Workers in California benefit as Labor Commissioner rolls out new and improved wage claim form

Part of the state’s Department of Labor Standards and Enforcement (“DLSE”), California’s Labor Commissioner is charged with adjudicating wage claims for nonpayment of wages, overtime, or vacation pay pursuant to California Labor Code sections 96 and 98 on behalf of the workers who file them.  This summer, the Labor Commissioner rolled out new and improved wage claim forms to aid workers seeking to recover unpaid wages and other compensation.

The new claim form is titled, Form 1, “Initial Report or Claim.” (See http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/Forms/Wage/English.pdf).  In addition to the form, two new information sheets are available to assist claimants with filing wage claims.  The “Instructions for Filing a Wage Claim” and “Guide to Completing Initial Report or Claim Form,” provide some basic information about each question on Form 1 and explain what should be submitted by claimants with their wage claim (See http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/Forms/Wage/IEnglish.pdf).

Both Form 1 and its instructions are conveniently available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, Vietnamese and Punjabi.

Even more than this, the form and the instructions also reference law important to the protection of workers’ rights, including, for example, an explanation that a worker need not despair if he did not keep his own time records, as well as reference to the wage theft prevention law passed January 1, 2012:

·NOTE:  It is the employer’s legal responsibility to keep accurate employee time and payroll records, and to provide employees with itemized wage statements each time they are paid (or at semimonthly).  In order to file a claim, employees are not required to keep their own time records or to have the documents above.  These documents are being requested only if employees have them because they may help DLSE better understand the claim.

· Notice of Employment Information. Provide a COPY if you received a Notice from your employer after January 1, 2012 that indicates your basic employment information including your rate of pay, any overtime rate of pay, whether you were paid by the hour, shift, day, week, salary, piece, commission, or otherwise, and your regular payday. Your employer may have called this a “Notice to Employee” and may reference the Labor Code Section that applies, Section 2810.5.

**For more information on the wage theft law and the paperwork employers are now required to provide employees see: http://unioncounsel.net/developments/private_sector/new_anti_wage_theft_law.html

As many will recall, the old wage claim form asked a worker to estimate the amount of wages she believed to be owed in one flat amount, without providing any assistance on the face of the form as to what the worker should include in that total number.  The old form did not provide any of the above-referenced law, which will be particularly helpful to workers who have no advocate, such as an attorney or union representative, assisting them.  This new form is much clearer and more user friendly than its precursor.  Coupling the new form with the instructions and guide, workers in California will have a better of shot of realizing what the law entitles them to, and including that information in their claims. 

By Lisl Duncan

Legal Developments