Last month I wrote about the first step in a Labor Commissioner case: the â€œNotice of Claim and Conference.â€
Assuming that you are not able to resolve the claim informally at the conference, the Labor Commissioner will then set the matter for a formal hearing.
Here in Sacramento, hearings are being set between six and ten months after the date of the conference. As you can see, the Labor Commissioner in Sacramento is very impacted.
Between the end of the Conference and the date of the formal hearing, the defendant has the right and the opportunity to try to settle the matter. The defendant can propose a settlement directly to the plaintiff (if you know how to contact him or her) or through the Deputy Labor Commissioner that is assigned to your case.
The delay between conference and hearing can be in your favor. If you want to propose a settlement, a plaintiff may prefer to have a settlement check cut soon. The alternative for them is to wait up to ten months for a hearing that may or may not go the way that they want.
If the plaintiffâ€™s claim truly has no merit, then you may decide to not settle the matter. If the matter is not resolved prior to the hearing, the hearing will occur as scheduled.
Sometimes the plaintiff does not appear at the hearing. If that is the case, the defendant wins automatically. The reverse is not true. If the defendant does not appear at the hearing, the plaintiff still must present his or her case before the hearing officer can award damages.
The hearings are very informal. The Hearing Officer will swear the witnesses in. Typically the Hearing Officer will briefly summarize his or her understanding of the issues. The Plaintiff is then allowed to present his or her case.
The Plaintiff may have received some assistance or â€œcoachingâ€ by staff at the Labor Commissionerâ€™s office before the hearing. During the hearing itself, they are on their own.
Once the Plaintiff has presented his or her case, the Defendant is allowed to present a rebuttal. The Defendant can also ask questions of any of the plaintiffâ€™s witnesses.
A Defendant is allowed to be represented by an attorney at the hearing. Witness testimony can be presented by bringing witnesses to the hearing or by providing sworn declarations. If you plan to bring sworn declarations to the hearing, you should have them notarized.
It is my experience that the Hearing Officers in Sacramento are very interactive. They tend to ask questions of both the attorneys and the witnesses.
After both sides have presented their case, the Hearing Officer will end the hearing. The Hearing Officer will not make a ruling on the spot. They will provide a writing â€œorder, decision or awardâ€ if they find for the Plaintiff.
I represent Sacramento employers and business owners in Labor Commissioner hearings. If you have any questions about Labor Commissioner hearings in Sacramento, please call my office. I can be reached at (916) 333-2222.