Thank you for the prompt response, Mr. Kirschbaum. Some people warned that the DLSE is understaffed, which could negatively affect cases. In your opinion, is that something I need to be worried about? Also, another attorney previously suggested that I pursue the matter with a lawyer to recover additional damages (and have my attorney fees covered by my employer). Doesn't that seem like a gamble?
Apologies for the double post. Just wanted to clarify that my work agreement has a Governing Law/Forum Selection Clause specifying NY.
I agree with the other attorneys that the contract needs to be reviewed for a true legal opinion. But if you worked exclusively in California, under direct control of this employer, it is very likely the DLSE will assume control. Would your chance of success be increased if you hire an attorney? Of course it would. And if you can get an attorney to represent you on a contingency basis, that would work well for you. Just know that most employers do not voluntarily pay your legal fees. To get them to pay your fees, it is almost certain you will have to obtain a judgment against them, in court, not through the DLSE, and have a judge award legal fees on top of the award. Over 90% of the cases settle. A settlement is a compromise of the claim. You will have to pay your attorney from the settlement, further reducing the amount you net. Some lawyers practice like this. If it sounds as though this works for you, try it.
The DLSE has some good, hardworking deputies and some lazy ones. I have seen them get some very good results against employers but there are times when they drop the ball and don't do their job as well as they should. But it was set up to allow for relatively small cases that do not need the time and expense of a lawsuit and designed so that people can represent themselves, although attorneys are allowed. I have been there many times. Yes, it is understaffed. But so are the courts right now. Pick your poison. For a 10K case, I would chose the DLSE. If you can get a lawyer to write a demand letter, do that too.