New legislation could soon allow California's Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) to assess employers that violate the state's minimum wage laws with liquidated damages - double the wages owed plus interest.
Currently, the DLSE can recover only the wages owed and civil penalties of $100 for the first violation and $250 for each subsequent violation.
Employees who are owed back wages can recover liquidated damages in an administrative hearing or a private lawsuit, but not through DLSE field investigations. California's legislature on September 3 passed a bill that would amend Cal. Lab Code §§ 1194.2 and 1197.1 to give the DLSE the ability to recover liquidated damages on behalf of individual workers. 2013 Bill Text CA A.B. 442.
This would help low-wage workers whose claims may not be big enough to attract an attorney, according to the bill's sponsor, Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian.
As evidence of the need for the bill, Nazarian cited a 2008 survey of 1,815 workers in Los Angeles County conducted by the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Los Angeles, which found that almost three in 10 low-wage workers were paid less than the minimum wage.
Governor Jerry Brown has until October 13 to veto the bill or sign it into law. If it is signed, it will go into effect 90 days from its enactment.