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Labor Lawyer for State to Lose Position

June 27, 2001|LISA GIRION | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A state labor enforcement lawyer who issued an opinion on white-collar salaries that outraged major employers is losing his post, a state official said Tuesday.

Miles Locker, who has served as chief counsel for the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement for three years, has been informed he will lose his career executive assignment on July 15, said the state official who spoke only under the condition of anonymity.

After serving eight years as staff attorney, Locker was promoted to chief counsel in 1998. As a high-level civil servant, Locker may be able to remain with the department as a staff attorney but would sustain a pay cut of about 8%. His current salary is about $104,000.

Locker declined to comment. Two labor department representatives also declined to confirm Locker's status.

Locker has been at the center of controversy since May 30 when he issued an opinion letter, saying that companies planning summer shutdowns to save money must pay white-collar employees for a month if they worked any part of the month.

Employers, who were accustomed to paying furloughed white-collar workers for no more than a week, attacked Locker's opinion as not only legally wrong, but so potentially costly that it could trigger layoffs, which the shutdowns were designed to avert.

The opinion was rescinded Friday by Labor Commissioner Arthur S. Lujan. The state's two largest employer associations, the Employers Group and the California Chamber of Commerce, led a campaign demanding Locker's opinion be overruled.

Word that Locker's job might be in jeopardy has roiled the ranks of employment lawyers since late last week, prompting supporters to dispatch e-mails to Gov. Gray Davis.

"I am outraged," said Marilynn Mika Spencer, a San Diego labor and employment lawyer who sent an e-mail to Davis supporting Locker. "The demotion was right on the heels of the controversy about the letter. It was something that was so controversial to the management attorneys and their clients."

Dean Fryer, a spokesman for the Department of Industrial Relations, declined to comment on Locker's job status but said he serves at the pleasure of Lujan.

Stephen J. Smith, who, as director of the Department of Industrial Relations oversees the Labors Standard Enforcement division, also refused to discuss Locker's job.

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