Contrary to what most employees mistakenly believe, filing a lawsuit in court is not the only way to resolve disputes over employer violations of wage and hour law in California. Most people think of filing a lawsuit with the help of an attorney. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that provided that the damages are large enough to warrant the involvement of an attorney.
There are many situations, however, where the employer has violated its obligations under California wage hour law, but the resulting damages are relatively small. There are many reasons why this could be. For example, if the employee has been working for the employer for only days, weeks, or even a couple of months. The resulting damages in those situations are not likely to be substantial enough to justify the substantial fees associated with hiring a lawyer, and incurring the costs associated with filing a civil action.
What Actions Can Be Taken?
There is no need to despair. Fortunately for California employees, there is more than one way to pursue a wage claim.
Employees who have claims with relatively small amounts of damages have the option of filing an administrative action. The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) is the state agency with the power to enforce California’s labor laws, including IWC Wage Orders and administering and enforcing the IWC Wage Orders.
The DLSE may: (1) Investigate and conduct hearings on employee complaints, (2) issue subpoenas compelling witness attendance and production of documents, (3) administer oaths and examine witnesses, and (4) accept assignment of claims for wages and other claims.
The Labor Commissioner is the Chief of the DLSE. The Labor Commissioner has the authority to investigate and, at the request of local government, enforce local laws regarding overtime hours or minimum wage provisions.
The Labor Commissioner’s website contains lots of helpful information about how to file a claim: Please see: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/HowToFileWageClaim.htm.
Also, here is a helpful video from the Labor Commissioner’s office which explains the process:
Akopyan Law Firm A.P.C. Provides Skilled, Experienced Representation
Contrary to what most people think, there is more than one way to resolve a wage case and for claims that have small amounts in dispute, the Labor Commissioner’s office can be a good way to go. However, there are cases which should be litigated in court. The best way to determine which avenue is a better approach for the specific case at issue is to call an experienced wage hour attorney to analyze the facts assess the damages and get the representation needed.