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Miles Locker, a lawyer for the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement whose comments on employee meal and rest breaks have landed him in hot water with his bosses, could be taking a permanent break from his job. Locker’s attorney, StevenZieff of Rudy, Exelrod & Zieff, said he received a letter from the state’s Department of Industrial Relations informing him that Locker would be served with a notice of adverse action today. “I’m informed that after five months of being on administrative leave, the department is going to serve Miles Locker tomorrow with a notice of adverse action,” said Zieff on Monday. “We suspect it will be an attempt to fire Miles, to get rid of Miles,” Zieff added. But the accusations against Locker remain a mystery. Zieff said that despite repeatedly asking, he still hadn’t been told. And Dean Fryer, a spokesman for the Office of the Labor Commissioner, said he couldn’t comment because it was a personnel matter. “Frankly, we’ve been making efforts to find out exactly what they are accusing Miles of,” Zieff said. “We believe it is a totally trumped up, politically motivated abuse of government power.” “Obviously, the current administration has a different political agenda,” Zieff added. “And the people who are behind this campaign against Miles � are hell bent on punishing Miles for doing his job, for taking seriously his efforts to enforce labor law designed to protect workers.” Zieff said that he was concerned that state funds had been diverted to conduct “this witch hunt.” Locker can appeal the adverse action to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. But if he doesn’t receive satisfaction from his own agency, he can turn to the State Personnel Board. Locker’s situation comes amid a growing debate over the liability of employers who violate state laws concerning employee meals and breaks. Earlier this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration backed off a plan to relax the regulations following pressure from Democrats and labor groups. Also, three contradictory decisions have come down from three districts of the California Court of Appeal regarding the subject of employee liability for violating such rules. The California Supreme Court is expected to take up the cases. Locker spoke about meal breaks in July at a panel sponsored by the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Barristers Club. At the end of August, says Zieff, Locker was escorted out of his office, placed on paid leave and informed of an investigation concerning “incidents” at work. On Monday, Bingham McCutchen partner Michael Loeb said that Locker was invited to speak with Loeb and another lawyer last fall before the State Bar’s Labor and Employment section, but that Locker was instructed not to participate. Locker showed up anyway and sat in the front row. Loeb says the situation became heated when then-Labor Commissioner Donna Dell, a member of the panel, was asked by a member of the audience if Locker had been precluded from speaking. “Miles has been such a controversial subject for the last six years,” says Loeb. “A lot of it started when the Legislature passed AB 60 [in 1999] reinstituting the eight-hour day, and [Locker] was the point person in attempting to publicize what that meant and issuing opinion letters and issuing the new DLSE manual. He became a polarizing figure.” Zieff has previously said that several of Locker’s opinion letters had been depublished. “It is ironic that this is happening at a time when the governor holds himself out as bridging the gap between administration and labor,” says Zieff. It’s not the first time that Locker, a 16-year-employee of the DLSE, has been dinged for speaking up. In 2001, he was demoted from his position as chief counsel of the DLSE several weeks after writing an opinion letter stating that employees would lose their exempt status if they were forced to take vacation days. Matthew Ross, a partner at Leonard Carder in Oakland and San Francisco, said he didn’t know the specifics of Locker’s current situation, but that many in the legal community were upset when he was put on paid leave. “I think that people in the labor and employment community, and even people who represent management, were upset at this action,” Ross said. Ross described Locker as “hard working” and a “dedicated public servant,” speculating even that political opponents were working to undermine this agency by hurting one of its more capable employees.

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