Tuesday, May 16, 2006

DLSE Wage Claims: can they sing to the same sheet of music? Are there any relevant policies & procedures?

Back in the day, the San Bernadino Wage Claim office had a Hearing Officer (Deputy Labor Commissioner II) that awarded attorneys' fees in their NDA, Notice of Decision and Award. This is what the Hearing Officer busts out after a wage claim is presented to the Labor Commissioner's office.

So along comes this attorney and starts to argue in another Wage Claim office that they want attorney fees. That office tells them that Hearing Officers cannot award attorneys fees. Then the attorney says that's not true, and that he has the NDA to show otherwise. Well, this gets kicked right up to Abbi and Nance, and what do they do? Nada, Zilch, Nothing. It gets BURIED because the Hearing Officer that awarded the attorneys fees was well liked and thus well protected, even though that decision painted the Labor Commissioner's Office into a bit of a corner.

Whether or not awarding attorneys fees is a policy (or not) remains to be seen because no one can figure out what is DLSE policy (only if it's written down, according to them) or what is a DLSE practice (what is not written down). To this day, Regional Manager Abigael Calva, Assistant Chief Nance Steffen, and Deputy Chief Lupe Almaraz have yet to codify any of their idiosyncratic policies/practices and have them posted in a conspicuous place, like the internet for the public to also review. To do that would acknowledge that something is done in a certain way, and it must be done their way. This is why each office does things their own way, because their is no standard practice, and even if there was a standard practice, it is certainly not enforced evenly and across all offices.


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