Castillo: One Step Ahead, Two Steps Again| Employees Compensation Information

By Michael Castillo

Friday, February 12, 2021 | 56 | 0 | min read

While the California Supreme Court rejected the first official legal challenge to Proposition 22, Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced new efforts to strengthen the Justice Department’s ability to protect workers’ rights.

Michael Castillo

On Jan. 28, Becerra announced the formation of the new Labor Rights and Fair Work Division under the Public Rights Division of the California Department of Justice, which previously served as the office within the Civil Rights Enforcement Division. Establishing the unit as a separate department will expand the DOJ’s ability to protect the health, safety and rights of all California workers, the Becerra office noted in the news release.

“With nearly 20 million California employees in industries such as agriculture and construction, information technology and entertainment, the section will use the attorney general’s law enforcement powers to continue to advocate for everyone in the state – no matter where they are from,” the press release said .

The new section focuses on protecting against workplace problems such as wage theft, health and safety violations, and misclassification of employees, which companies can use to avoid legal obligations for their employees such as paid sick leave, minimum wage, and employee compensation insurance.

Meanwhile, the California Supreme Court declined a constitutional challenge to Prop. 22 by a group of app-based drivers and the Service Employees International Union.

The court declined to hear the case in a 5-2 ruling, ruling that the case could be brought to a lower court.

The petition, alleging that the proposal illegally superseded the exclusive power of state lawmakers to establish a system of compensation for gig workers, was filed directly with the Supreme Court in an emergency in the hope of providing protection for thousands of gig workers. Restore workers AB 5.

The CAAA submitted an amicus curiae letter to the court in support of the petition for review, arguing that Prop. 22 bypassed the legislature in creating a new class of workers (with severely restricted rights) in violation of the Constitution.

While it is unclear whether SEIU will take the petition to a lower court, Hector Castellanos, one of the drivers named in the lawsuit who has been driving for Uber and Lyft for nearly five years, said in a statement: “We will take every available option California workers seek protection from attempts by companies like Uber and Lyft to undermine our democracy and attack our rights in order to improve their bottom line. “

It’s disappointing that the California Supreme Court refused to hear the case and the movement to protect gig workers took two steps back, even though we hope this fight is far from over.

Attorney General Becerra’s move to set up the Labor Rights and Fair Work Division is a timely step forward in protecting workers. We hope for a lot more progress in 2021.

Michael Castillo is the communications director for the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association. This statement is republished with permission from the CAAA website.

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