Labor law enforcement under the first two years of Governor Jerry Brown’s term has netted an unprecedented and staggering level of damages, penalties, and fines in the State of California. According to the key findings of the report, “State of the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement”:
- Minimum wage – over $3 million unpaid minimum wages assessed in 2012 – more than any previous year on record, and an increase of 462% from minimum wage assessments in 2010.
- Unpaid overtime – more than $13 million unpaid overtime wages assessed in 2012 – more than any previous year on record, and a 642% increase from 2010.
- Civil penalties – over $51 million in civil penalties assessed in 2012 against employers for violating labor laws – more than any previous year in a decade, and a 150% increase from 2010.
- Public works – over $25 million in wages assessed and civil penalties issued on public works projects in 2012 – the highest amount since 2002.
And those just reflect the cases pursued by the state. For every case handled by the Labor Commissioner there could be 2-5 that are being resolved through severance agreements and informally through settlement agreements.
These numbers just reinforce the need for many California employers to take a proactive approach to dealing with their treatment of employees. This goes far beyond the need for preventative training regarding discrimination and harassment in the workplace that is commonly thought of as the source of liability for employers. Rather, the proactive steps required include classification of employment versus independent contractors; job descriptions; employee handbook; corrective action process; and the termination process. All of these areas are separate and distinct, but give rise to the claims that are netting the above results by the Labor Commissioner.