I'm a representative in a class action lawsuit. However, after I was finally given the final details, feel only the attorney benefits. The amount of unpaid wages owed to me is much more than the settlement amount I will receive from the class action lawsuit. I feel I was lead to believe I would receive all my unpaid wages in addition to a settlement amount from the lawsuit. I would have been better off filing a wage claim with the California Labor Board.
You would have to "opt out" of the settlement. Further, you would need to make sure that if you opt out, your claims would not be time barred. You should discuss this issue with your lawyer and perhaps obtain a second opinion from an unaffiliated lawyer.
Employment / Labor Attorney
It is a rare event when a class member ever gets the full amount of their claim as a part of settlement. A settlement is a compromise of the full value of the claim. By its very nature, when a claim is compromised, the plaintiff will receive less than what they want and the defendant will pay more than they believe they should. In class actions, class representatives usually receive more than the class members, for their involvement as a representative. Settlements also require approval of the representative(s). These are issues you must discuss with your attorneys. As Mr. Kane says, you may be able to opt out, but there are risks in doing so, so consider this carefully.
They say you get what you pay for, and this response is free, so take it for what it is worth. This is my opinion based on very limited information. My opinion should not be taken as legal advice. For true advice, we would require a confidential consultation where I would ask you questions and get your complete story. This is a public forum, so remember, nothing here is confidential. Nor am I your attorney. I do not know who you are and you have not hired me to provide any legal service. To do so would require us to meet and sign written retainer agreement. My responses are intended for general information only.
Employment / Labor Attorney
You have received good advice here. If you can opt out, yes, you can proceed to vindicate your rights, but you will have to deal with the statute of limitations. You have more than the DLSE option. You can file a lawsuit in small claims court if the amount is low enough. If you need to file, or elect to file in superior court you can possibly extend the statute of limitations for another year (4 years out total) by making a claim under the Unfair Business Practices Act.
Good luck to you.
This answer should not be construed to create any attorney-client relationship. Such a relationship can be formed only through the mutual execution of an attorney-client agreement. The answer given is based on the extremely limited facts provided and the proper course of action might change significantly with the introduction of other facts. All who read this answer should not rely on the answer to govern their conduct. Please seek the advice of competent counsel after disclosing all facts to that attorney. This answer is intended for California residents only. The answering party is only licensed to practice in the State of California.
Wrongful Termination Lawyer
You may have believed that you would receive all of your unpaid wages in addition to a settlement amount, but I find it hard to accept that you were "led to believe" that. Why would any defendant settle a case to pay everything you think you're owed? There is no value in the settlement to such a defendant; any defendant would instead take the matter to trial. So while you may have believed going in that you were going to get everything owed to you without going to trial, it's hard to accept that your belief was based on anything the attorney said.
When entering into litigation, it's important to be realistic about what it can and can't accomplish. If you're determined to get every penny owed to you, the only way to do that is to go to a jury and risk getting nothing at all if things don't go your way. Moreover, if you go to trial and lose, you could wind up owing the other side tens of thousands of dollars in their costs. That's why most cases settle: both sides have risk.
It's unfair now to say that you were "led to believe" something different, or that "only the attorney benefits" when you and the entire class are getting some part of what you owed. It may not have been everything you wanted, but it's more than you had before the attorney got involved.
Disclaimer: Please be aware that I am not offering legal advice, nor forming an attorney-client relationship with you. I am not representing you, nor doing anything to protect your legal rights. If you believe that you have suffered a legal wrong, take action before any statute or limitations expires, or your right to do so may be lost forever. Good luck in your legal matter.