I picked photos of Abraham Lincoln to illustrate this story on collecting on a labor judgement because the 16th U.S. President is my role model for persistence, balanced consideration, clear communication, and doing the right thing under difficult circumstances. Since 2013, I have been trying to use Lincoln’s virtues while working with California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) to collect on an unpaid debt from my former-employer MentorCloud. I am writing this down to help others decide whether it is worth their time and trouble try to collect unpaid wages, or just to walk away.
What the DLSE does:
The mission of the California Labor Commissioner’s Office is to ensure a just day’s pay in every workplace in the State and to promote economic justice through robust enforcement of labor laws. By combating wage theft, protecting workers from retaliation, and educating the public, we put earned wages into workers’ pockets and help level the playing field for law-abiding employers.
Like many legal circumstances, the process for getting a labor judgement issued and then collecting on it is prolonged and complex. In my case:
- 2012-2013: I worked for MentorCloud as an advisor, consultant, and employee for about a year without my contracted wages being paid. I attempted to collect many times but was put off.
- 28 August 2013: I filed an “Initial Report or Claim” form, followed by a preliminary meeting at DLSE.
- 1 April 2014: a formal hearing was held (attended by MentorCloud CEO Ravi Gundlapalli and me). The facts were not contested at the hearing.
- 2 April 2014: the Labor Commissioner made an award (that is, the Hearing Officer signed an “Order, Decision or Award by the Labor Commissioner” including information on Background, Findings of Fact, Legal Analysis, and Conclusions).
- 2 May 2014: the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Santa Clara, requested that the clerk enter judgement.
- 20 June 2014: the Deputy Labor Commissioner confirmed in a letter to me that “In accordance with California Labor Code section 98.2(d), a judgment has been entered in your name with the court against your former employer.”
- 12 December 2014: I signed an “Assignment of Judgement” form transferring the money judgement to the DLSE Judgement Enforcement Unit for debt collection.
- Calls and visits to the DLSE followed but no action was taken, apparently because the office did not record the case online with a copy of my Driver’s License.
- 11 January 2016: I signed a second “Assignment of Judgement” form transferring the money judgement to the DLSE Judgement Enforcement Unit for collection. This time, I made sure they made a copy of my Driver’s License.
- Still waiting…
Sometimes, doing the right thing takes a long time.