Despite the best efforts of the federal government and the state of California, some employers fail to compensate their employees, as they should. Even so, when a payment dispute arises, the appropriate government agencies can help an employee receive the overtime or other pay that is owed. Once a company is ordered to repay a worker, it may take some additional effort to obtain that back pay.
California workers who receive the right to back pay through the Fair Labor Standards Act or the equivalent state law may need to go one step further. The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor may oversee the payments. An injunction could be put into place by the U.S. Secretary of Labor to keep an employer from withholding wages lawfully earned by an employee.
The U.S. Secretary of Labor could also file a lawsuit on behalf of a worker for back pay and liquidated damages. Finally, a worker may file a lawsuit on his or her own behalf for the same outcome, plus court costs and attorney's fees. However, an employee cannot file a suit if the U.S. Department of Labor supervises the receipt of back pay.
It would seem as though receiving back pay after a successful payment dispute should be easy. After all, an employer was ordered to provide an employee with pay that it previously denied. However, complications can arise in actually obtaining back pay for a variety of reasons. Determining the best course of action for pursuing back pay may require some advice and professional assistance.