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There are many ways to interpret labor laws: so be careful

Like most of you, I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on a hit T.V. drama. The likely hood of either of these occurring is VERY low. However, again like most of you, I put on my critical thinking hat as I read through the latest rulings regarding employment law.

Since the state of California has created labor laws beyond the standards of the Federal Law, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) uses the Enforcement Policies and Interpretations Manual to regulate employment law.

Here lies the problem.

In its analysis, (Alvarado v. Dart Container Corporation) the Supreme Court also provided lengthy discussion on whether the DLSE’s manual was binding authority on the courts. The Supreme Court concluded that the DLSE Enforcement Manual is a void underground regulation and not entitled to any deference. However, the Supreme Court held that it still could consider the DLSE’s interpretation if the court was independently persuaded that the interpretation was ultimately correct.”

Which simply means that the labor law standards are subject to interpretation.

In an earlier case (The Tidewater Marine Western Inc. v. Bradshaw) the court determined that the DLSE manual is simply “one among several tools available to the court,” stating that “depending on the context, it may be helpful, enlightening, even convincing,” or “it may sometimes be of little worth.”

What does this mean for your business?

Clarity in the law would be nice. Unfortunately, that is not what we got. Instead, this latest case demonstrates that the court has the final say and interpreting power. History will show that the court favors the plaintiff in labor law disputes.

A word of advice. If in doubt, seek legal counsel.

Unfortunately, since the law is open to interpretation, an employer’s good intentions can be taken to task. Engaging the knowledge and expertise of a business law firm can be the best insurance policy available.

Rorie Johnston is CEO of the Escondido Chamber of Commerce.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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