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Where do I stand with unpaid wages?? Can I sue or only recourse is labor and industrial relations?

Torrance, CA |

Employer has denied my employment since it was done verbally over the phone. Worked onsite and sustained injury (I was employee not contractor) . Since then employer has ignored all communications. Mute no pay no status. Employer is a Class A Engineering contractor with permanent work shop.

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You can file a claim for unpaid wages either with the DLSE or file suit in court. Each avenue has its pros and cons. If the amount is in excess of $10,000, it exceeds the jurisdictional limits of small claims court and you will probably need an attorney to represent you in any civil lawsuit. The good news is, you can recover attorney's fees for wage claims in court. The bad news is, it can be expensive and time consuming in the process.

The DLSE tends to be somewhat quicker and more informal and you are dealing with people who understand wage and hour laws. You do not have to have an attorney but it helps to have one. However, you cannot recover your legal fees before the DLSE, unless the employer appeals your award and the case goes to court on appeal.

It is always advisable to consult with an employment law attorney to understand your rights and obligations so you can make an informed decision about which option is best for you.

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.


It's unclear from your post whether you have a legal basis to sue for unpaid wages or wrongful termination. Assuming that you do, you absolutely can file a lawsuit instead of making a claim with the DLSE. In fact, there can be advantages to suing rather than making an administrative complaint. Consult with a local employment law attorney for more information.

This answer is a general interpretation of the law and is not fact specific to your case. Likewise it does not create an attorney-client relationship. You should seek an attorney for a review of your specific facts and documents.


Mr. Kirschbaum is correct that you can either file a claim with the DLSE or a civil suit and he does a good job of describing the benefits of each mechanism.


The Labor Commissioner's Office is only one option. Call an employment law attorney to discuss. Many of us offer a free initial phone consultation. If you are owed wages, you may be able to get the wages owed plus up to 30 day's pay for having to wait and the law states that your employer "shall" pay your attorney. A demand letter from an employment law attorney may get the results you want. Also, it is unlawful to retaliate against an employee for an on the job injury. If that is the reason you are not getting work from that employer, you may have an additional claim for unlawful retaliation.

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