How to Get Back Pay From Employers in California
Millions of salaried employees around the world are subjected to labor injustice on a daily basis. This includes retaliation, discrimination, sexual harassment, and other forms of mistreatment. Such injustice not only demotivates employees, but also hinders their career advancement and creates a hostile work environment.
One of the main labor violations workers can deal with is unpaid wages, which refers to the amount of money that an employee has earned but has not yet received from their employer.
If you’re an employee in California and believe that your employer has failed to pay you the wages you are owed, you have the right to pursue back pay.
Has your employer violated the law?
Why Is My Employer Not Paying Me?
Unpaid wages refer to the amount of money that an employer owes to an employee for work performed but not yet compensated. These wages typically include regular earnings, overtime pay, commissions, bonuses, or any other financial compensation agreed upon between the employer and employee.
Non-payment can occur for several reasons, such as when an employer fails to pay the employee on time or does not pay them the full amount that they are owed. Unpaid wages can also happen when an employee is misclassified as an independent contractor. Bad classifications of employees can result in them being denied certain employee benefits and protections, including minimum wage and overtime pay.
Unpaid wages can cause financial hardships for employees, making it difficult for them to pay bills and meet their basic needs. In these cases, employees need to take legal action to recover their unpaid wages and apply for back pay.
What is Back Pay?
Back pay refers to the rate of compensation that an employer owes an employee for work performed but not properly compensated. In California, employers are legally required to compensate their employees for all hours worked and if they don’t, it falls under dishonest employment practices.
Back pay can encompass various elements, such as unpaid wages, overtime hours, missed rest periods, medical leave time, time for holidays, and even bonuses or commissions. If you believe you are owed any form of compensation, you must take action.
Steps to Get Back Pay From Employers
Receiving rightful compensation for work performed is essential to maintaining a fair and equitable employment relationship. Unfortunately, there are instances when employers fail to fulfill their obligations and neglect to provide employees with the wages they are owed.
If you find yourself in a situation where you believe you are entitled to back pay from your employer, you must assert your rights and seek appropriate remedies.
The following are the steps you need to follow:
1. Gather Evidence of Unpaid Wages
The first step is to collect any relevant documents, such as timesheets, pay stubs, employment contracts, or any written agreements regarding your wages. These records will strengthen your case when approaching your employer or filing a claim.
Consult with employment lawyers to ensure you understand your rights fully and receive proper legal guidance. An attorney can help you navigate the complexities of the legal system, provide valuable legal advice, and represent your interests effectively.
3. Review Employment Laws
Your labor attorney can help understand California’s employment laws, particularly those related to wage and hour regulations. Knowing the specific legal provisions that protect your rights as an employee will empower you during the claim process.
4. Communicate with Your Employer
Initiate a conversation with your employer about unpaid wages. In many cases, employers may not be aware of the oversight or may have made an innocent mistake. Your lawyer can help you create a speech or point out the necessary information to discuss. Approach the discussion respectfully and provide the evidence you gathered. Express your concerns and request prompt resolution of the issue.
5. File a Wage Claim with the Labor Commissioner’s Office
If your employer refuses to address the issue or disputes your claim, your labor law attorney can help you file a wage claim with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office. This office enforces state labor laws and investigates wage disputes. Filing an unpaid wage claim triggers an investigation into your case and can lead to a resolution or, if necessary, legal action.
6. Cooperate with the Investigation
Once you file a claim for wages, the Labor Commissioner’s Office will initiate an investigation into your allegations. Cooperate fully with the investigator by providing all requested documentation and information. Your cooperation will expedite the process and increase your chances of recovering back pay.
7. Attend the Conference or Hearing
As part of the investigation, you may be required to attend a conference or hearing. This is an opportunity to present your case and provide additional evidence, such as witness statements or other supporting documentation. Be prepared to articulate your claim and emphasize your entitlement to back pay.
8. Await the Decision
Following the conference or hearing, the Labor Commissioner’s Office will make a decision regarding your case. If they determine that your employer owes you back pay, they will issue an order requiring the employer to pay the owed wages. However, if the decision is not in your favor, you may need to explore further legal options, such as filing an unpaid back wages lawsuit.
9. Consider Legal Action
If the decision does not result in the recovery of your back pay, you have the option to pursue legal action. Your employment attorney who specializes in wage laws and hour disputes can evaluate the viability of an unpaid back wages lawsuit. An experienced attorney can provide guidance on the best course of action based on your specific circumstances.
10. Class Action Lawsuits
In some cases, multiple employees may be experiencing similar back pay issues with the same employer. If this is the situation, you may consider joining or initiating a class action lawsuit. Class actions allow groups of employees to collectively pursue their claims, which can increase the chances of a successful outcome and provide additional leverage.
How to Get Back Pay From Employers in California: Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions about how to get back pay from an employer in California:
Can I only seek back pay for unpaid wages, or can I include other forms of compensation?
Back pay can include various elements such as unpaid wages, unpaid overtime, missed breaks, bonuses, commissions, and other forms of compensation that you believe you are owed.
What if my employer retaliates against me for seeking back pay?
Retaliation against employees for seeking back pay is illegal in California. If you experience retaliation, document the incidents and consult with an employment attorney to explore legal remedies.
How long does the back pay recovery process usually take?
The duration of the process can vary depending on various factors, such as the complexity of the case, the employer’s cooperation, and the backlog of cases at the Labor Commissioner’s Office. Consult with an attorney to get an estimate based on your specific circumstances.
Can I file a wage claim if I am no longer employed by the company?
Yes, you can still file a wage claim even if you are no longer employed by the company. File the claim as soon as possible to ensure the preservation of evidence and increase your chances of a successful resolution.
Is there a time limit for filing a wage claim?
Yes. In California, the statute of limitations for filing a wage claim is generally three years from the date the wages were due. However, you must file the claim as soon as possible to avoid potential complications.
Can I hire an attorney for a wage claim or only for a lawsuit?
Yes. You can hire an attorney at any stage of the back pay recovery process, including filing a wage claim. An attorney can provide valuable advice and representation to help you navigate the process more effectively.
Fight Back! Ensure Your Rights with Labor Law Advocates!
When faced with the task of pursuing unpaid wages from your employer, it is crucial to have the right expertise and support by your side. Labor Law Advocates is represented by award-winning employment lawyers who specialize in navigating the complexities of labor laws and can provide invaluable assistance throughout your journey to reclaim what is rightfully yours.
If you or someone you know is facing unpaid wages and their employer is violating the laws, you can call us at (424) 688-3632. We offer FREE and 100% confidential consultation.