California's state labor agency says its efforts to step up enforcement of wage and hour laws are working.
Last year, the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) assessed more than $13 million in unpaid overtime, a three-fold increase over the previous year and the highest amount on record, according to a report released May 22. It also assessed more than $3 million in unpaid minimum wages, about seven times the amount assessed the previous year and also a record-high.
The DLSE credits a new vice squad approach to enforcement for the increases.
Before Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su was appointed two years ago, the DLSE would launch random sweeping investigations of as many employers as possible within a given industry and geographical area. Now the agency conducts targeted investigations based on "better intelligence" obtained from data-sharing among state agencies and leads from employer associations, industry groups and worker advocates.
For example, last year, a DLSE sub-agency launched an investigation of a farm labor contractor after receiving a tip from a nonprofit legal services organization. The investigation led to a lawsuit seeking more than $600,000 in unpaid wages, damages and penalties.
That's just the start, according to the DLSE. "[T]he dramatic improvements that have been made in the past two years have laid the foundation for the DLSE to successfully meet the challenges that lie ahead," the report concludes.