SB 1384 – Authorizes The Labor Commissioner To Represent Claimants Who Are Financially Unable To Afford Legal Counsel In Arbitration Proceedings Arising From Claims Within The Commissioner’s Jurisdiction

CATEGORY: Client Update for Public Agencies, Fire Watch, Law Enforcement Briefing Room
CLIENT TYPE: Public Employers, Public Safety
DATE: Oct 26, 2020

Currently, in a superior court proceeding challenging a Labor Commissioner decision, the Labor Commissioner has the discretion to represent a claimant who is unable to afford their own counsel and has requested such representation.  In addition, if the claimant is only seeking to uphold an amount awarded by the Labor Commissioner and is not objecting to any part of the Commissioner’s order, the Labor Commissioner must represent the claimant in the superior court proceeding.

SB 1384 now expands the Labor Commissioner’s discretion to represent a claimant who is unable to afford their own counsel such that it also includes arbitration proceedings that are applicable to the claim in lieu of a judicial forum.  In addition, SB 1384 also provides that any claimant who is unable to afford legal counsel and who has a claim normally adjudicated by the Commissioner that is now subject to arbitration can have the Labor Commissioner represent them in the arbitration. In such cases, the Labor Commissioner, upon request, must represent such a claimant who is unable to afford counsel if the Labor Commissioner determines that the claim has merit after conducting an informal investigation.

Finally, SB 1384 requires that any petition to compel arbitration of a claim pending before the Labor Commissioner be served on the Labor Commissioner. The bill then gives the Labor Commissioner the authority to represent the claimant in any such proceedings to determine the enforceability of the arbitration agreement.

While the impact of this bill may be minimal to public employers based on the Labor Commissioner’s limited jurisdiction over public employee claims, this could still apply to public employees unable to afford legal counsel who does have a valid claim and are subject to a mandatory arbitration agreement of such claims. 

(SB 1384 amends Section 98.4 of the Labor Code.)