What is wage theft in San Diego and throughout California? Employers are frequently asking “what is wage theft in San Diego and what do I need to know about it?” Originally, California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) used the term wage theft to describe employers who failed to understand all of the complexities and application of California’s employment laws. Wage theft generally includes but is not limited to:
- Misclassification of employees as independent contractors
- Nonpayment of wages, overtime or vacation pay or work off the clock
- Piece work or piece rate violations
- Failure to provide meal or rest breaks
The Wage Theft Protection Act requires all employers to provide every non-exempt or non-union employee with a specific form at the time of hire. The California Department of Industrial Relations and the Labor Commissioner’s Office describe this as “a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.” Unfortunately, this area of law has witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of cases filed against California and San Diego employers. While many of these cases are without merit, the employer must still defend all claims against workers who file claims with a federal or state agency.
The Wage Theft or Wage Claim Process
Typically the process begins with the filing of a complaint by an employee. The claim is usually assigned to a Deputy Labor Commissioner who makes the determination of how the case will proceed. The Deputy will notify the employer within 30 days of the complaint as to the actions the DLSE intends to take. The matter will usually result in a “conference,” a “hearing” or dismissal. It is important to note that not all cases will have a conference prior to the actual hearing.
There is No Such Thing as an Informal Hearing or Conference
It is important to know there is no such thing as an “informal” hearing or conference. If you receive “Notice of Claim and Conference” or any notification from the DLSE, Industrial Labor Commission, the Labor Commissioner or a Deputy Labor Commissioner inviting you to an informal hearing you need to contact the Watkins Firm immediately for a free consultation. You should not go to this meeting without our experienced and proven counsel.
The “informal” meetings are actually formal proceedings which include witness testimony and evidence. Many employers attend this informal conference or hearing expecting a casual conversation. The first thing that happens is the employer is subjected to rigorous questioning to determine their understanding of every aspect of California law as it applies to the case. The fact that employers aren’t legal experts on the law opens them to the immediate potential for liability.
The Watkins Firm helps our clients to prepare for the conference or hearing. We help you to gather all important paperwork, supporting evidence (policies and procedures) and evidence these steps have consistently been applied. We represent you throughout the process to protect your interests, reduce your liability and ensure the hearing officer doesn’t overstep the boundaries of the issues in question.
If You Receive Notification of a Hearing or Conference from a Labor Board Contact the Watkins Firm Immediately
You should never face a conference or hearing with a federal or state agency without expert legal representation. The informal hearing will result in the issuance of an “Order, Decision or Award” known as an ODA within 15 days of the hearing. You will not have a second opportunity to fight back, and any appeal to a civil court must happen within 10 days of the service of the ODA. This is why it is important to have expert, experienced representation by the Watkins Firm employer defense attorneys. We invite you to review the recommendations of our clients and contact us or call 858-535-1511 for a free consultation.