Among the few bills that were passed and signed in 2008 is SB 1352 (Wyland - Public works: prevailing wage rates: wage and penalty assessments)
This bill allows employers who have been assessed penalties for alleged violations of labor law to place the amount of the assessment in an escrow account to be held by the Department of Industrial Relations during the period in which the assessment is being challenged. This allows employers to avoid being charged with additional liquidated damages simply because a specified time period has elapsed before the matter is settled. The bill also eliminates a plan to shift to the use of administrative law judges for the hearing of cases, thus continuing the use of DIR hearing officers for such issues.
Prior law required the Labor Commissioner to issue a civil wage and penalty assessment to a contractor or subcontractor, or both, if the Labor Commissioner determines, after investigation, that the contractor or subcontractor, or both, violated the laws regulating public works contracts, including the payment of prevailing wages. Prior law permitted the affected contractor or subcontractor to obtain review of a civil wage and penalty assessment or a notice of withholding, as defined, by transmitting a written request for a hearing to the office of the Labor Commissioner within 60 days after service of the assessment or notice and requires a hearing officer, as specified, or, after January 1, 2009, an administrative law judge appointed by the Director of Industrial Relations, to commence a hearing within 90 days of receipt of the request. It provided that, after 60 days following the service of the assessment or notice, the affected contractor, subcontractor, and surety on a bond issued to secure the payment of wages, as provided, become liable for liquidated damages in an amount equal to the amount of unpaid wages, as specified. Prior law authorized the hearing officer, as specified, or, after January 1, 2009, an administrative judge, to waive payment of the liquidated damages if the affected contractor or subcontractor demonstrates, as provided, that he or she had substantial grounds for believing the assessment or notice to be in error, and also permits the affected contractor or subcontractor to obtain review of the administrative decision by filing a petition for a writ of mandate to the superior court within 45 days after service of the decision.