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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 – For Public Education
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 to also include 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 afford legal counsel and has a claim normally adjudicated by the Commissioner that is now subject to arbitration to 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 a party filing any petition to compel arbitration of a claim pending before the Labor Commissioner serves the petition on the Labor Commissioner. The bill then gives the Labor Commissioner the authority to represent the claimant in an arbitration proceeding to determine the enforceability of the arbitration agreement.
While the impact of this bill may be minimal to public education employers based on the Labor Commissioner’s limited jurisdiction over public employee claims, this could still apply to employees unable to afford legal counsel who do 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.)