Table of Contents
With California’s minimum wage on an upward trajectory, it’s incredibly important that you understand the laws so you can protect yourself and get what you’re entitled to. While this increase signifies progress towards fairer pay scales, navigating these reforms can sometimes be confusing. Fortunately, we’re here to help you. If you believe your employer isn’t paying you the minimum wage, we can help you take steps to get the compensation that is rightfully yours. Contact the Gomez Law Firm to schedule a free consultation.
California’s Latest Minimum Wage Hike
In the ever-changing labor landscape, one of California’s bold strides toward promoting a fair wage system comes in the form of its new minimum wage hike. As of January 1, 2023, your employer is required to pay you at a rate no less than $15.50 per hour.
It’s helpful to know that this rate isn’t universal across all counties in California, as some of them have implemented an even higher minimum wage.
Take Emeryville, for instance, where you stand to earn $18.67 per hour.
Additionally, some counties made additions to these increases that became effective halfway through the year — on July 1, 2023, specifically.
What To Do if Your Employer Isn’t Paying You Minimum Wage
If you suspect that your employer isn’t paying you the minimum wage required by law, you can submit a wage claim to the Labor Commissioner’s Office, and they will take up the investigation. Their job is to figure out how much, if any, wages may still be due to you.
Before submitting a claim, it’s helpful to understand what steps you should take to ensure you have the best chance of success. If you suspect that your employer isn’t paying you the minimum wage, consider taking these steps:
· Verify. Determine whether or not they are indeed underpaying you. This involves cross-checking the minimum wage of both state and local laws against the actual figures reflected on your paychecks.
· Speak with your employer. If there is a discrepancy, try talking to your employer, pointing out the issue. It’s helpful to have at least some of this conversation in writing so you have evidence of their stance and behaviors. If your conversation takes place in person, always follow up with an email confirming what was discussed.
· Keep accurate records. Keeping accurate records of what is rightfully owed to you is crucial. You should collect your detailed work schedule with exactly how many hours you worked and the payments you received.
· Speak with a lawyer. Finally, make sure you speak with a lawyer. Consulting with a lawyer might seem intimidating or even unnecessary at first, especially if it appears that your pay issue could be resolved internally. However, labor laws can be incredibly complex and sometimes you need legal expertise to fully understand the breadth of your rights and assistance in enforcing them.
Deadline for Labor Claims in California
An important aspect of these laws includes a deadline for filing claims. If you aren’t being paid at least the minimum wage, such violations and claims need to be filed within three years from when they occurred.
What Happens When a Wage Claim Is Filed
Upon filing a wage claim, the first step usually involves scheduling a settlement conference. This is an opportunity for you and your employer to discuss the issue before it escalates further.
When attending this meeting as an employee (or plaintiff), always have copies of your evidence on hand — anything that could substantiate your unpaid wage claims.
If the employer doesn’t show up, the proceedings will advance directly to a formal hearing. If you’re absent without good cause, there is a good chance that the case will be dismissed altogether.
If the defendant fails to appear for the formal hearing, the proceeding will not be held. Instead, the hearing officer will base their decision on whatever evidence they receive from the plaintiff. This would likely lead to a ruling in favor of your position, as there will be no one to refute any evidence you provide.
Your Rights During the Hearing
At the hearing, you have certain fundamental rights. These include:
· Choosing to have an attorney or another person represent you.
· Presenting any evidence that supports your case, explaining why it supports your position, and disputing any opposing, contradicting evidence.
· Testifying on your own behalf, giving a personal statement about the situation. Your witnesses also have the right to testify in court. If necessary, you may question (cross-examine) witnesses and any other parties that oppose you.
Also, if there is a language barrier, you’re entitled to have an interpreter at no cost.
Bring Supporting Documents
In preparation for your hearing, it’s important to bring all documents which could strengthen your stance in the case.
Always bring original copies of each document meant for submission as part of the evidence. In addition to those originals, remember to pack two sets of photocopies for every single document. This ensures that you are quickly and efficiently able to share documents with the court and opposing parties.
The Hearing’s Verdict
Within 15 days after your hearing, the state’s labor commissioner decides your case. This decision is then put into an official document known as an order, decision, or award (ODA). The ODA is formally filed with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) office.
Shortly after filing the ODA, it gets served to all parties involved. The document outlines what was concluded in the hearing and specifies whether any monetary compensation was granted by way of awards.
Appeal Can Be Filed if You Don’t Agree With the Outcome
If you don’t agree with the labor commissioner’s decision, there’s always an option to challenge it. This also applies if your employer isn’t satisfied with the outcome.
To do this, either of you can file an appeal. Once that happens, a court clerk will schedule a new hearing — called a de novo hearing — a Latin term that means “from the beginning.”
During this hearing, everything starts fresh — as if your case is being heard for the first time. Both parties have equal opportunities to present their evidence and bring witnesses again.
Contact Gomez Trial Lawyers To Schedule Your Free Consultation
Understanding the nuanced legal landscape of wage claims can seem overwhelming. However, armed with adequate information and appropriate representation by an experienced lawyer, you stand a better chance of receiving your rightful compensation. For help, contact Gomez Trial Lawyers today for a free consultation by calling 866-TRIAL LAW (866-874-2552) or by contacting us online.