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For California Workers Seeking Justice in Wage Theft Cases, Process Can Take Years

Farida Jhabvala Romero/KQED

According to new data acquired by, it takes years for workers seeking reconciliation of unpaid wages to get a hearing before the California Labor Commission. The delays are unprecedented as wait times increased exponentially during the pandemic.

By law, the California Labor Commission must hold a hearing within 120 days of a wage complaint being filed unless a settlement is reached sooner. Currently, the data reflects an average wait time of over two years.

“I want to acknowledge that that is not a number that we want to be at, at the Labor Commissioner’s Office,” said Daniel Yu, an agency representative. “We do want to meet our statutory obligations and we want to make sure the process works effectively and efficiently, so the workers are able to get their hearings resolved as quickly as possible,” he added.

Maria Moreno, lead organizer with the Restaurant Opportunities Center of the Bay, stressed the urgency of complainants' situations. "Our workers are not in a position to wait years for damages,” she said. “By then they might already be evicted from their home, or moved on from their job.”

Yu stressed that the pandemic halted in-person hearings for a year and a half, which impacted the Labor Commission's operations significantly. However, Yu also acknowledged slow turnaround speeds even prior to the pandemic and called for more hiring.

Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed a $10 million increase in budget for the Labor Commissioners office from the current fiscal year. The additional money would add 145 more jobs across the agency.

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