If California employees find out that they have not been paid the required minimum wage and overtime pay, they may be able to recover those wages. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, requires that employers pay at least the federal minimum wage for their employees. In some states, the state minimum wage is actually higher, so companies are required to pay whichever rate is higher.

Companies also have to pay overtime for employees who work longer than 40 hours per week. Overtime pay is considered time and a half. Companies that don’t follow these rules can actually be sued for this back pay by their employees. If the cases are proved valid, the employers will need to compensate workers for the back pay.

In spite of these employee protections on the books, many companies ignore them. They continue to pay their employees below the federal minimum wage or neglect to pay them for overtime. Between 2010 and 2014, California recovered more than a billion dollars’ worth of unpaid wages in violation cases. In 2013 alone, the federal Department of Labor was able to recover nearly $170 million worth of back pay. That amount of money represented 24,000 violation cases.

If an employee finds that they’ve been underpaid, it’s in their best interest to file a report. Thousands of dollars could be left on the table if an employee continues to be underpaid. If employees are not only underpaid for their regular hours but also aren’t getting paid for overtime, that’s thousands of dollars more not going into their pockets. They’ll need to file a report by mail or in person with the Office of Wage and Hour Division at the Department of Labor.

Filing a claim can seem overwhelming, so working with attorneys who have experience with wage and hour claims might make all the difference to an employee who is due back pay. Attorneys have the expertise to navigate the process and help workers understand their rights.