your employer has failed to pay you earned wages, first speak to your employer.
Sometimes, employers make mistakes and willingly restore lost wages after a simple conversation.
However, if alerting your employer to the issue fails to correct the wage theft, take the following steps.
Keep Thorough Records
Record all instances of wage theft and communications with your employer on the issue.
If you speak to your employer about your missing wages, jot down the date, time, and summary of the conversation. Save all emails and text messages about wage theft.
Save paystubs and employment records to prove how much money your employer owes you.
Report the Concern
Contact the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) at 1-866-487-9243 to report your wage concern.
You can also call to ask WHD representatives questions about labor laws.
The WHD will refer you to a local field office—there are nine California WHD offices, so there should be an office near you.
Allow WHD to Investigate
After you file a complaint with the WHD, the government will investigate your claim.
A WHD investigator may visit your place of employment but will keep your identity confidential.
The investigator will examine records, interview employees, and may recommend corrective action.
The WHD may recommend that you receive back pay. The U.S. Department of Labor recovered over $3 billion in wages for workers between 2017 and 2020.
File a Lawsuit
If your complaint with the WHD failed to restore your lost wages or is moving slowly, you may need to file a lawsuit against your employer.
An employment attorney can seek payment of back wages from your employer. If your lawsuit is successful, your employer must pay your attorney’s fees and court costs as well.
When Can You File a Complaint?
You can file a complaint as soon as you notice wage theft up until two years after the theft occurred.
You have the best chance of recovering evidence of wage theft soon after it occurs, so you should file a complaint as soon as you determine action is needed.
Contact a Labor Attorney
If your employer has withheld wages, you should contact a labor attorney.
An attorney can explain labor laws, answer your questions, and help you file a claim.
At Starpoint Law, we work to make sure workers are paid fairly. We get to know you and your circumstances so that we can advocate for you and recover the wages you deserve.
To speak to one of our attorneys, contact us for a free consultation.