What Is the Statute of Limitations on Wage and Hour Claims in California?
Many non-exempt California employees are unhappy because their employers are not paying them all the wages they deserve.
You qualify as a nonexempt employee if you are entitled to receive minimum wage and overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
If this situation sounds familiar to you, you may be able to file a wage and hour claim against your employer.
Wage and hour claims cover an employer’s failure to pay minimum wage and overtime as well as labor code violations like requiring employees to miss meal and rest breaks, providing incomplete paycheck stubs, and not reimbursing expenses.
You must contact an employment attorney right away though. The law limits the amount of time you have to pursue a claim and seek compensation.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
The statute of limitations is the time limit the law sets for asserting your claim.
Once that time limit expires, any lawsuit you try to file based on that claim will be dismissed.
California Wage and Hour Statute of Limitations in Civil Lawsuits
The statute of limitations in California for wage and hour claims varies based on what type of claim you make against your employer.
These time limits apply whether you file the civil case in a California state court or a federal district court.
California law requires employers to provide an itemized statement with each paycheck.
It also gives employees the right to review or copy their employment records.
If your employer fails to comply with these regulations, the employer is subject to a penalty that carries a one-year statute of limitations.
If your employer made an oral contract with you (such as to pay more than minimum wage) and failed to act on that promise, the statute of limitations is two years.
Claims under the FLSA also must be filed within two years, though this time limit may be extended to three years for willful violations.
Most common labor code violations fall under a three-year statute of limitations. These include claims for unpaid wages related to:
- Minimum wage or overtime violations,
- Illegal deductions from paychecks,
- Unpaid reimbursements,
- Meal and rest break violations,
- Unused leave time, and
- Penalties for unpaid final wages.
It is important to keep good records so you can prove what payments were due and when your claims arose.
If your employer violated a written contract, the statute of limitations is four years.
The three-year limitations period for unpaid wage claims also is sometimes extended to four years if the employee claims that the employer engaged in unfair business practices under California’s Unfair Competition Law.
Wage and Hour Statute of Limitations in the California Department of Industrial Relations
Instead of filing a lawsuit, employees with labor disputes may choose to file a claim with the California Labor Commissioner in the Department of Industrial Relations.
The same two-, three-, and four-year statutes of limitations described above apply to these claims.
The Labor Commissioner will schedule a settlement conference with your employer, followed by a hearing if you cannot reach an agreement.
The Labor Commissioner will issue an opinion after the hearing, which either side can appeal.
While you can represent yourself, it is best to have an employment attorney help you navigate the process.
Wage and Hour Statute of Limitations for U.S. Department of Labor Complaints
Employees with minimum wage or overtime claims covered by the FLSA may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor.
However, this approach is generally less popular than filing a claim with the California Labor Commission because of the enhanced protection offered by California law.
The Wage and Hour Division will investigate the claim. If it cannot resolve the dispute administratively, the government may file a lawsuit in federal court.
The two-year FLSA limitations period applies to this type of suit.
Don’t Wait Too Long to Pursue Your Claim
It can be confusing to figure out what kinds of wage and hour claims you have and when the statutory clock started running.
The best way to protect yourself is to contact an experienced employment law attorney.
The attorneys at Starpoint LC, Attorneys at Law, have years of experience advising clients on wage and hour disputes and are known for creating lasting relationships with their clients.
We can help you decide where to file your complaint and make sure that you assert your claims on time.
Contact us today for a free one-on-one consultation.