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What you should know about filing a wage claim

Although there are some exceptions to the minimum wage laws, unless you are one of the exceptions, your employer is legally obligated to pay you at least the federal minimum wage or the minimum wage that is mandated by a state. This amount is determined by whichever wage amount is higher. If you qualify for minimum wage, but find that your employer is paying you less than the legally-mandated amount, by law you can file a lawsuit or make a wage claim against your employer.

Interestingly, employers sometimes try to find ways to get around paying minimum wage. It is important to realize that in most cases, an employer cannot use tips to reduce minimum wage, nor can they decrease the amount you are paid to cover the cost of your uniform or to maintain it. There is one exception to this though. An employee can agree in writing that an employer can reduce the amount of minimum wage paid if the employee is provided meals and lodging.

If you find that you are owed for unpaid wages in California, you must file a claim within three years of when you earned the unpaid wages. Since some wage penalties have a one year deadline, however, sooner is always better.

Filing a claim is done through a local office of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Since they will perform an investigation, it is best to file a complaint as soon as you are aware that a violation has occurred. In your complaint, you would note what your pay rate was supposed to be, how often you were paid and an explanation of what occurred and how it affected your pay.

Individuals who believe they have been undercompensated for their wages may find it beneficial to learn more about their legal rights and how they may pertain to their own individual case.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Can I Sue My Employer for Paying Less Than Minimum Wage?," Grace Ferguson, accessed June 16, 2015

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