Is It Better to Hire an Attorney or Go to the California Labor Board?

Employees have two options in pursuing a claim for unpaid wages, overtime, commissions, or other compensation. The first option is to file a claim with the California Labor Board. The second is to hire a private attorney to sue the employer.

Advantages to Filing a California Labor Board Claim

There are two advantages to filing a California labor board claim. First, you do not have to find an attorney; you can represent yourself and can avoid paying attorneys fees. You might also be able to secure a decision faster because a hearing will take place within 90 days and a decision will be granted within 15 days from the hearing. However, these proceedings are usually only suitable for smaller claims that are very simple, such as when the employer failed to pay wages or other compensation upon termination. In contrast, there are many disadvantages to filing a California labor board claim.

Disadvantages to Filing a California Labor Board Claim

The big problem with labor board claims is that the rules for discovery do not apply as strictly as with regular lawsuits. This means that if you bring a labor board claim you may not be able to require your employer to provide the evidence you need to prove the violation occurred. Further, even if you win an employer may appeal the decision to a trial court. You are then in the uncomfortable position of facing full blown trial within 60 days. The complex rules of evidence apply at this stage. These procedural rules make it incredibly difficult for someone representing themselves to face an experienced attorney in the courtroom. Finding an attorney to represent you in the appeal will be difficult on such short notice.

Furthermore, the statute of limitations for labor board cases is three years, whereas an attorney can extend many unpaid wage & overtime claims to four years.

Finally, labor board claims are not eligible for double damages (liquidated damages) under federal law. Federal claims cannot be brought with state claims before the labor board. Only filing a lawsuit can double the amount of damages available to you.

For these reasons it is often in your best interests to hire an attorney to file a lawsuit against the employer. Attorneys in unpaid wage suits generally do not charge clients fees unless the employee gets a settlement or judgment. This means that if an employee loses the case they will not be liable for any attorney fees.

To learn more, contact the attorneys at Baker Law Group, LLP today at (858) 452-0093 to schedule a free consultation.