How to Prepare for a Wage Hearing in California
If your employer owes you unpaid wages or has violated another type of California wage law, then you have the legal right to file a wage claim with the California Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). After processing your wage claim, the DLSE decides whether to hold an administrative hearing regarding your case.
If the DLSE green lights your wage claim, working with an experienced employment attorney can help you learn how to prepare for a wage hearing in California
Collect and Organize Documents
After you and your lawyer have decided to pursue a wage claim against your employer, the first item on your to-do list involves gathering and organizing several documents.
- Time records
- Paycheck stubs or digital copies of paychecks
- Employment paperwork
- Employer policies
- Commission plan if you generate commission income
Your employer wage policies should be spelled out in the employee manual that you received during orientation or when you completed onboarding paperwork. Time records can confirm how much back pay your employer owes you. If you earn tips, you should also include your employer’s policy when it comes to sharing tips with other employees.
Request Your Personnel File
Although this is not a wrongful termination claim, you should ask your employer to hand over your personnel file. When the time comes to attend a hearing, your employer might claim that you received less pay because a manager suspended you without pay or for some other reason. Your personnel file should include any incident reports that lead to disciplinary action. If your personnel file is clean, then your employer cannot claim you deserved a salary cut because you violated one or more of the company’s policies.
Develop a Timeline of Important Events
When your attorney argues your claim in front of a civil court judge, your lawyer needs to establish a timeline of events that validates your legal assertions. Start with the date of your hiring, and then proceed to list the dates for when your employer promised you raises, changed the hours that you worked, and/or manipulated other types of financial data that caused you to lose money.
Getting Ready for the Settlement Conference
Most wage claims end up in a conference to find a way to reach a settlement. Your employer, your lawyer, and a deputy commissioner from the DLSE office attend the settlement conference. The deputy commissioner will speak with you and your employer in separate rooms to negotiate a settlement. Getting ready for the settlement conference means knowing all the facts that surround the case. Since it is not a conference that involves the submission of evidence, you, not your attorney, can expect to do most of the talking with the deputy commissioner.
Preparing for the Wage Hearing
The time that elapses between a failed settlement conference and a wage hearing is the most important part of the wage claim process. Your lawyer should help you prepare for the wage hearing by role-playing different scenarios. This includes you answering the questions presented by your employer’s lawyer, as well as clarifying what you say by speaking with the judge presiding over the wage hearing. Your lawyer should ask you to identify witnesses that can support your wage claim.
Having a California-licensed attorney handle your wage claim evens the legal playing field between you and your employer. To learn more about how to prepare for a wage hearing in California, contact the PLBSH Law Firm to schedule a free case evaluation. You can reach us at [phone} or by sending us the short online form.