Wage Claim Process in California

Photo by: Helloquence

Photo by: Helloquence

In California, workers who believe that they are owed wages, overtime, or vacation pay may file their claims in court or with the Labor Commissioner. Claims filed with the Labor Commissioner are adjudicated by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) and is a much more informal process.

If you recently received a Notice of Claim and Conference from the DLSE, here is an overview of what the process normally looks like.

Worker Filed a Claim.

The process began with an employee (plaintiff) filing a DLSE claim form alleging that his/her employer (defendant) failed to pay wages or other compensation owed to the plaintiff.

After the claim is assigned to a Deputy Labor Commissioner (deputy), he or she will determine, based on the circumstances of the claim, how to proceed. Within 30 days of the filing of the complaint, the deputy will notify the parties as to which of the following actions the DLSE will take as to the claim:

  1. referral to a conference;
  2. referral to a hearing; or
  3. dismissal of the claim.

Not all cases will go to a conference before going to a hearing. Moreover, many cases will be resolved informally before either a conference or a hearing is scheduled.

Referral to Conference:

If the deputy decided to hold a conference, the parties will receive a “Notice of Claim and Conference,” describing the claim and list the date, time, and place of the conference. Defendant should submit a written reply regarding the claim and bring any documents to support your position to the hearing.

The conference itself is an informal meeting of the parties to the discuss the case. The purpose of the conference is to determine whether the parties could resolve the claim without a hearing.

If the parties can’t resolve the dispute at the conference, the deputy will determine whether there is enough merit to plaintiff’s claim to file a Complaint and schedule a hearing.

Referral to Hearing:

If a hearing is scheduled, the parties will receive a “Notice of Hearing” setting the date, time, and place of hearing.

Before the hearing, you would want to identify which witnesses and documents to support your position. If you are unable to get witnesses to agree to attend voluntarily or you don’t have the necessary documents in your possession, you may request that the Labor Commissioner issue a subpoena.

Although hearings are held in an informal setting, they are formal proceedings where witnesses’ testimonies are recorded and made under oath.

Each party has the right to be represented by an attorney, to present evidence, to testify and/or have witnesses testify, to cross-examine, to explain evidence, and to have a translator present.

However, because of the informal nature of the hearing, the rules are more relaxed and the hearing officer has a lot more discretion than in a court trial.

Within 15 days after the hearing, the Labor Commissioner will file an “Order, Decision or Award (ODA) with the DLSE office and you will receive a copy of the ODA. This document will set forth the decision and the amount awarded, if any.

Appeal to the Civil Court:

If either party, or both, disagree with the ODA, you may appeal the ODA to the appropriate court by getting a “Notice of Appeal” from the DLSE office and must be filed in the court within 10 days after service of the ODA.

A defendant who files an appeal must post a bond with the court in the amount of the ODA. The court clerk will then schedule a hearing date for a judge to hear the case again and the parties to present evidence and witnesses as if the case is being heard for the first time.

Learn how to protect yourself from defending a wage claim.

Read about California’s aggressive remedies providing for individual liability for business owners who engage in “wage theft.”

Schedule a call if you received a Notice of Claim and Conference or received an Order, Decision, or Award and need help navigating the process.

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In: California Civil Litigation, Employment Law

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