California Labor Commissioner Julie Su recently issued a report, State of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, which summarizes and evaluates the enforcement activity of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) in 2011 and 2012.
The report demonstrates that the DLSE has increased and accelerated its enforcement activities including pursuing wage claims, wage and hour violations, and retaliation claims, over the past two years. The report emphasizes the DLSE’s Bureau of Field Enforcement’s (BOFE) activities to combat the abuses associated with California’s “underground economy” (referring to employers who utilize undocumented labor and/or ignore California’s wage and hour laws), highlighting record wage and civil penalty assessments levied in five major underground economy industries: agriculture, car wash, restaurant, construction, and garment.
The report highlights several finding regarding the DLSE’s activities related to agriculture, including:
- Lawsuits against two farm labor contractors for $600,000 and $1.6 million, respectively, alleging the FLC’s failed to pay workers all wages due.
- In 2011, BOFE assessed almost $2.5 million in wages and civil penalties in the agricultural industry – the highest amount since 2008.
- In 2012, the amount of wages assessed by BOFE dropped. However, BOFE investigations alleging wage theft in the agricultural industry resulted in DLSE initiated lawsuits seeking over $2 million in unpaid wages, damages, and penalties on behalf of hundreds of farm employees.
Ag employers can expect a sustained effort by the DLSE to actively pursue employers for wage violations. Employers should review the compensation and payroll practices in their own company, as well as those of their FLCs. Such audits should include, among other things, a review of the company’s practices and procedures for: timekeeping, wage payments, calculation of employees’ regular rate and overtime compensation, recordkeeping, required postings notices, classification of employees as exempt from overtime; and classification of workers as independent contractors, as well as joint employer liability issues using FLC.
For more information, contact Jason Resnick (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 949-885-2253.
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