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Employer liability for labor law violations is expanding

On Behalf of | Dec 21, 2023 | Unfair Labor Practice Defense

Employees have the right to expect to be able to do their jobs in an environment that is safe, productive and compliant with state and federal labor laws. Failure to adhere to these regulations can result in problems for employees, including inaccurate pay, employee rights violations, safety hazards and more. California has recently expanded employer liability for violations of labor laws.

When employers violate state labor laws, it can eventually lead to expensive fines and other penalties, but that could change with the application of recently passed legislation. In order to both improve the backlog of labor law violation cases and properly address the problem, lawmakers have given expanded authority to local prosecutors. This means employers could face criminal prosecution in some cases for violations.

What does that mean for employees and employers?

In October, the governor signed the legislation that allows for more prosecutorial authority in labor law cases. This authority now allows city attorneys, city councils and district attorneys to pursue legal action against liable employers. It is not immediately clear what this will look like over time, but employers should be aware that violating labor laws comes with steeper penalties and the potential for severe repercussions.

An example of these changes is in how the state views wage theft. In 2021, a law passed that categorized wage theft as a federal offense in certain circumstances. However, with the most recent legislation, theft of wages in an amount of more than $950 or $2,350 is punishable with time in jail and expensive fines. The state hopes that this and other efforts can ease the backlog of wage theft cases and other labor law complaints that have been languishing in the system for months or years.

Protecting employer interests

Employers who are facing allegations of labor law violations would benefit from taking quick action to confront these accusations and seek a quick resolution to the situation. With the possibility of criminal prosecution as a penalty for labor law violations, it is more important than ever to have experienced, knowledgeable assistance when navigating these matters.

It is prudent to address these situations with the support and guidance of an experienced professional with an understanding of labor law and how to shield the interests of California businesses. This counsel can prove invaluable for both short-term issues and matters that can impact both the employer’s freedom and the future of his or her business.