A Voice for the Low-Wage Workers and Families in the State Capitol
It was the late 1970s and the school start was continually postponed so the farmworker children could be in the fields for the harvest instead of being in class. A group of advocates took the school district to court arguing the practice was illegal. They won.
What happened next is the reason why CRLAF exists -- instead of complying with the law the school board, made up of politically powerful business owners, changed the law to protect their business interests.
From that moment CRLAF was born. Our advocates represent farm workers and low-wage laborers throughout California.
Our legislative advocates engage in policy-oriented research and farm worker field surveys; conduct legislative and administrative advocacy in the wage & hour, unemployment insurance, and farm worker law areas, both at the state and federal levels, and provides training, technical assistance and advocacy support to California legal services programs.
The project’s chief objectives are:
To expand state labor laws affecting the rights of farm workers and other low-wage workers
To improve and reform state labor law enforcement efforts, particularly in the underground economy
To take a leadership role in opposing legislative or regulatory efforts to weaken new or existing labor rights that impact low-wage workers, and especially farm workers and their families
To undertake related legal and public policy research, education and media efforts
To initiate training of advocates, attorneys and agency staff about CRLA Foundation-sponsored labor laws
To monitor guest worker admissions into California under the federal H-2A program
To participate in national advocacy efforts around guest worker programs and farm worker legalization
The project’s non-lobbying activities are, and have been for many years, generously supported by the Rosenberg Foundation.
The Labor and Employment Law Project is directed by CRLAF’s Deputy Director and Legislative Director, Mark Schacht. A 25 year veteran of Capitol Hill and Sacramento with a long track record of successful legislative and regulatory advocacy on behalf of low-wage immigrant workers, and particularly farm workers.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 510-812-5399
A Track Record of Success
CRLAF sponsored, co-sponsored, or was instrumental in passing the following bills, including the Labor Code's Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA).
This landmark legislation creates a private right of action to enforce California labor law provisions previously reserved for enforcement solely by the state. CRLAF wrote the first draft and co-sponsored the original bill (SB 796) with the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. Employers immediately made strenuous efforts to completely repeal PAGA once it took effect. This effort fueled a budget stalemate that was only resolved after extensive negotiations that led to the enactment of a subsequent bill (SB 1809) which preserved the thrust of PAGA, while requiring administrative exhaustion before a right to sue would vest. [Chaptered Bill Text of SB 796. Complete Legislative History of SB 796. Chaptered Bill Text of SB 1809. Complete Legislative History of SB 1809.]
Combating Wage Theft -- AB970
CRLAF was the sponsor of AB 970 (Nazarian), which closed gaps in the Labor Commissioner’s legal authority that precluded her from issuing citations to employers for two increasingly common underground economy wage theft violations: illegal deductions made from workers’ wages for tools or equipment, and payment of sub-minimum wages below levels mandated by applicable local ‘living wage’ laws. Not only has AB 970 increased the likelihood that more workers victimized by unscrupulous employers will actually recover their stolen wages as a result of a Labor Commissioner workforce-wide investigation and citation process for these two violations, but AB 970 will also reduces state costs associated with the remedying of these violations through individual Berman hearings or civil lawsuits. [Chaptered Bill Text. Legislative History.]
Preventing Sexual Harassment -- SB 1087
SB 1087 attacks a widespread culture of sexual harassment of farm worker women by FLCs and their supervisors through a combination of mandatory annual sexual harassment prevention training and testing of licensees; annual training of their supervisors; and by training of farm workers in how to prevent, identify and report sexual harassment. The bill also makes more than a dozen other needed changes to the state Farm Labor Contractor Act, including authorizing the Labor Commissioner to take adverse license actions against sexual predators. [Chaptered Bill Text. Complete Legislative History.]
Penalties for Employers' Failure to Pay Wages on Time -- AB 1723
AB 1723 requires the Labor Commissioner, when she cites for a minimum wage violation, to also determine whether workers are owed ‘waiting time’ penalties for an employer’s failure to pay all wages when due. The bill has major financial implications for farm workers and other low wage workers, whose unpaid minimum wages are often far less than any applicable ‘waiting time’ penalties. [Chaptered Bill Text. Complete Legislative History.]
Joint + Several Liability for Wage Theft --AB 1897
AB 1897 makes most California employers (including growers) jointly and severally liable for their labor contractors’ wage theft and worker’s compensation violations for the first time under California law. (CRLA Foundation has unsuccessfully pursued similar legislation in the past that would have applied only to growers and their FLCs.) AB 1897 was sponsored by the state Labor Federation, the Teamsters, and the UFCW. CRLA Foundation was a significant partner in testimony before key committees, and in lobbying for passage and a signature for the bill. [Chaptered Bill Text. Complete Legislative History.]
Successorship Liability for Wage Theft -- SB168
SB 168 dramatically revises successorship liability law to greatly strengthen legal protections for farm workers against Farm Labor Contractors’ wage theft, which is often committed as part of a fraudulent shutdown of their contracting business. [Chaptered Bill Text and complete Legislative History.]
Immediate Recovery of Unpaid Minimum Wages -- AB 442
AB 442 requires the Labor Commissioner, when she issues a citation for a minimum wage violation, to also recover liquidated damages for victimized workers in an amount equal to the total amount of their unpaid minimum wages. This is another bill which puts money directly in the pockets of aggrieved low wage workers victimized by wage theft. [Chaptered Bill Text. Complete Legislative History.]
Mandated Heat Stress Recovery Period -- SB 435
SB 435 expands protections for California workers in five outside industries who request, but are denied, heat stress-related cool down ‘recovery periods’. SB 435 generally treats heat stress-related cool down recovery periods the same way daily rest periods are treated under the Labor Code: Employers in the five covered outside industries would be prohibited from requiring workers to perform any work during any heat stress recovery period and, if the employer failed to provide such a recovery period upon a worker’s request, the employer would have to pay the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation for each work day that a recovery period was not provided. Workers could pursue these claims either in court or in an administrative wage claim hearing. [Chaptered Bill Text. Complete Legislative History.]
Criminal Penalties for Withholdings Theft with PAGA Enforcement -- SB 390
SB 390 creates new Labor Code criminal penalties on employers who deduct, and then steal, workers’ paycheck withholdings, and also creates for the first time in state law a state cause of action (under the PAGA, discussed below) to attack this kind of unscrupulous employer conduct. [Chaptered Bill Text. Complete Legislative History.]
License Requirement for Farm Labor Contractor, PAGA Enforcement Option -- AB 1675
AB 1675 imposes stiff civil penalties on persons who operate as a farm labor contractor without first securing an FLC license. Farm workers aggrieved by actions of an unlicensed farm labor contractor can collect penalties in a PAGA civil law suit, provided the State of California does not pursue the violation itself.[Chaptered Bill Text.]
Right to Employment Records Upon Request -- AB 2674
AB 1675 imposes stiff civil penalties on persons who operate as a farm labor contractor without first securing an FLC license. Farm workers aggrieved by actions of an unlicensed farm labor contractor can collect penalties in a PAGA civil law suit, provided the State of California does not pursue the violation itself.[ Chaptered Bill Text.AB 2674 requires employers, for the first time under California law, to provide current and former employees, or their representatives, with a copy of their employment-related personnel records, which are often a vital first step in determining the merits of a worker’s claim of retaliation. This bill was vetoed once before, and represents a victory for worker advocates ‘staying the course’ to get relief in this important area. [Chaptered Bill Text.]
Guidance in Defining "suffers injury" for Employer's Failure to Provide Itemized Pay Stubs -- SB 1255
SB 1255 resolved longstanding conflicts over whether a worker “suffers injury” when an employer fails to provide him or her with a complete and accurate itemized pay statement as required by state law. CRLAF negotiated a compromise with trial lawyers, unions, and business interests which provides the courts with a better roadmap in how to interpret employer violations of these critical worker protections in the future. [Chaptered Bill Text. Complete Legislative History.]
Itemized Wage Statements Required -- AB 243
AB 243 enacted over the strong opposition of California agriculture, requires farm labor contractors to provide their farm worker employees with an itemized wage statement which discloses all of the names and addresses of every entity (i.e., growers or other FLCs) to whom the farm worker was supplied during the pay period. [Chaptered Bill Text.]
Berman Hearings Available for Minimum Wage Violations -- AB 240
AB 240 requires the state labor commissioner to allow workers not paid the minimum wage to recovery minimum wage liquidated damages in a Berman administrative wage claim hearing, which parallels rights they have if they pursue such a claim in a civil action. This is a critical advance for low wage workers whose only avenue to redress wage theft is a Berman hearing (because their individual wage claim is too small to be taken by a private attorney or a legal services law firm). [Chaptered Bill Text.]
Omnibus Wage Theft Statute -- AB 469
AB 469 enacted an omnibus wage theft statute with many new Labor Code protections aimed particularly at vulnerable low wage immigrant workers laboring in the underground economy; CRLA Foundation wrote first draft and co-sponsored the bill with the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. [Chaptered Bill Text.]
Additional Noteworthy CRLAF Sponsored Legislation
Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) -- SB 796 and SB 1809
Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) This landmark legislation creates a private right of action to enforce California labor law provisions previously reserved for enforcement solely by the state. CRLA Foundation wrote the first draft and co-sponsored the original bill (SB 796) with the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. Employers immediately made strenuous efforts to completely repeal the PAGA once it took effect. This effort fueled a budget stalemate that was only resolved after extensive negotiations led to enactment of a subsequent bill (SB 1809) which preserved the thrust of PAGA, while requiring administrative exhaustion before a right to sue would vest. [Chaptered Bill Text of SB 796. Complete Legislative History of SB 796. Chaptered Bill Text of SB 1809. Complete Legislative History of SB 1809.]
Financial Responsible Labor Contractor -- SB 179
The Financially Responsible Labor Contractor Act (SB 179) This groundbreaking statute, opposed by dozens of employer groups in the Legislature, makes entities liable when they knowingly entered into a financially insufficient contract for labor or services in five underground economy industries. CRLA Foundation wrote first draft and co-sponsored the bill with the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. A prior version was vetoed. [Chaptered Bill Text. Complete Legislative History.]