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Labor Commissioner Debuts Online Reporting System

Department of Labor Standards Enforcement

Photo courtesy of California Dept. of Industrial Relations

California's Department of Industrial Relations has recently launched a new online system for reporting wage labor code violations. This new system will enable the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement to receive reports quickly and easily.

“Our online system makes it easier to report wage theft and other labor law violations,” said Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su, in a DIR press release. “Wage theft and workplace abuse not only hurt workers, they also undermine the safety and stability of communities as they reduce revenues and create an uneven playing field for law-abiding employers.”

This new tool provides access to reporting methods to employees who may not have had it before. This change comes at a time when labor violations are significantly under reported, particularly among low wage and food service workers.

It is unknown, however, what kind of impact the system will have. With the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement overworked and understaffed as it is, it will be hard to say if an increase in labor violation reports will have an appreciable effect on enforcement of, and adherence to, regulations.

The number of employers who dodge penalties, even when a judgment is granted against them, is still very high. Especially in LA's lucrative restaurant industry, as KCRW reported this summer. In many cases, dodging a judgment is as easy as closing and re-opening under a new name, even if the restaurant remains essentially the same.

Still though, getting reporting methods out into the hands of people who need them can never be a bad thing. And now, with an easy online method for reporting workplace violations, companies should be more on their guard about refusing to pay overtime, making employees work off the clock, and overlooking safety regulations.

Hopefully, with increased awareness, and with reporting tools more easily available, safety and wage violations that would have flown under the radar before will get the attention they deserve. Getting the word out there, on the other hand, is still the tricky part. Knowing one's rights, and learning to recognize violations, is crucial.

In a working culture where bosses are generally allowed to take great liberties from their employees; one where seventy hour workweeks are the norm, and speaking up about abuses sees one labeled "not a team player—" perhaps the reason for wage and overtime violations, for rampant employee misclassification, goes well beyond awareness and reporting, and solving these problems, therefore, will require a much more complex answer.

That, of course, only the future can tell.

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