What are the time limits to file a wage claim in California?
I don't have to tell you that having your wages stolen is a bummer. In this article I tell you how much time you have to file a claim in order to recover your stolen wages. Although there are time limits (the law calls "statute of limitations;" you should generally not wait to start investigating and pursing your stolen wages claim.
If you are having a dispute with your employer about your pay, there are both state and federal laws that will protect your rights. You can sue your employer or company if you have not been paid for all of your hours, have been paid less than minimum wage, if you haven't been provided legally compliant meal breaks and rest breaks, you have not been paid the correct amount of overtime, and/or you haven't been paid timely wages at time of termination. While these laws prevent employers from taking advantage of workers, there is only a limited amount of time (known as the statute of limitations) to recover your unpaid wages.
Time limits based upon California State law or Federal law
Depending on the specifics of your case, you are eligible to file a California wage claim within the following time frames:
- 2 Years (federal law). A federal law called the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) allows workers to file claims against employers up to two years from the date that the wage violation occurred. If you are still working for the employer, the FLSA allows you to recover unpaid wages for the two years prior to filing your claim. These claims are filed through the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division, and if successful, can prevent an employee from having to go to court. If the claim cannot be resolved through the DOL, you can file a lawsuit to seek compensation.
- 3 Years (federal law). The DOL will extend the statute of limitations for wage claims for an additional year if your employer willfully violated the terms of the FLSA. Willful violations are cases where an employer intended to deprive an employee of fair wages, had a history of wage theft, or knowingly disregarded the protections of the FLSA.
- 3 Years (California state law). Employees in California have even more protection than that offered under U.S. law. California workers have three years from the date of a violation to file a wage claim and can collect overtime pay for work performed up to three years before the claim was filed.
- 4 Years (state law). California extends the statute of limitations up to four years if workers file wage and hour lawsuits in court. This is based upon what are called 17200 claims.
An Attorney Can Help You Determine How Much You Are Owed
It is always best to speak to an honest wage and hour attorney before pursuing a claim against your employer. Not only can an attorney calculate your losses (including interest and other wage violation penalties), he or she can also give you a legal perspective on your case and advise you of all of your options.