The California Attorney General announced the creation of the Worker Rights and Fair Labor Section within the California Department of Justice’s Division of Public Rights.
The Section initially operated as a bureau within the Civil Rights Enforcement Section. The establishment of the unit as a new Section will expand DOJ’s capacity to protect the health, safety, and rights of workers.
Expanding on and elevating DOJ’s existing efforts, the Section will, among other things, help bring increased focus and expertise to implement policy and protect against workplace issues – including in the underground economy.
One target will be wage theft, by working with partner agencies to help address systemic deficiencies that result in workers losing out on the wages they are due, including in instances where businesses fail to pay overtime or allow for meal and rest breaks;
Another will be Health and Safety violations, by stepping up DOJ’s ability to tackle current and emerging trends such as those brought on by the coronavirus; and
Also employee misclassification, by protecting workers from being inappropriately classified as independent contractors, which can allow companies to evade legal obligations such as minimum wage, sick leave, and overtime.
In December of 2020, the Attorney General’s Office took action in court against Amazon as part of an ongoing investigation into the company’s coronavirus policies and protocols.
In November of 2020, the Attorney General secured a court decision protecting the rights of more than half a million healthcare workers in California’s In-Home Supportive Services program.
In October of 2020, the Attorney General secured an appellate court decision against Uber and Lyft as part of an ongoing case involving employee classification in the state.
In 2019, the Attorney General – alongside the California Labor Commissioner’s Office – filed criminal charges against the operators of an alleged illegal garment shop licensing scheme.
The AG also secured settlements with four major fast food companies to end the use of “no-poach policies” that harm workers by making it more difficult to seek better pay and benefits at competing franchises.