Labor Commissioner Hearings Cannot Be Waived By Arbitration Agreements

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The Labor Code gives aggrieved employees the right to file a claim for unpaid wages and other similar violations with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. These claims are decided by a deputy labor commissioner in an administrative hearing, sometimes called a "Berman" hearing. The process is more streamlined than a proceeding in court, and is "designed to provide a speedy, informal, and affordable method of resolving wage claims." If either party does not agree with the deputy labor commissioner's decision, they can appeal to the superior court in a process called a "trial de novo."

The California Supreme Court recently ruled on whether a binding arbitration agreement can require employees to waive their rights to this administrative hearing. The Supreme Court answered this question in the negative, holding that an "Employee's statutory right to seek a Berman hearing, with all the possible protections that follow from it, is itself an unwaivable right that an employee cannot be compelled to relinquish as a condition of employment." Sonic-Calabasas v. Moreno.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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