Here are some brief pointers for maximizing your wage claim in California:
Know the Law
Knowing what types of claims you potentially have is probably the most important part of maximizing your wage claim. Many employees who file wage claims do not identify all of their potential claims in their complaint. For instance, John was forced to come into work an hour early every day to fill out paperwork, but he wasn’t put on the clock until that first hour was up. John may think he has a simple straight-time wage claim, but in reality if he is entitled to be paid for that extra hour every day, then it probably is an overtime claim, not a straight-time claim. John may also have a meal period claim, a travel time claim, and potentially others as well. But if he doesn’t know the law, he might only bring the straight-time claim and lose out on the rest. This leads to the next tip: hiring an experienced wage claim attorney to represent you.
Use an Experienced Wage Claim Attorney
The surefire way to maximize your wage claim is to hire an experienced wage claim lawyer to represent you. If he or she is experienced in California and Federal wage and hour law, then they should know every type of claim that you can bring against your employer.
Typically, wage claim lawyers take a percentage of what they collect for you, and they only get paid if you win. Strauss Law Group falls into this category.
File in the Right Venue
Filing a wage claim in the right venue is extremely important. There are many types of wage claims that are ok to bring with the Labor Commissioner (also commonly called the Labor Board), but you should also consider filing in civil court. Read about the pros and cons of filing with the Labor Commissioner versus in civil court. One thing that is very important for maximizing your claim is to know that in civil court you can go back FOUR years (as opposed to only three years if you file with the Labor Commissioner). You can also get your attorney fees if you file in civil court.
Have Proof to Support Your Claim
For most types of wage claims, the employee’s word is the primary way they can prove their case. The law usually gives the benefit of the doubt to the employee in these situations, but it always helps if the employee has some other type of proof to support their wage claim. Common types of proof are (1) time cards, (2) paycheck stubs, (3) personal journals or diaries kept by the employee showing hours worked, (4) testimony of co-workers, (5) employee handbooks, (6) any written communications between employer and employee, (7) emails showing long hours worked, (8) gas receipts for mileage claims, and more. The bottom line is that if you can support your own testimony with any written or documentary evidence, you have a better chance to get all that you are owed.
Don’t Sit on Your Claim
It happens every day that employees wait too long to file their wage claims. Claims for unpaid wages can go back three years from the date of filing with the Labor Commissioner or four years from the date of filing a civil lawsuit. Claims for penalties must be brought within one year from the date of the employee’s last day of work. The bottom line is that every day you sit on your claim, you may be losing out on some money owed you by your employer.