How to File a Wage Claim
Workers in California have the right to file a wage claim when their employers do not pay them the wages or benefits they are owed. A wage claim starts the process to collect on those unpaid wages or benefits. California’s labor laws protect all workers, regardless of immigration status.
File your wage claim
- File your wage claim
- Required documentation
- Your settlement conference
- Wage claim hearing
- After the hearing
- When a wage claim is filed, the Labor Commissioner’s Office investigates the claim to determine if any wages or benefits are owed. In most cases, a settlement conference between the employee and employer is scheduled to resolve the issues. If the issues are not resolved at the conference, a hearing is scheduled so a hearing officer can review the evidence and make a decision on the claim. Learn more about the wage claim process.
- The Labor Commissioner's Office has no jurisdiction over independent contractors. Some workers who are misclassified as independent contractors are not provided basic labor rights. If you believe your employer is misclassifying you as an independent contractor, file a wage claim. The Labor Commissioner’s Office may hold a hearing to determine if a worker has been misclassified as an independent contractor.
Make sure you file timely
- Within one year for penalties regarding a bounced check or failing to provide access to, or a copy of, payroll or personnel records.
- Within two years for an oral promise to pay more than minimum wage.
- Within three years for violations of minimum wage, overtime, unpaid rest and meal breaks, sick leave, illegal deductions from pay or unpaid reimbursements
- Within four years for a written contract.
Gather the facts
Information on your employer
The Labor Commissioner’s Office will need the address and name of the company or individual that you work for in order to help you with your claim. The name of the company should be listed on paystubs, mailing labels, product labels, or if you cannot locate that information, you could write down their vehicle license plate number for the person who pays you. If you have more than one employer or supervisor, you might need to write down each of their names and vehicle license plate numbers.
Other Responsible Parties
Any person acting as a supervisor or manager who violates workers’ labor rights can sometimes be held responsible in addition to the employer.
Track all hours worked
Write down the time you begin and end work every day, when you take meal and rest breaks or heat recovery breaks, and the total hours you work.
If you are paid by contract or piece rate, you should still earn at least the minimum wage for each hour worked. Keep track of the amount of time you spend on each contract or piece so that you can compare your total wages with the work you completed, to ensure you were paid for the work you did and that your pay before deductions equals at least the hourly minimum wage.
Keep all your pay stubs
Each time you are paid, your employer must provide you with a paystub (piece rate pay stub) or detailed wage statement. This itemized wage statement must contain the following information: your name, wages earned, dates of the pay period, your employer’s name, address and telephone number, as well as all deductions (taxes, etc.) and hours of paid sick leave accrued.
All of the information and documents listed above will help you determine if you are paid properly, and will help support your case when filing a wage claim.
Please note: By law, your employer is required to keep accurate records of actual time worked. Your employer is also responsible for giving you an itemized wage statement each time you are paid. However, it is a good idea to keep track of your time and pay. The Labor Commissioner requests these documents if you have them available, because they could help the Labor Commissioner’s Office better understand your claim.
How to file a claim
Once you have gathered the information about your employer and documents if you have them available, the next step in the process is to file a claim. You can file your claim by email, mail or in person, download a claim form, complete and print it, attach applicable documents and mail to the Labor Commissioner’s Office.
The claim forms and instructions can be downloaded and printed in multiple languages.
If you need help filing your claim, visit or call a Labor Commissioner's Office location near you. To locate the office nearest you refer to an alphabetical listing of cities, locations and communities.
Resources for filing a wage claim
- Videos about the Wage Claim Process
- Contact the Labor Commissioner’s Office/locations
- Minimum Wage in California
- Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Wage Orders
- Which IWC Order? Classifications
- Information for Subpoena (DLSE 564) (Rev. 1/09)
- Exemptions from the overtime laws