The new law, known as Senate Bill 306, was passed in early October and will come into effect on January 1, 2018.
“The timing is often suspect when an employee files a wage claim and then they suddenly get fired,” says veteran employee attorney Nicholas De Blouw from the law firm of Blumenthal, Nordrehaug and Bhowmik in San Diego.
“What Bill 306 does is just gives the employee some ammunition,” he says. “They can contact the California Labor Commission, inform them they filed a wage claim against their employer and tell the Commission, ‘I thought they were breaking the law and I was fired’.”
With or without a formal complaint, the California Labor Commission will have the power to investigate. If it finds reasonable cause to believe the employer has engaged in retaliation the Commission can apply to court for an injunction to reinstate the employee when the lawsuit goes forward. The Commission can even apply to have penalties levied against employers that refuse to comply with reinstatement.
In the past, employees would find themselves finding wrongful termination suits in addition to their wage and hour dispute. Under Bill 306, employees don’t have to lose everything.
“Instead of waiting for a wrongful termination suit that can sometimes take years, this provides the employee with a quicker avenue to maybe get their job back while the case is pending.
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De Blouw points out that California has long been “at the forefront of enacting labor code provisions that empower workers”.
“That is well known across the nation,” he says. “I think you are seeing lawmakers build on that already strong foundation. Senate Bill 306 is really significant for employees.
“I think it incentivizes people and makes people more comfortable about making a claim. People know if they make a wage complaint against a company and it they are fired in retaliation they can ask the Labor Commission to help them out,” adds De Blouw.