“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”-Ben Franklin
It has served countless business and military leaders well. Coaches from Bill Belichick to Mike Krzyzewski have gained considerable success following its principles. Even a once-thriving scouting organization based its mission on two simple words.
According to California employment wage and hour laws, workers have the right to file a wage claim against their employers that attempts to recover back pay and punitive compensation. Preparing to file a wage claim in California starts by understanding the filing process required by the California Division of Labor Standards (DLSE)
File the Right Form
The DLSE offers several forms, but the first form you want to file is called “DLSE Form 1” that you can access from the DLSE website. DLSE Form 1 gives California workers the document required to file a wage claim that seeks unpaid wages and, in some cases, liquidated damages. Instructions to complete and submit the form come in a wide variety of languages.
Here are the most common violations that workers refer to when submitting DLSE Form 1:
- Back pay for wages
- Unpaid commissions
- Failure to pay the California minimum wage
- Cheating a worker out of overtime pay
- Failure to compensate a worker for vacation pay
- Stopped providing benefits
- Did not send the last paycheck on time
- Meal and rest break violations
- Illegal deductions from one or more paychecks
- Paychecks that bounce when attempting to cash or deposit
You cannot submit DLSE Form 1 for a case involving fraud and/or unfair business practices. Those types of claims need to file with a clerk working at a civil court. Your employment lawyer can ensure you list every wage and hour violation to get you the money that you rightfully deserve.
Collecting and Organizing Persuasive Evidence
Knowing how to file a wage claim in California is just half the battle. You also need to know what to file in terms of supporting documents. The DLSE provides documents that cover every potential wage and hour violation.
If you want to claim unpaid wage violations that include irregularly issued paychecks or an underreporting of hours worked, you should file DLSE Form 55. Simply type information into the correct columns.
Rest and Meal Break Violations
DLSA Form 55 also contains columns for detailing the number of missed meal and rest breaks. You should attach paperwork that provides evidence of your employer not paying you for legally sanctioned meal and rest periods.
Workers that did not receive just compensation for commissions should file DLSE Form RCI 1. Attaching paperwork that demonstrates you earned unpaid commissions is an essential element to get your wage claim approved by the DLSE.
The DLSE produces a vacation pay schedule form for workers to use when filing a wage and hour claim for unpaid vacations. You should also submit a copy of the section in the company employee manual that explains the vacation policy.
You can also use DLSE Form RCI 1 to file an employer retaliation claim.
Examples of Supporting Documents
Submitting the proper forms to the DLSE is not enough to get your wage and hour claim approved. You have to attach supporting documents, some of which we mention above. One of the most influential supporting documents is the time records kept by your employer.
This is one reason why granting the DLSE the legal power to request employers submit certain documents is an important part of California wage and hour laws.
You should save every pay stub, whether the pay stub is in print or digital form. For digital pay stubs, you can either scan and print the information or send the digital version to the DSLE as an attachment to your online documents. You should also keep bounced paychecks and make copies of them to send with your wage and hour claim.
Any document that supports why you deserve compensation for wage and hour violations is fair game.
After Filing a Wage Claim
What happens after you file a wage and hour claim against your employer? Filing DLSE Form 1 is not the formal complaint against your employer. What the form does is start an investigation that is conducted by a representative from the Labor Commissioner’s office.
Before the end of 30 days, the lead investigator of the claim must provide both the employee and the employer with a formal notice that describes what happens next. The DLSE might decide to take no action, hold a hearing concerning the claim, or file a civil lawsuit against the employer because the employee cannot afford an attorney.
If the DLSE finds that your claim has merit, then the state agency schedules a settlement conference to work out a deal that is satisfactory to both parties.