How Do I File a Complaint with The California Labor Board?

Our employment attorney provides free consultation to employees for reporting violation of labor law by your employer.

By Brad Nakase, Attorney

Email  |  Call (888) 600-8654

An employee can submit a wage complaint to the labor board in as little as half an hour over the phone. An employee who believes they may be owed a few hundred dollars could end up receiving an award in the thousands due to penalties under California’s labor code. These penalties may include bounced check penalties, waiting time penalties, and liquidated damages penalties.

In this article, our employment attorney in Los Angeles discusses how to file a complaint with the Labor Board in California as follows:

What an employee needs to file a complaint?

To file a complaint with the labor board, an employee merely needs their Form W-2 or Form 1099. They will also require paystubs.

The length of the complaint process.

The process of resolving a wage complaint can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years. This is because many factors are involved, including the complexity of the complaint and the schedule of the labor board branch office assigned to the case and that of the commissioner. Also at play is how willing an employer is to settle the issue and whether he or she chooses to appeal the outcome. It should be noted that the labor board has recently been suffering bad delays, so the process may be prolonged.

The Labor Commission complaint process.

The first step is filling out a labor board complaint using Form 1. An employee will also likely need to provide a completed Form 55 that established what they are owed for each pay period he or she worked for an employer. If an employee wishes to make a claim regarding retaliation, they will need to fill out a Form RCI-1. If an employee does not understand these forms or how to fill them out properly, they may enlist the services of a lawyer who can help them. The labor board will reject incorrect forms, and these will need to be amended before re-filing. Re-filing itself takes many weeks or months.

The next step involves filing the complaint with the appropriate DLSE branch. The department has eighteen regional branches in major California cities, including the following:

  • Los Angeles
  • Sacramento
  • Long Beach
  • Bakersfield
  • El Centro
  • Fresno
  • Oakland
  • Salinas
  • Redding
  • San Francisco
  • San Diego
  • San Jose
  • San Bernardino
  • Santa Rosa
  • Santa Barbara
  • Santa Ana
  • Van Nuys
  • Stockton

When it comes to selecting the appropriate branch, an employee will choose the office in the city where they were employed. DLSE office city assignments can change, and filing with the incorrect branch can lead to a major delay in the case that may require an employee to re-file their complaint with the proper DLSE branch. An employee may hire a lawyer to help ensure they file with the appropriate office, which would speed up the complaint process.

After the complaint has been filed, the labor board will send the employee a notice of conference after between 3-12 months. Both employee and employer, as well as their attorneys, are required to go to this meeting. The labor commissioner will conform information, ask questions, and finalize the employee’s wage complaint. This conference is also an opportunity for the employer and employee to speak about a potential settlement.

If no settlement may be reached at this time, then the wage complaint will go to a final hearing or court. A trial will usually occur somewhere between 3-24 months following the conference. An employee may ask the labor board to issue subpoenas to the employer and any witnesses who may have evidence relevant to their case. In court the employee will give a copy of all documents to the judge or hearing officer. It is typical for an employer to have a lawyer represent their interests in court. Employees, while not required to have an attorney, are encouraged to hire one.

No later than fifteen days after the trial, the judge or hearing officer will issue an Order, Decision, or Adjudication, known as an ODA. It usually takes as long as a year for the decision to be mailed to the interested parties. From the date of receipt, the parties will have a further fifteen days to appeal the result. If one side decides to appeal, the process begins again, but the complaint is transferred to a California superior court. This time, the parties will be required to pay court filing fees and other legal costs. These costs can rise into the hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

If an employee wins their case only for the employer not to pay, the employee will receive a formal court judgment. The labor board may choose to help the employee collect their dues.

Have a quick question? We answered nearly 2000 FAQs.

See all blogs: Business | Corporate | Employment Law

Most recent blogs:

How to call in sick to work?

When calling in sick to work, be direct and concise, stating your inability to come in due to illness. Inform your supervisor or HR the nature of your illness and when you expect to return.

Equal Pay Act: What is it?

The Equal Pay Act an employers from paying their workers less than employees of the opposite sex for similar or identical work.

Exotic Dancer License & Stripper License

It is unlawful to work as an adult entertainer without a stripper license, called a "adult entertainment permit. Therefore, knowing how to get your stripping license is necessary to work in a adult club.

Strippers Minimum Wage in California

Strippers in California must earn a minimum wage of $15.50 per hour or higher, depending on the city's minimum wage where they work.

What Is A Hostile Work Environment?

The law defines an unlawful hostile work environment to mean when a superior or coworker communication or behavior that is offensive, intimating, or discriminate on the basis of gender, religion, race, ethnicity, etc.

Can you take unpaid time off in California?

There is no legal requirement in California that an employer provide its employees with either paid or unpaid vacation time. However, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year.

DFEH Right to Sue

To file a lawsuit for discrimination, you must file a complaint with DFEH and obtain a Right-to-Sue notice.

Is It Illegal To Not Pay Overtime?

Yes, it is illegal for employer to not pay overtime because California law requires that employers pay overtime, whether authorized or not.

What Is Rate Pay Meaning?

The meaning of pay rate is the average hourly rate an employee is paid calculated by dividing the total pay for employment in a work week by the total number of hours actually worked.

California Break Laws

Under California law, non-exempt workers are entitled to two paid 10-minute rest breaks and one unpaid meal break during their eight-hour shift. 

Not Getting Paid for Work I Have Done

Workers who have not been paid for work have the right to file a claim with the federal and state Department of Labor for unpaid wages.

California Overtime Law

Under California overtime law, an employee who works over eight hours a day or over forty hours per week is entitled to overtime pay at one and one-half times the regular rate of pay.

Who is exempt from overtime pay?

As of 2023, to be exempt from overtime pay, any employees who are paid at least $62,400 per year and work are primarily professional, executive, creative, managerial, or intellectual and require the exercise of independent judgment.

Can Previous Employers Talk Bad About You?

There are no state or federal laws prohibiting what a previous employer can or cannot say about a former employee. However, previous employers are not permitted to make up lies to damage your reputation and make it difficult for you to get another job.

Can An Employer Cut Your Pay as Punishment?

Employers cannot cut hours to retaliate against employees. Cutting the hours of an employee should never be used as discipline or in an attempt to make an employee quit. 

California Random Drug Testing Law

Random drug testing is not permitted in California, and employers must give their employees notice before a drug test is given.

What happens if you get caught working under the table?

Generally, it is not illegal for your employer to pay you in cash. However, if the employer paid you under the table and did not report your earnings, you may be entitled to money damages under California Labor Code 226.

ADA Proof of Disability

An employer has no right to ask an employee to provide proof of disability unless the employee requests a reasonable accommodation and the employer does not believe disability exists.

FMLA Retaliation and Wrongful Discharge

An employer is prohibited from retaliating, interfering with, restraining, or denying an employee’s exercise of any FMLA right. If an employer wrongfully terminates an employee for FLMA taking medical leave, the worker could have a lawsuit against the employer.

Per Diem Employee Rights

A per diem employee is a worker who work on an as needed basis. A per diem employee does not have a regular schedule or shift but instead works hours as assigned.

How To File A Workplace Harassment Complaint

You can always file a harassment complaint with the EEOC about the harassment. Also, you can retain our employment law attorney to help with no upfront money from you.

Wrongful Termination Settlements

When a worker wins a wrongful termination lawsuit, the average payout amount is $9000 to $95,000, depending on how much the worker would have made during employment.

Can employer ask for proof of disability?

If a worker asks for reasonable accommodation, the employer can ask for proof of disability. However, an employer cannot ask for proof of disability if its part of a hiring decision.

Contact our attorney.

Please tell us your story:

0 + 2 = ?