Wage claims, labor standards enforcement and certain discrimination investigations in California are handled by the Labor Commissioner's Office, officially known as the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DSLE). DSLE is part of the Department of Industrial Relations.
The Labor Commissioner is empowered by state law to investigate wage claims on an employee's behalf. The purpose of these wage claim investigations is to provide a speedy remedy to employees that believe that they have been harmed by their employer as it relates to past-due wages, overtime, and final compensation after termination or separation.
State law requires the Labor Commissioner to quickly handle wage claims, and for good reason. Ensuring that employees are paid that which they are owed is an important public policy goal. Providing aggrieved employees an informal adjudicatory process is designed to allow quicker relief than would be otherwise available in a traditional courtroom setting â€” and it reduces costs for both employees and business owners.
With budget cuts continuing to affect state agencies and large numbers of claims being filed, many local Labor Commissioner offices are falling behind their mandate to quickly process and adjudicate wage disputes. This results in long delays for both employees and businesses that have the right to respond to allegations made by employees. The uncertainty that the delays create are frustrating to parties on both sides of the dispute.
With delays continuing, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and traditional lawsuits are being substituted for Labor Commissioner proceedings. With the courts dealing with their own budgetary and capacity issues, speedy resolution of wage disputes might be a thing of the past.
Rick Morin is an attorney that represents businesses before the Labor Commissioner and in court. He can be reached at the office at (916) 333-2222.