What to do when a DLSE notice arrives

In California, the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE”) is the state agency responsible for adjudicating wage claims.   Sometimes, the first an employer learns that an employee or former employee has a wage dispute is when the employer receives a complaint from the DLSE.
All documents received from the DLSE should be carefully reviewed by Humboldt County employers for response deadlines, and for conference or hearing dates.
The DLSE has a local office here in Eureka, California.  Until recently, it operated without a local Industrial Relations Representative.   We are pleased to report that there is now a local Industrial Relations Representative in the DLSE’s Eureka office.  As a result, it may be that there are more opportunities to settle wage claims brought by employees and former employees prior to a hearing because the Representative can schedule and conduct pre-hearing conferences.
Conferences are informal meetings between the Industrial Relations Representative, the employee making the claim and the employer.  They should be used by local employers to decide whether to settle a claim or defend it at a hearing.
While conferences are informal meetings, hearings are formal proceedings—like trials.
Prior to a hearing, it is important to determine what laws the employee alleges were violated by the employer, to gather all documentation that can be used either to totally defend the claim or to establish that the employee is owed something less than he or she claims, and to determine what witnesses will be necessary to subpoena, if necessary, and call at the hearing.   For many small businesses, these must seem like Herculean tasks, but this information will be critical in determining whether to settle a claim or defend it.
At the hearing, both sides introduce evidence by way of documents and witness testimony.  Both sides have an opportunity to present their arguments to the hearing officer, the person who will make the determination about whether the employee’s claims are valid and enforceable.
After the hearing, the hearing officer issues a written opinion that carries the force of law.   Strict time lines apply to post-hearing actions—like deadlines for appealing the decision.
If you need assistance regarding a wage claim before the DLSE, please contact our office and ask to speak with one of our attorneys