No Win, No Fee (818) 990-8300

Employee Rights Blog

Is There a Statute of Limitations on Unpaid Wages?

Posted by Eric Kingsley | Mar 05, 2023 | 0 Comments

All employees in California deserve to be paid the wages they earned. When hourly employees are not paid their wages due, they have the right to file a wage and hour claim against their employer. These claims cover an employer's failure to pay minimum wage, overtime pay as well as labor code violations such as requiring workers to miss rest and meal breaks and not reimbursing business-related expenses.

If you believe you are owed unpaid wages, it is imperative that you contact an experienced California employment lawyer right away. The time you have to file is limited and if you miss the deadline, you may lose your right to file a lawsuit and hold your employer accountable.

Key Points - Table of Contents

How Far Back Can an Employee Claim Unpaid Wages?

The statute of limitations for claiming unpaid wages in California depends on the type of claim you make against your employer. The statute of limitations is the same whether you file a civil lawsuit in a California court or a federal district court.

  • If your employer made an oral contract with you agreeing to pay a certain amount of wages, but fails to pay those agreed-upon wages, the statute of limitations to file an unpaid wages claim is two years. Claims under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA must also be filed within two years. However if an employer committed a willful violation, the time limit may be extended to three years.
  • The following labor code violations involving unpaid wages have a three-year statute of limitations:
  • If your employer violated a written contract, the statute of limitations is four years. Sometimes, the three-year time limit to sue for unpaid wage claims may be extended to four years if the employee can show that the employer engaged in unfair business practices under California's Unfair Competition Law.

Time Limits for Filing Wage and Hour Claims

Sometimes, employees who have unpaid wages disputes with their employers may choose to file a claim with the California Department of Industrial Relations. The statute of limitations for most unpaid wages claims is three years, even if you choose to file a claim. After you file a claim, the Labor Commissioner will set up a settlement conference with your employer. If you cannot reach an agreement, a hearing will likely follow. Once the hearing is done, the commissioner will issue a decision, which either side could appeal. You may choose to represent yourself in the hearing before the Labor Commissioner. However, the chances for success are much higher if you have an experienced California employment attorney on your side to help you present the evidence and a strong claim.

What is Included in an Unpaid Wages Claim?

The hourly wages times hours worked would be included in an unpaid wages claim in addition to other types of wages including but not limited to unpaid bonuses and commissions, unpaid vacation, sick time, paid time off and unpaid reimbursement of business expenses.

You may not be able to claim unpaid wages if you are an independent contactor. However, you may be able to file a lawsuit alleging breach of contract if the wages agreed upon in the contract were not paid. An experienced California wage and hour lawyer can help you calculate how much you are owed in unpaid wages, interest and other penalties.

How Do I Prove an Unpaid Wages Claim?

An experienced lawyer can help you gather crucial evidence that is necessary to prove your unpaid wages claim. Some of the documents that can be used to prove unpaid wages claims include:

  • Paychecks and pay stubs
  • Bounced paychecks
  • An employment contract or offer letter
  • Timecards, timesheets or other logs that show your hours worked
  • Copy of a Collective Bargaining Agreement if you are part of an employment union

It is a good idea to contact an employment lawyer even if you do not have all these documents in your possession. You lawyer can help you obtain these documents and other evidence from your employer during the discovery process, which is the formal process of exchanging information between parties about evidence and witnesses they plan to present during a trial.

Why Do You Need a Wage and Hour Attorney?

It is important to file an unpaid wages claim as soon as possible. Failing to file a lawsuit on time could cause you to lose your right to claim any unpaid wages. You may also have other related employment claims that also come with time limits. In addition to recovering your unpaid wages, your lawyer who understands the nuances of California wage and hour lawyer can help you secure penalties and damages, which could all substantially increase the value of your claim. The knowledgeable Los Angeles employment attorneys at Kingsley & Kingsley Lawyers can help you meet these critical deadlines and protect your rights every step of the way.

About the Author

Eric Kingsley

Eric B. Kingsley is a 2023 "Best In Law" Award winner and has litigated over 150 class actions. He is also an AV peer rated attorney and a prolific speaker at various seminars on employment law.


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

We Hold Employers Accountable - Get Help Now

You do not have to go through this alone. Contact our Los Angeles Employment law firm for a free case evaluation. We represent our clients on a contingency fee basis, which means that you do not pay any fees unless you win or recover compensation, and you will never have to pay out-of-pocket. California-only. We are unable to help those outside of California. Call (818) 990-8300