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California Addresses Labor Crime with a New Unit

The U.S. Labor Department's periodic report on new state labor laws finds that worker privacy and prevailing wages were the two most common subjects for new labor and employment laws enacted by states in 2011.

April 26, 2012
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The U.S. Labor Department's periodic report on new state labor laws finds that worker privacy and prevailing wages were the two most common subjects for new labor and employment laws enacted by states in 2011. Based on the number of pieces of legislation enacted, the most active subject was worker privacy, with 31 laws in 20 states, followed by prevailing wages with 29 laws in 18 states. One such law involves California's Wage Theft law, Labor Code Section 2810.5, effective Jan. 1, 2012. It mandates that California employers must provide newly hired (nonexempt) employees with written notice of various items of information including: the employee's rate of pay; the regular payday; and information regarding the employer's workers' compensation insurer. Because the new law's disclosure requirement is ongoing, it applies to all current employees if the employer changes and of the wage terms that it must disclose to new hires. In particular, the employer has seven calendar days to notify employees of such changes or to include the new information on employees' wage statements.

As part of California's effort to combat wage-theft issues, the state has established the Criminal Investigation Unit, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, or CIU-DLSE. The declared mission of CIU-DLSE is "to address flagrant mistreatment of workers" by overwatching a series of problem areas ranging, broadly, from child labor violations to public kickbacks and from agricultural and garment manufacturing labor violations to bounced checks and "theft of labor" complaints.

Many of these areas are already under the purview of previously established DLSE offices or units. We may speculate that the CIU-DLSE will provide additional investigative "oomph" to these other sections.

IMPACT: Employers, particularly those that have multistate locations, are advised to periodically update and review state laws that may impact these issues. State laws add additional restrictions. Employers should note the ever-increasing number of new laws under consideration that would further impose new requirements involving the payment of wages, disclosures about applicable employment conditions, or restrict how and when employers use criminal and other background information to make employment decisions. Additionally, state and federal agencies appear to be increasing enforcement efforts of existing laws.

James E. Hall, Mark T. Kobata and Marty Denis are partners in the law firm of Barlow, Kobata & Denis, with offices in Los Angeles and Chicago. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

Workforce Management, March 2012, p. 8 -- Subscribe Now!

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