Question:

Recently, I read that the Governor cut funding to the Industrial Welfare Commission. I am scheduled to appear at a Labor Commissioner Hearing next month. Does this mean I do not have to appear? Who will enforce the labor laws in the future?

Answer:

You most likely heard about the state budget cuts affecting the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC). Because funding no longer exists for the IWC, effective July 1, 2004 the IWC ceased to operate. This change will not have any immediate effect on the enforcement of labor laws but will change how wage and hour laws are created.

The IWC was composed of five members appointed by the governor. Previously, the legislature had delegated to the IWC responsibility for determining the wages, hours and working conditions of employees in various occupations, trades and industries. The IWC published 17 wage orders specific to industry or occupation that contain information about hours and days of work, minimum wages, reporting time pay, record retention, cash, shortage and breakage, meals and lodging, meal periods, and rest periods.

The California legislature will now assume the responsibility previously held by the IWC, including setting the State’s minimum wage and determining other parameters for employees’ hours and working conditions. Even though the IWC is no longer in operation, the wage orders remain in place and employers must continue to post the applicable wage orders in their workplace. The Wage Orders remain available on line at the Industrial Welfare Commission’s website (http://www.dir.ca.gov/Iwc/iwc.html) but the site directs all other questions to the Divisions of Labor Standards Enforcement’s website
(http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/dlse.html) or district office.

The wage orders will continue to be enforced by the State’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, which is headed by the State Labor Commissioner. The Labor Commissioner will continue to receive and investigate complaints, hold hearings, take action to recover wages owed to employees, and assess penalties against employers who violate wage and hour laws and regulations.

The de-funding of the IWC will have no impact on the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. This department is charged with protecting the people of California from employment discrimination based on race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, gender identity, age, and sexual orientation.

Therefore, as a practical matter, the disbanding of the IWC will not change the workplace for employers or employees. Further, the enforcement of laws will not change. The Labor Commissioner will continue to enforce wage and hour issues and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing will continue to enforce the anti-discrimination provisions of the law. You can and should expect to attend the Labor Commissioner hearing as scheduled.
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