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How do I file a wage theft complaint?

On Behalf of | Sep 13, 2021 | Wage & Hour Laws

With the popularity of Reddit exploding, especially with the r/antiwork Sub-Reddit, and the overall labor shortage, wage theft has become a hot topic. Though, some may be confused as to what wage theft is and how one files against their employer, if they believe their employer has engaged in wage theft.

California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement

Pursuant to California Labor Code sections 96 and 98, our state’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement is the state-level agency that is empowered to adjudicate wage theft claims. DLSE works on behalf of employees to file claims for wage theft, including the nonpayment of overtime, vacation pay and, of course, normal wages.

Before any process (formal or informal) can begin, DLSE must know about the alleged wage theft. This is why the first step to getting the money one is owed is to file a wage claim with DLSE. This can be done in person, or through email or mail. Please note that DLSE will work on claims regardless of the immigration status of the filer.

The investigation

After a wage theft claim is filed, DLSE opens an investigation into the employer to determine if, and to what extent, wages are owed. Wages also include benefits, like vacation time. Normally, the informal process resolves the matter. This is an informal conference, whether in person or over the phone, between the employer, employee and DLSE. In that call, DLSE will act, almost, like a neutral third-party. Though, even at these more informal conferences, some recommend an attorney. If this informal process does not resolve the dispute, then a formal administrative hearing is schedule to review all the evidence and make that final determination.

Independent contractors

DLSE does not have jurisdiction on independent contractors, but often, employers will classify their employees as independent contractors to avoid liability or have less oversight. An attorney or DLSE can still help if an employee believes that they have been misclassified as an independent contractor to avoid the payment of earned wages and benefits. Indeed, DLSE may need to have a separate hearing just to determine if the employee was misclassified before decided if there was wage theft.

Why call it a wage theft claim and not just a wage claim?

In any other context, if someone took something that belonged to another person, any Los Angeles, California, resident would call that theft. It is so important to use the term, wage theft, to drive that point home for employees that they have been stolen from, and asking for one’s rightful and earned wages is the appropriate remedy.