my employer owes me for expenses and my consulting fees that are 2 years old can i still recover them

i was first of all release from a company because i was attacked in a home invasion and was not in contact because in hospital. from that home invasion life fall apart. and became homeless as well as i was fight in court over the invasion i was and still am under doctors but in am finally able to look after every day life . the company i worked for owes me $10,000 and is refusing to pay me. is this legal. yes i realize as they have told me that 3 months is their policy and mine are 18months

1 answer  |  asked Jan 15, 2016 6:43 PM [EST]  |  applies to California

Answers (1)

Marilynn Mika Spencer
In California, you have three to four years to file a wage claim for unpaid wages and unreimbursed employment expenses. You can pursue a claim for these unpaid wages by:

(1) Filing a wage claim: The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) is a sub-agency within the California Department of Industrial Relations. http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/. Some people refer to the DLSE as the Labor Commissioner. The DLSE enforces California's wage and hour laws, including those pertaining to overtime, rest and meal breaks, and more. The link for information on filing a wage claim is here: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/howtofilewageclaim.htm. You will be able to collect unpaid wages for the past three years counting from the date you file. The advantages of this method is that there is no cost to you whatsoever and some employers are very responsive to a government claim. The disadvantages are that if you use your own attorney to assist you in this process, you are responsible for paying the attorney's fees; it can take a very long time to resolve the case because the DLSE is underfunded and understaffed; you "lose" the opportunity to collect the fourth year of unpaid wages; and the DLSE often puts pressure on the claimant to settle with the employer for less than the claim is worth.

(2) Retaining an attorney: An attorney can negotiate a resolution with your employer or, if that is not possible, can file a lawsuit in court to collect these unpaid wages. The attorney can pursue the past four years of unpaid wages, again counting from the date you file the lawsuit. The advantages of this method include that you can collect four years of unpaid wages; assuming you are successful in your lawsuit, the court must order the employer to pay your attorney's fees and costs; and the case can be resolved very quickly if the employer responds to your attorney's negotiation overture. The disadvantages are that if negotiation is not successful, it can take up to two years to resolve the case in court because the court is underfunded and many courtrooms are closed. Also, the court may not award the full amount of attorney's fees incurred and, depending on your legal services agreement with your attorney, some of the attorney's fees may be paid from your award; if the case is negotiated, it will certainly be settled for less than the full value because no employer settles for the same amount it would have to pay after litigation. Finally, court records are open to the public and any future prospective employer is able to learn about your suit against this employer, which may affect whether the prospective employer hires you.

(3) Filing a claim in Small Claims Court if the amount owed is less than $10,000. The advantage is that the process is faster than court litigation. The disadvantage is that you cannot have an attorney or any other representative. While the employer cannot have an attorney or representative either, it can assign a sophisticated employee representative who has been through the process many times, or who has been trained by an attorney, which may leave you disadvantaged.

If your claim is substantial, it is usually a good idea to retain an attorney and try to negotiate a settlement. You can pursue the most wages this way – four years – and receive the benefit of the attorney's experience. You can avoid a public record, potentially. And of course the other reasons mentioned.

To find a plaintiffs employment attorney in California, please go to the web site of the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA). CELA is the largest and most influential bar association in the state for attorneys who represent working people. The web site is www.cela.org. Click on "Find a CELA Member" and you can search by location and practice area. Many CELA attorneys represent clients throughout the state.

I hope there is a good resolution to this situation.

Marilynn Mika Spencer
San Diego

posted by Marilynn Mika Spencer  |  Jan 16, 2016 11:00 PM [EST]

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