San Francisco Bay Area Employee Claims & Lawsuits Attorneys
Do You Have a Claim Against Your Employer? Here Are Your Options.
For more about employment law violations that can affect you, please see our “Bay Area Employment Law Attorney” page. Or for other types of employee work-related issues we fight for our clients, see the links to the right.
You have two choices in challenging your current or former employer’s unfair labor practices:
- File a claim with the Labor Commissioner
- File a lawsuit in court
Which one is better? The answer really depends on the circumstances. We help employees with both Labor Commissioner claims and lawsuits and select the option that is the most advantageous.
Labor Commissioner Claims
The Labor Commissioner enforces California wage and hours laws through an expedited and simplified administrative procedure that can lead to a quick resolution of your case, though not necessarily one that maximizes the value of your case.
The Labor Commissioner enforces California wage and hours laws through an expedited and simplified administrative procedure that can lead to a quick resolution of your case, though not necessarily one that maximizes the value of your case. This quicker and informal procedure also means that, unlike in court, you will likely not be able to force the employer to produce documents or force a witness to testify, which is sometimes needed for you to prove your case or to disprove something that the employer may claim.
Another disadvantage of the Labor Commissioner procedure is that it is limited to only wage and hour claims whereas a lawsuit can include other related and potentially valuable employment and non-employment claims (harassment, discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, personal injury, assault and battery, etc.). This means that the potentially strong wage and hour claims may be separated from other potential claims that are much more challenging to prove. Thus the wage and hour claims cannot serve as a foundation and support for the related employment claims being pursued separately in court.
The other significant disadvantage of Labor Commissioner claims is that they can only “look back” three years from the date of filing of the claim, which means you cannot recover any damages beyond those three years. In court, on the other hand, you can “look back” four years from the date of filing of the complaint.
In theory, the Labor Commissioner procedure is simplified and designed to permit you to represent yourself, but in reality you should get an attorney for any significant claim so that you can be prepared for the hearing and able to maximize your award.
Generally speaking, filing a claim with the Labor Commissioner makes sense for you in smaller cases (or in larger cases where there are no other valuable employment claims), where you have documents and witnesses that can support your case, and where you are not losing significant potential recovery due to the three-year cutoff. In theory, the Labor Commissioner procedure is simplified and designed to permit you to represent yourself. In reality, you should get an attorney for any significant claim so that you can be prepared for the hearing and able to maximize your award.
Labor Commissioner Appeals
After the Labor Commissioner issues a decision (which is also called an order or award), either the employer or employee may appeal that decision in court. This appeal is actually a completely new trial where the court does not look at or rely on the decision of the Labor Commissioner, although testimony given and recorded at the Labor Commissioner hearing may be used in court.
The employer must appeal within 10 days from the service of the decision and must post a bond with the court in the amount of the decision. The employer is liable to the employee for attorneys’ fees incurred as long as the employee gets at least $1 on appeal.
On the surface it may look as if the Labor Commissioner decision is worthless because it can be easily appealed to a court. However, due to the bond requirement and your ability to recover attorneys’ fees, the appeal of a Labor Commissioner decision is quite risky for an employer and is likely to lead to an award of significant amount of attorneys’ fees against the employer if you prevail on any of your claims.
Labor Commissioner Collections
A decision of the Labor Commissioner that is not appealed gets sent to the local court, gets entered as a judgment, and has an effect equal to that of a court judgment. Unfortunately, a judgment is just a piece of paper entitling you to money from your employer because the court does not actively help you collect any money.
When awarded a judgment, you yourself can attempt to collect the amount owed, or you can assign the collection of the judgment to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. The DLSE is currently underfunded and has very limited manpower to attempt to collect on judgments. Hiring a collection attorney, or having the attorney who represented you in the Labor Commissioner hearing, may lead to faster results.
Court cases are more complex and time consuming but generally lead to higher recovery for the employee. An employee can recover for violations going back four years from the date of filing (rather than just three before the Labor Commissioner), can combine various employment claims into one lawsuit (rather than being limited to just wage and hour claims), can file cases jointly with other employees who jointly support each other (rather than having to file individually), and can conduct extensive discovery (rather than relying on the Labor Commissioner’s permission to perform any limited discovery).
If Your Employee Rights Been Violated, We Can Help
The law firm of Venardi Zurada LLP provides free consultations for California Labor Commissioner claims as part of our wage and hour practice. throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. We are experienced employment lawyers who fight hard for our clients. If we are able to take your case, we pay all litigation costs. We only get paid our costs and attorneys’ fees if you get compensation.
GET A FREE CASE REVIEW
If you are an employee who feels their rights have been violated, or you need help negotiating or reviewing your employee contract, please call to speak to one of our expert employment law attorneys at (935) 937-3900 or submit the form to the right.
When litigation or mediation is involved, and we are able to take your case, there is never any fee or expense to you of any kind until you get paid! That means we pay all litigation costs which you will not be required to pay back, and we only get paid if you get paid.
We have four offices to serve you in Oakland, Orinda, Redding and Chico, and serve clients throughout the entire San Francisco Bay Area including the entire Silicon Valley and throughout California.