Resources for Workers

Prepare for a successful outcome

Recovering your unpaid wages starts before you file a wage claim. For a favorable outcome, you will need to gather information about who you are filing a claim against and the assets they hold.

Naming the responsible parties on your judgment:

When you file a wage claim with the Labor Commissioner's Office, name all people and companies responsible for violating the Labor Code. You may only collect from the person or company named on the judgment. This means to collect from any person or company with assets, they must be found liable and named on the judgment. Defendants who may be liable for certain types of wages include an owner, director, officer or managing agent of the business. See Labor Code § 558.1.

Owners of companies often form a separate legal entity to protect themselves from being personally responsible for the company's debts. Company names will almost always have “INC.,” “LLC,” or “LLP” appear at the end of their name. Identify the legal names of other potentially liable parties on the business license, your paycheck, or by visiting the Secretary of State website.

In some cases, a business that contracted with your employer for your services may also be liable for your wages. For example, if you worked as a janitor or security guard, the owner or property manager of the building where you worked will be liable for wages owed to you for time worked at that building. SeeLabor Code § 238.5. Likewise, landscapers, gardeners, parking attendants and care home workers can hold the company that hired their employer liable. However, this only applies to commercial buildings, not individual homes.

If you are a construction worker, you may also be able to hold the general contractor liable even if a subcontractor employed you. SeeLabor Code § 218.7. Moreover, under a special legal tool known as a “mechanic’s lien”, the owner of a property will normally be liable for wages owed to construction workers. Mechanic’s liens have very short deadlines and cannot be determined through the Labor Commissioner’s wage claim process. In some cases, the Labor Commissioner may be able to assist you with mechanic’s liens if you make the Labor Commissioner aware of the issue when you first file your claim.

Finally, in industries that use contracted workers, the customer (or “client-employer”) may be held liable under the right circumstances. See Labor Code § 2810.3. This requires showing that you performed work in the “usual course of business” for the client-employer, that the client-employer as at least 25 workers, and that at least six of those workers were provided by contractors.

For this reason, it is very important that you identify the businesses that contracted with your employer and provide this information to the Labor Commissioner. If you worked as a janitor, security guard, parking attendant, landscaper, or gardener, you should identify the address of each building where you performed work. If possible, you should also try to identify the name of the customer.

Identifying the assets of responsible parties:

Identifying the assets of the parties you name on a claim is key to recovering your wages. You should keep note of any known assets so that you can recover from them once you have a judgment.

Examples of assets include bank accounts, client/customer contracts, additional businesses, specialized licenses, specialized machinery and real estate property.

If the legal entity named on your judgment has no assets, you most likely will not be able to recover your wages with a judgment.  In that situation, you may wish to settle your wage claim for less than you otherwise would. For this reason, it is important to understand what assets your employer has at the time you file your wage claim.

Obtain your Order Decision or Award (ODA) and Judgment

If the Labor Commissioner decides a wage claim in your favor, you will receive an Order, Decision or Award (ODA) that states the amount that your employer owes you. You will also receive an ODA if you agreed to settle your claim, but your employer violated the settlement agreement.

The law requires your employer to pay or appeal the decision within 10 days.

If your employer does not appeal and fails to pay, the Labor Commissioner mails the ODA to the local Superior Court and it becomes a legal judgment.

Who can you collect from

You may only collect your award from the individual or company named on the judgment.

If your judgment is against an individual, you may collect from that individual’s assets.

If the judgment is against a company and not an individual, you can use the judgment to collect only from the company's assets, not the assets of the individuals who own or manage the business.

How to collect on your judgment

Once you have a judgment you can collect using the Legal Tools described on our website. You also have the right to recover from your employer any fees and costs necessary to collect your judgment.

Judgments are valid for 10 years from the date the judgment is issued by the court. Judgments can be renewed before the 10 years pass. Judgments can be renewed after 5 years from the date the judgment is issued, but before 10 years pass. Collection can only occur before a judgment expires, so collection should occur during those 10 years, unless the judgment is renewed. 

Obtaining support to collect your judgment

You may need to file legal documents only available in English, and visit offices without translation services. If necessary, ask someone who reads and writes in English to assist you with this process.

If you want additional help you may consult a non-profit Legal Services Provider in your area.

You may also hire a lawyer or collection agency to help you collect your judgment. Find a reputable attorney who has experience with debtor-creditor law or commercial debt collection (sometimes they will call themselves creditor's rights attorneys).

Assistance from the Labor Commissioner to collect your judgment

The Labor Commissioner helps some workers collect their judgments. If this option is available to you, your assigned Wage Claim Adjudication Deputy will notify you of such. You will receive a form known as the “Assignment of Judgment” to sign in person at any of the Labor Commissioner's offices, or to have notarized. If you agree to assign your judgment to the Labor Commissioner, you can no longer try to collect the judgment on your own.

 If the Labor Commissioner cannot assist you to collect your judgment amount, the Labor Commissioner will send a letter explaining the different steps you can take to collect. Even if your judgment is not assigned to the Labor Commissioner, the Labor Commissioner can issue a bank and/or accounts receivables “levy” on your behalf. This levy is a legal order that seizes your employer’s bank accounts or customer payments. You will need to provide the name of a bank and/ or the name and address of a customer or client.  

Collect Your Award:

Wage Claim and Judgment Enforcement Process:
Legal Tools You Can Use to Make Sure You Collect Your Owed Wages:

Collecting Your Unpaid Judgment from the Restitution Fund

Workers who have a final wage theft determination, court judgment or verified claim against a Car Wash, Garment Manufacturing or Farm Labor Contractor employer may be able to collect monies from a restitution fund established by the legislature. There are certain requirements to access these funds and the funds are only accessible for employees who work in these specific industries. To access a brochure containing more information regarding restitution fund claims, click on the appropriate link below:

Restitution Funds Brochure-English
Restitution Funds Brochure-Spanish
Restitution Funds Brochure-Cantonese
Restitution Funds Brochure-Mandarin
Restitution Funds Brochure-Korean
Restitution Funds Brochure-Tagalog
Restitution Funds Brochure-Punjabi

December 2023