California union alleges state withheld work-from-home stipends for hundreds of employees

State employees at the California agency that investigates wage theft say their employer is failing to pay them their full wages, according to a labor complaint filed by the union that represents California state attorneys and administrative judges.

A group of 527 legal professionals allege that the Department of Industrial Relations failed to pay their telework stipends of $25 or $50 since October 2021 and now owes them at least $300,000.

The monthly payments were part of a contractual agreement signed in September 2021 between the state and the California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment, known as CASE, which represents the workers.

“It’s disrespectful to our members at DIR,” said CASE President Tim O’Connor. “I think it’s ironic that in their workplace, they’re treated so poorly when so much of their job is to make sure that other employers maintain a fair and just workplace.”

DIR did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The complaint, filed Wednesday through DIR’s wage theft portal, argues that each affected worker should receive $800 in overdue pay if they worked primarily from home or $400 if they mainly worked from the office.

CASE met with state officials many times to try and resolve the issue, O’Connor said, but they never received a clear answer about why members weren’t receiving their stipends. The wage complaint was a last resort option.

“We gave them every opportunity,” he said, “and I feel like we just got the runaround of, ‘We’re looking into it, we don’t know, we don’t have a date.’”

O’Connor hopes DIR will acknowledge its mistake and pay members their money without having to take the case to court. CASE members work hard. He criticized Gov. Gavin Newsom, an avid supporter of telework, for not stepping in to help CASE workers.

“The buck should stop with the governor,” O’Connor said. “Is he not paying attention to this? Is it not important to him?”