At the end of each pay period, my boss would pay me an agreed upon amount. Although I was working full time and overtime, my pay never changed. [...]
Working in the restaurant was hard. My boss only hired immigrant workers like me, and I think that is because she didn't want her workers to complain about the low pay and the bad working conditions. [...]
In March, 2009 my husband and I needed to get our taxes done, but I knew my W-2's didn't show all my wages,and I didn't know what to do. When I asked my boss why my W-2's didn't show all my wages, she said” that doesn't matter, you can't do your taxes anyway, you don't even have a social security number!”
I finally decided to call the UFW Foundation. The service preparer at the UFW Foundation helped me declare my income correctly and request an amended W-2. He also told me that my boss had to give me accurate W-2 forms and paystubs. I told him about the working conditions at the restaurant and he told me that I could make a wage claim to demand backpay for overtime and all the breaks I had missed.
At first I was scared because I thought I'd get fired. I didn't have a work permit so I was scared that I wouldn't be able to find other work. I didn't know that undocumented workers have rights at work. At the UFW Foundation, I learned that all workers have rights, and that I could report my boss to the state Labor Commissioner and other agencies. He told me that I could report the labor violations I saw at work without being afraid that I would be reported to immigration. However, I was still scared and wasn't sure if I should file a wage claim.
In May of that year, something happened that gave me the courage to come forward and report the violations I saw at work. After years of waiting, I got a work permit from immigration through my father. Once I had work authorization, I knew I could come forward about the conditions at the restaurant. I wasn't afraid to file a wage claim for all the unpaid overtime and breaks and incorrect pay stubs.
The service provider at the UFW Foundation helped me calculate how much my employer owed me. He explained the laws about breaks and lunch periods for workers that are required by law. In total, my boss owed me over $6,000. He filled out the wage claim form and sent it to the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement. [...]
The service provider at the UFW Foundation agreed to represent me at my hearing. I signed an agreement and agreed to pay him a fee if I won any money in my case. He explained to me that if I didn't win my unpaid wages, that I wouldn't be charged anything else. Over the next few weeks, we met several times to collect and review my evidence, like my paystubs, my work calendar, letters from my boss and more. He made sure I knew what to expect at the hearing and made sure all my questions were answered.
When the day came, I went to my wage claim hearing together with the service provider at the UFW Foundation. At the hearing, he presented my evidence and asked questions to my boss about the working conditions at the restaurant where I had been working. He made sure I had a chance to speak and made sure I wasn't afraid to tell the labor commissioner about all the problems I had at that job. After I made my case, the deputy labor commissioner said that my case would be studied by the labor commissioner's office. I was to get a response in 2 weeks.
About a week after my conference, I got a letter from the labor commissioner. The official had decided that my boss had failed to pay me minimum wage and some overtime. Also, I was awarded premiums for meals and breaks that my boss didn't give me. In total, the judgement was for $14,176. I had won on almost every point, and my boss would now have to pay me. [...]
Because I wasn't afraid to come forward and report my employer to the authorities, I am finally getting the money I worked for. If I hadn't become a UFW Foundation member, I would have never decided to come forward and make a claim. I may still be working at that restaurant for less than minimum wage, without overtime pay, afraid to take advantage of my rights or speak out. I thank the UFW Foundation for helping me win over $14,000 in back wages and overtime from my employer.”