Garcia-Brower v. Nor-Cal Venture Grp., Inc., 2023 WL 2421824 (Cal. Ct. App. 2023)

The Labor Commissioner investigated alleged Labor Code violations at Nor-Cal Venture Group, Inc. and issued a wage citation for $900,000. The employer challenged the citation in an informal hearing and the Commissioner issued a subpoena to depose Nor-Cal’s person most knowledgeable. Nor-Cal refused to comply, arguing that the Commissioner’s broad investigatory powers, including the right to issue a deposition subpoena, were ineffective once the investigation ended, i.e., after the Commissioner issued the wage citation. The hearing was delayed to permit a trial court to consider the issue and the trial court ruled in the Commissioner’s favor. The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that when the Commissioner issued the wage citation, the matter moved “from an investigatory phase to an adjudicatory one.” Accordingly, because the deposition subpoena is a power existing solely in the investigatory phase, the Commissioner could not invoke it during the hearing stage.