Actually, it’s not a new police procedural coming this Fall. As I’ve written before, the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement now has a Criminal Investigation Unit – with powers to issue search warrants, make arrest, and even carry guns.

Like many, my initial reaction to labor commissioners with guns can best be described as abject horror. But I had the opportunity today to serve on the panel for a presentation to the California Minority Counsel Program (a non-profit organization dedicated to improving diversity in the legal profession). The presentation addressed the Wage Theft Protection Act and the Criminal Investigation Unit.

Joining me on the panel were Shannon Walpole (Director of Employment Law at Ross Stores, Inc.) and Elliot Beckelman (an attorney with the DLSE who works with the Criminal Investigation Unit). My colleagues, Cristina Olivella Armstrong and Tyreen Torner, organized the event and Cristina served as moderator.

Elliot was with the San Francisco District Attorney’s office for 15 years. He explained that my concern about armed SWAT teams storming the headquarters of employers who miscalculated the regular rate of pay was far-fetched. The unit has six peace officers and their focus will necessarily be on those who flagrantly mistreat workers.

Also, before a violator can be charged, the Criminal Investigation Unit will need to persuade the responsible district attorney that this is a matter worth pursuing. So, in theory, even if the DLSE gets overly worked up about a minor violation, it won’t go anywhere unless they convince the DA’s office to commit the resources to charge and prosecute a violation.

Am I comfortable with the idea of gun-toting DLSE agents? Not even close. But if they maintain a focus on sleazy characters who blatantly mistreat workers, we’re all better off.

If you’d like to see the PowerPoint from the presentation, it’s available here on CMCP’s website. Click on the link for Panel PowerPoint.

Thank you to Marci Rubin and CMCP, PG&E (for co-sponsoring the event), my fellow panelists, and everyone who attended.