Can I File a Wage Claim If My Primary Language Isn’t English?

You have the right to file a wage claim if you believe you have become the victim of wage theft. Wage theft is unfortunately all too common in many parts of the U.S. Employers may take advantage of any of their employees who they think are too afraid to speak up and question their pay.

Often, it is employees who do not speak English as their native language who may find it hard to know whether they are being paid correctly or what to do if they are not.

Even if your English is not that good, you will find that there are wage claim forms available in different languages. You can download the correct wage claim from the website of the Department of Labor or its equivalent in the state you live and work in. If you need help with the form, you should visit the Labor Commissioner’s office.

The Importance of Evidence

You will need evidence to support your wage claim when you file a claim with the Labor Commissioner’s office. The more evidence you have that shows you haven’t been paid correctly, the more likely you will resolve the dispute over your pay.

Wage theft is illegal underpayment of wages as determined by both state and federal labor laws. Typical examples of wage theft include:

  • not paying the minimum wage. this is the higher of either the state or federal minimum;
  • not paying overtime rates if you work for more than 40 hours in any 7 day week;
  • not paying wages at all;
  • making illegal deductions from your paycheck;
  • not paying sick pay or leave pay;
  • not providing lunch breaks or rest breaks.

The sort of evidence the Labor Commissioner will want to see includes:

  • pay stubs;
  • record of hours worked;
  • employment agreement if you had one;
  • statements from co-workers if reporting similar complaints;
  • copy of any letter you sent to your employer outlining why you thought your pay was too little;
  • any response from your employer;
  • any other documents you think are relevant.

The Labor Commissioner will schedule a settlement conference once your claim has been filed. You, your employer and a Deputy Labor Commissioner will be at the conference and an attempt at a settlement will be made. Make sure you have copies of all the evidence you submitted. If the conference stage fails, a hearing will be scheduled with a Hearing Officer. You must bring all the evidence you have to the hearing and submit your complaint under oath.

The Hearing officer will make a decision about your claim and you will be informed in writing of the decision. If the decision is not in your favor, you still have the right to file an appeal at the Supreme Court or take your chances and file a claim against your employer through a civil court, but you will need an employment lawyer to help you if you choose this option.

Make sure you file your claim within the deadline allowed by the Labor Commissioner for your state. This is anywhere between 2 to 4 years from the date of the complaint depending o the state and the employment relationship you have.

How to File a Claim in a Different Language

The wage claim form can be downloaded off the department of Labor’s website for your state. The form comes with instructions and you can choose a form in a language other than English. Not every language is available, but there are about a dozen different language versions available.

If your primary language is not available, there may be a form in a language you understand or otherwise you may need help in filling it in. You can visit the Labor Commissioner’s office and ask for help filling in the form.

Next Steps

You are advised to talk to an employment lawyer before completing a wage claim form. The lawyer will know whether you have been subjected to wage theft. Employers are expected to pay their employees according to state and federal labor laws. The lawyer will know whether the evidence you have will be sufficient to make a convincing case when you attend a conference.

The lawyer may be able to help arrange an interpreter if that will make it easier for you when you attend a settlement conference or hearing.

You are welcome to fill out a free case evaluation form below to locate a suitable lawyer near you.


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