Carine Fabius

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office: Where Employers Go To Die

Fears come in all shapes and sizes–death by drowning, falling from a great height, having a brain fart during a speech; mine is getting caught up in the justice system. You know, wrongfully accused of a crime, debilitating legal bills, prison time with really mean people. Well, I didn’t quite go there but I did get trapped in the discriminatory practices that masquerade as the rule of law down at the California Labor Commissioner’s (LC) office. The experience taught me that I am not wrong to fear the wheel of bureaucracy.

I had the good fortune of hiring a professional scammer (PS) as my office manager. I’m dying to tell you all the details but your eyes would glaze over. Suffice it to say that after working two days for my company (wage value: $320), the PS filed a claim in the LC’s office for $4800! After spending a huge amount of time, energy and money fighting this claim, I was reminded that Lady Justice is no lady, and more often than not, she’s just a bitch (think honor killings, unprosecuted sexual assaults in the military, and other calamities endured by so many). The bitch is especially present if you are an employer in a stare down with the California LC. As far as the LC is concerned, employees can do no wrong. The labor attorney I consulted with warned me about this, and it’s a well-known fact to everyone in the legal community.

I provided all the necessary documents to prove my case. The PS’ lies under oath were easily disproven. At one point, the hearing officer looked at me, shook his head and rolled his eyes over the woman’s shenanigans. However! Even though he had total discretion over the proceedings, he chose to nail me on a technicality — my misreading of one of the claim’s instructions. I believe he thought he was doing me a favor when he decided to split the judgment down the middle. I only had to pay her a mere $2500! Isn’t that great?!

Why, oh why hadn’t I Googled the PS before hiring her? After the fact, I learned that filing fake lawsuits is her thing. Plus, I fear she may be a psycho. As I searched the web I also found that she started a Facebook page using my company name. The page’s photo is of a woman with a gunshot wound between the eyes, blood streaming down her face. Doesn’t that make you feel warm all over? I’ve contacted Facebook about the fake page, but hearing back from a human being at FB is an epic moment in anyone’s life, and I’ve not yet had that pleasure.

A governmental body, which looks out for employees is a good thing — plenty of corporate hoodlums out there. But what about us employers? Especially little guys like me? Small businesses created 8.7 million jobs between March 2011 and March 2012. And of the 188,000 new jobs created this June, 45 percent of them were created by companies with fewer than 50 employees. I think we count for something. No, I’m being too modest. We’re crucial to the economy! My reaction may have been overly emotional, but when I got the ruling in the mail, I felt like shutting down the joint.

Why is this state so unfriendly to employers? And more specifically, what exactly is the penalty for perjury at the LC’s office? They make you swear to tell the truth, make a very big deal out of lying under oath; and they record the proceedings, although why, I couldn’t say. The PS said one thing in the first hearing, then completely denied it in the second hearing. I pointed this out, but no one cared to verify the recordings. The tired excuse is that the LC’s office is understaffed and underfunded. Guess what? I don’t care, and neither does my small company’s bank account.

Consider yourself forewarned. If you are an employer and you get dragged into the LC’s office, chances are you will lose. Filing an appeal involves hiring an attorney, and paying the employee’s legal fees if you lose again. And chances are that you will lose.

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