Legal news and tips for employees, by Law Office of Eugene Lee

DLSE: Retaliated Employees Need Not File with State Labor Commissioner

There has been some confusion among federal and state courts in California as to whether an employee who has been the victim of whistleblower retaliation by their employer (under Cal. Labor Code s. 1102.5) must first file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner (under Cal. Labor Code s. 98.7) before they can proceed with filing a lawsuit in court. This is important because it potentially creates yet another hurdle for an employee seeking justice.

Federal Judge Oliver Wanger (US District Court for the Eastern District of California) has issued two decisions which said that employees must file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner: Neveu v City of Fresno 392 F.Supp.2d 1159, 1179-1180; and Fenters v Yosemite Chevron 2006 WL 2016536, *21-23. Judge Wanger’s colleague in the Eastern District, Judge Morrison England, disagreed: “To the extent that Neveu interprets Campbell as requiring that remedies before the Labor Commissioner must necessarily be exhausted as a prerequisite to suit under s. 1102.5, this Court disagrees.” Paterson v Cal. Dept. of General Services 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25957, *22 fn. 5.

Now a division of the California Department of Industrial Relations — the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement — has weighed in on this issue. In a July 2, 2007 opinion letter the DLSE said: “The DLSE’s position is that the wiser course is not to require exhaustion of Labor Code section 98.7 procedures prior to raising a statutory claim in a civil action.”

Here is a link to the DLSE opinion letter in pdf format (right click the link and choose save): DLSE Opinion Lttr re 1102.5 exhaustion

Where do I stand on this? Let’s just say, I think the DLSE is eminently wise and fair. Let’s just see if the courts are willing to listen to reason.

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3 Responses to DLSE: Retaliated Employees Need Not File with State Labor Commissioner

  1. I need copies of my personnel files from a Circuit City Store. The company closed (bankruptsy) in 2008. How can I get my files.

  2. I’m a commercial truck driver. I’d been driven for a long haul carrier for a month, but they expected drivers using a illegal log book while carrying a load which means I’m a solo (single driver) drive the same hours like teams( two drivers). I discharged from the company because I didn’t deliver the load from New York to California within 65 hours (2 1/2 days) for a solo driver. I meant this company expected a solo driver drove long hours but less hours sleeping.

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