A California labor board complaint involves employment disputes about improper actions by an employer, and the labor boards in California are the California Labor Commissioner’s Office and the California Civil Rights Department (CRD). People do not necessarily have to file complaints with these agencies, as they can also file complaints in state civil courts or wage and hour complaints can be filed with the United States Department of Labor (DOL) while retaliation complaints can be filed with the United States Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC).

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office will handle disputes that involve wage claims, breaks, and other complaints related to earnings, while the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) handles discrimination and harassment claims. KQED-TV reported that while the California Labor Commissioner’s Office must hold a hearing within 120 days of a wage complaint being filed, the average wait time statewide has been almost seven times as long, being over two years.

Labor Complaint Process

Employers often become aware of complaints to the Labor Commissioner after receiving notice from the Labor Commissioner’s office. Employers will not be required to file any paperwork in response to a notice of conference, but an employer or their representative may be required to appear at a conference at the date and time indicated on a notice.  

A conference will not be an actual hearing on the matter, but a non-binding settlement conference at which the Labor Commissioner will discuss the allegations, the employer’s response, and attempt to mediate a resolution between the parties. Under California Labor Code § 98(a), the Labor Commissioner can only provide for a hearing in any action to recover wages, penalties, and other demands for compensation.

The Labor Commissioner will not handle claims involving discrimination or harassment, and it also will not hear counter claims from employers. Employers must file counter claims in court.

When an employee has an arbitration agreement with an employer, the employer may compel arbitration to resolve a dispute and remove the Labor Commissioner from the equation. People are not required to have attorneys for Labor Commissioner hearings, although a lawyer can certainly help with these matters.

Settlement Conferences

A person usually receives a Notice of Conference in the mail three to nine months after they file their initial claim, although the wait time will depend on how busy the Labor Commissioner local office is and can be much longer in major areas such as the Bay Area or Los Angeles. A complainant will need to attend the Conference because not doing so can lead to a case being dismissed. 

At the Conference, a person will review their case with a Deputy from the Labor Commissioner’s office to clarify what they are claiming. A person should be prepared to discuss the basic facts of their case, but they will not have to present evidence, testify under oath, or present witnesses at the Conference. 

An employer will also be invited to the Conference, but they will not be required to attend. If an employer does attend, the Labor Commissioner Deputy may encourage both parties try and settle the case. 

If a settlement cannot be reached, a person will be asked to sign a Complaint that is the final set of claims they will have to prove against the employer at the next phase of the case, the hearing. The case will then be placed on the waitlist for a hearing.

About one year to 18 months after a Conference, a person will get a Notice of Hearing in the mail with a hearing date. It is important to attend the Hearing because cases can again be dismissed when people do not appear. 

A Hearing will be like a court trial, although it will be less formal and not open to the public. A person will have the chance to present evidence, their own testimony, and the testimony of any witnesses, to a hearing officer who eventually decides the case. 

An employer will also have a chance to testify and present evidence in their defense. After the hearing, it can take up to six months for a hearing officer to make a decision, which they will put in writing and mail to the parties. 

If a person wins their case, the employer may pay them the amount of the decision, or the person could have to go through a collections process to get the money from the employer. Both sides have the right to appeal the Labor Commissioner’s decision to the Superior Court.

Employer Strategies

When an employer knows that they are likely to be found liable, they should try to settle the case as soon as possible. When there is a greater level of uncertainty, then employers should focus on collecting witnesses in their case that will not be company owners.

Employers should focus on collecting as much evidence in their cases as possible. Employers must make sure to call attention to why the testimony of their witnesses is relevant to the case.

Employers will also have the opportunity to ask their employees questions, and these can be opportunities to possibly demonstrate errors with their claims. This means that employees claiming not to know about certain policies could have their claims undermined if an employer has evidence that the employee signed an acknowledgement of a policy.

Contact Our Mountain View Startup & Small Business Attorney

If you are dealing with a California Labor Commissioner’s Office or California Civil Rights Department (CRD) issue, you should get legal help right away. Kalia Law P.C. can work to help you find the most favorable resolution to your case.
Our firm helps businesses of all sizes in California. Call (650) 701-7617 or contact our Mountain View startup & small business attorney online to set up a free consultation.

- Claire Kalia


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