Workers across the United States are currently experiencing a crisis when it comes to wage theft. A 2009 study done by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the complaints lodged with the U.S. Department of Labor were routinely leaving workers vulnerable to wage theft.
While you may believe that figuring out how you will cover your expenses is more important, you should check to see if you have a wage claim first. It is in your best interest to act immediately in order to protect your rights under the law as the time to file a wage claim is very limited.
What Is the DLSE?
The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) is the department that is responsible for handling wage claims on behalf of workers who file claims for overtime, wages, or vacation pay according to California Labor Code.
Unlike federal law, the state of California also issues penalties for the following:
- underpayment of wages
- paying wages with insufficient funds
- unlawful deductions from wages
- failure to provide a meal or break during work hours
- failure to provide 1 day’s rest from work per week
- failure to pay wages in a timely manner upon termination
How Do You Know If You Are a Victim of Wage Theft?
It is fairly easy to know if you are a victim of wage theft simply because you know that you haven’t been paid what you believe you are owed. However, in other instances, determining whether you are actually owed more than you have been paid requires that you know and understand your rights as an employee.
Some of the most common ways that employers commit wage theft are by failing to pay for overtime, employee misclassification, minimum wage violations, asking workers to work off the clock, taking illegal deductions from pay, and not paying workers at all.
In order to figure out exactly how much you are owed and if you have a wage claim, you should do the following:
- Check the time limits that apply to your wage claim to determine how far back you can go to claim wages.
- Estimate the number of hours that you worked to the best of your ability.
- Identify your regular rate and/or overtime rate of pay.
- Multiple the number of hours that you worked times your regular or overtime rate of pay.
- Subtract the wages that you actually received.
My Current Employer In San Diego Owes Me Money, What Can I Do?
In the first instance, you should contact your employer to establish whether they have simply made an error (such as where a month’s wages may not have been paid). If the response is unsatisfactory, or you receive no response at all (despite you knowing that your employer has indeed received your enquiry) you should either:
- File a claim for your unpaid wages with the DLSE
- Instruct a lawyer to act on your behalf, to either:
- File a claim with the Labor Commissioner’s Office (you can file your claim by mail, fax, email, or in person OR;
- File a lawsuit in court seeking to collect your unpaid wages
Whichever route you decide to take, bear in mind that you must act within three years, as California law places a time limit on violation of a statutory right cases. If your case is in relation to a contract, such as where you were paid $15 an hour, rather than the contracted $20, the statute of limitations is four years, or two years where the agreement was verbal only.
You should also keep records of all communication with your employer regarding the matter.
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My Previous Employer In San Diego Owes Me Money, What Should I Do?
The same process applies as detailed in the answer above. However, given that your case is in relation to a previous employer, you should be particularly aware of the time limit that applies to your claim.
When contacting your previous employer, don’t be misguided into thinking you don’t have a case if they state that they no longer have your records. All employers are required by law to keep a copy of the wage statement for a minimum of three years. Both current and former employees are also legally entitled to be given access to that copy upon request.
Types of Situations That Warrant You to Contact the DLSE
Every wage claim is different. If you are trying to decided whether or not to contact the DLSE, you should know what types of situations the DLSE can act in.
You should contact the DLSE to file a claim if:
- You believe that you have unpaid wages, including commissions, bonuses, and overtime
- Your wages were paid by a check that was issued with insufficient funds
- You did not receive your final paycheck
- You have unused vacation hours that were not paid upon the termination of your employment relationship as the result of quitting, a termination, or a layoff
- There were unauthorized deductions from your paychecks
- You were not reimbursed or paid for business expenses that you incurred
- You were not provided with a meal and/or rest period pursuant to the Industrial Welfare Commission Order
- You seek liquidated damages for the failure of the employer to pay you minimum wage for each hour that you worked
- You seek waiting time penalties for the failure of the employer to pay your final wages in a timely manner upon the separation of employment
- You seek damages for bank fees and other penalties resulting from bounced paycheck(s) or paychecks that could not be negotiated within 30 days of receipt
- You are requesting sick leave pay for sick time that was accrued and used for which you did not receive payment
How Do I Contact The DLSE In San Diego?
If you have either an open or closed wage claim, use the direct email address for the relevant office. General enquiries not related to open or closed wage claims should be emailed via DLSE2@dir.ca.gov.
DLSE Office in San Diego, California
7575 Metropolitan Dr.,
San Diego, CA 92108
Hours: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Do I Need A Lawyer In San Diego Before Contacting The DLSE?
No, you don’t. Individuals are free to file a claim of their own accord with no legal representative. However, we recommend using an attorney unless you are comfortable with handling the process yourself, or you have a large, complicated claim. If you do use an attorney and go on to win your case, your employer will pay your attorney’s fees.
What Should You Do If You Believe That You Have a DLSE Case?
If you believe that you have a DLSE case, you should also gather the appropriate documents that you will need to file a complaint, including your Form W-2 or Form 1099 and any pay stubs.
Do not delay your claim. In order for the DLSE to act on your behalf, you are required to file with the DLSE within 3 years of the date that the claim arose. However, in certain cases, there is a 1 year deadline.
If you need assistance with the complaints process or would like us to review your case, contact us right away. Send us an email or call Walker Law at (619) 839-9978 to schedule your free consultation.