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California Labor Commission Claims

We are familiar with wage claims brought by current or former employer before the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), which is the state agency charged with enforcing the California Labor Code and California’s wage and hour laws and regulations. We will advise and counsel you regarding the rules and procedures in defending a DLSE claim, as well as your rights and possible defenses.

Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE)

The DLSE may:

  • Investigate and conduct hearings on employee complaints
  • Issue subpoenas compelling witness attendance and production of documents.
  • Administer oaths and examine witnesses.
  • Accept assignment of claims for wages and other claims.
  • Collect wages and benefits without assignment.
  • Prosecute actions for collection of wages, including minimum wage and overtime compensation.
  • Seek injunctions against willful violations of state wage and hour laws.
  • Investigate complaints and prosecute actions involving claims under the California Equal Pay Act.
  • Issue citations to employers found to be in violation, and assess waiting time penalties in connection with the citations.

Labor Commissioner

The Labor Commissioner is the Chief of the DLSE. The Labor Commissioner and his or her deputies and agents are entitled to free access to all places of labor. They may also secure information, make authorized investigations, and inspect or make excerpts from the employer’s records, contracts, payrolls or other documents relating to employees. Refusal to grant access or provide information is a misdemeanor punishable by fine of up to $1,000.

Hearings Before Labor Commissioner / Berman Hearing

The Labor Commissioner has jurisdiction to investigate employee complaints and provide for a hearing in any action to recover wages, penalties, and other demands for compensation. The hearing procedure is commonly known as a “Berman” hearing based on the name of the sponsor of the legislation. A “Berman” hearing “is designed to provide a speedy, informal and affordable method of resolving wage claims … [and] to avoid recourse to the costly and time-consuming judicial proceedings in all but the most complex of wage claims.” The Labor Commissioner’s power to adjudicate is limited to claims for wages, penalties and other demands for compensation The Commissioner has no jurisdiction to decide employee claims of fraud or unfair business practices.

Commissioner’s Notice of Action to be Taken

Within 30 days after a complaint is filed with the DLSE, the Labor Commissioner will notify the parties that it will either:

  •  hold a hearing on the claim (“Berman” hearing)
  •  prosecute a civil action; or
  •  take no further action.

Informal Conciliation Conference

The Labor Commissioner’s office assigned to handle the complaint will generally schedule an informal “conciliation” meeting in an attempt to resolve the matter.

Scheduling of hearing

The hearing before the Labor Commissioner must be scheduled within 90 days after the Commissioner notifies the parties that a hearing will be held.

Service of Complaint and Notice of Hearing

When a hearing date is set, the Labor Commissioner will serve both parties with a copy of the Complaint and notice of hearing, personally, by certified mail, or substitute service by leaving a copy at the home or office of the person being served.

Employer’s Answer

Within 10 days after service of the notice and complaint, the employer may (but need not) file an answer with the Labor Commissioner specifying the particulars in which the complaint is inaccurate or incomplete and the facts on which the employer intends to rely.

Conduct of Hearing

Hearings are to “be conducted in an informal setting preserving the right of the parties.” A hearing officer who was not involved in investigation of the matter presides over the hearing.

Right to Counsel 

Any party to the proceedings may be represented by counsel.

Order Following Hearing

The Labor Commissioner shall issue an order within 15 days after the hearing is concluded. The order must be served on the parties personally or by first class mail. Unless a timely appeal is filed, a certified copy of the order will be filed with the appropriate superior court and judgment will be immediately entered.