Do I Need a Lawyer for the Labor Board?

I had a wage claim trial with the labor commissioners office. After waiting 2 years for the trial the trial officer allowed evidence at the very end of the Behrman hearing. I was a bit taken off guard and didn’t present rebuttal evidence. The trial officer seemed angry already and was closing the hearing. She ruled against me based on the incorrect final facts submitted during the hearing. Long story short: im appealing the labor commissioners decision. I started the process on my own because the turn around was so quick but probably need help throughout thw case since I am not a lawyer, and haven’t got it in me.

– A labor board claimant

Introduction Navigating a wage claim in California can be a complex and daunting process for workers. While the California labor board offers a streamlined venue for workers to file wage claims without the need of a lawyer, as can be seen from the above quote, actually winning the claim and obtaining a recovery can be a different story. Many times, employers will choose to have a lawyer representing them in labor board proceedings, giving them an upperhand on unrepresented workers. Moreover, California labor laws can be complex and constantly changing as new laws are passed each year, making it hard for workers to identify and quantify their wage claims. This is where the expertise of a lawyer can be invaluable for workers at the labor board. Following are some reasons you might want to consider having an attorney represent you.

1. Expertise in Labor Laws Lawyers specializing in labor laws possess an in-depth understanding of the California Labor Code, the IWC wage orders and caselaw. They are adept at interpreting complex legal texts and staying current with any changes in the law. In many cases, a lawyer will identify claims that workers and labor board commissioners will miss.

2. Effective Claim Handling From the professional preparation of wage claim filings to expert negotiation skills to preparation of evidence, lawyers streamline the entire process for workers. Their experience ensures efficient handling of the claim, significantly increasing the chances of a favorable outcome.

3. Increased Success Rate Hiring a lawyer often leads to a higher probability of a favorable outcome. Their past experience with similar cases, combined with their expertise in dealing with witnesses, introducing evidence, fending off hostile cross examination, countering the other side’s sneaky tactics, and lodging objections at hearings, greatly enhances the worker’s chances of prevailing.

4. Financial Benefits A lawyer can maximize the claim amount while avoiding costly mistakes. Labor board commissioners can be extremely helpful in preparing wage claims for workers. However, it is important to keep in mind that commissioners are salaried government workers. They are subject to strict quotas and are saddled with literally hundreds of cases that they must keep moving through the system. They therefore have a strong incentive to minimize the time they spend on any single worker and claim. By contrast, lawyers typically work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only get paid if the worker wins his claim. This means the lawyer is aligned with the worker in doing whatever it takes to maximize the claim amount.

5. Time and Stress Reduction Dealing with wage claims can be time-consuming and stressful. The forms can be complicated and dealing with questions from commissioners, employers and defense attorneys can be difficult. Lawyers handle all the paperwork and procedures and respond to commissioners and employers, reducing your personal time investment and minimizing stress.

6. Dealing with Retaliation Workers who file wage claims will often experience retaliation or even countersuits from their employers. Understanding anti-retaliation laws is therefore essential. A lawyer can advise the worker on how to deal with retaliation, including by filing a retaliation lawsuit against the employer.

7. Access to Additional Resources Lawyers have access to a network of resources, including process servers, private investigators, skip trace databases and collection agencies, which may become necessary to prosecute your wage claim and obtain your recovery.

8. Understanding Settlements Lawyers provide expert advice on settlement offers, helping negotiate with defense attorneys and employers to obtain better terms and ensure you receive a fair settlement value. In many cases, lawyers will increase the value of your wage claim more beyond their fee.

9. Representation in Appeal Even if you win at the labor board, the employer could appeal. Or maybe you’re the one who wants to appeal, like in the above quote. In that case, your claim leaves the labor board and moves over to the courthouse, where your case starts all over again and all the rules of evidence and civil procedure will apply. It will then be critical to have an attorney represent you.

Conclusion In short, engaging a lawyer for a California Labor Board wage claim often enhances the likelihood of success and the value of your claim. It significantly reduces the burdens and stress of the legal process and ultimately represents a wise investment for achieving the best possible outcome for you. Don’t end up like the labor board claimant in the above quote.


  1. Arturo Sandoval on March 13, 2024 at 5:47 pm

    My supervisor was screaming and yelling at me after asking him a question that he’s attacking me. Afterwards, I was suspended for 10 days.

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