Bradshaw Resigns as Labor Commissioner

Victoria L. Bradshaw, who guided the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) through a period of visibility and innovation during a time of lean resources, has resigned as State Labor Commissioner.

Bradshaw's resignation was effective in September. She left her post to take a new position as Executive Director of Pro-Wilson '96, an organization supporting Governor Wilson's presidential candidacy. That position, however, ended when the Governor withdrew from the presidential race. Bradshaw indicated that she expects to continue serving in the Wilson Administration in some capacity, although not at DIR.

Appointed by Governor Wilson in October, 1991, Bradshaw previously served as a retail executive and personnel director and as a consultant. Her appointment coincided with the beginnings of a series of lean budgets in California, as declining revenues and growing demands for services limited funds available for state programs. These fiscal constraints also impacted the DLSE, which adjudicates wage claims, investigates discrimination complaints, licenses employers to employ labor in certain industries, and enforces laws involving such areas as mandatory workers' compensation coverage and child labor.

Bradshaw, recognizing lean resources, led DLSE in developing ways to accomplish greater levels of compliance and enforcement through joint enforcement and education efforts. Over 17 months during 1992 and 1993, DLSE and the Employment Development Department (EDD) jointly conducted the Business Compliance Survey Program (BCSP). This joint enforcement effort inspected businesses for compliance with employer tax requirements and labor laws and demonstrated the effectiveness of agencies pooling their resources to conduct joint enforcement efforts. An important finding of the BCSP was the strong correlation between non-compliance with labor laws and non-payment of taxes.

In 1992, Governor Wilson's Farm Worker Coordinating Council, established in response to a devastating freeze the prior year which ruined crops and left many farmworkers without employment or adequate services, called for creation of a multi--agency task force to enforce laws protecting farm workers. Meeting this goal, Bradshaw launched the Targeted Industries Partnership Program (TIPP), a joint education and enforcement effort involving the DLSE and the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL)/Wage and Hour Division as the lead agencies. Other state and local agencies have participated in TIPP as needed.

TIPP focuses on violations and compliance in agriculture and the garment industry, another industry with a well-documented history of abuses. TIPP is based on the premise that education efforts would benefits employers and employees of their legal obligations and rights under the law, with enforcement efforts focused on the most serious and recidivist violators. The effort provides for more effective and efficient enforcement by pooling resources and leads. In addition to increased levels of enforcement, TIPP has produced unprecedented levels of compliance in both industries. After a two-year pilot period, Bradshaw signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the DOL making TIPP a permanent effort.

These successes with multi-agency joint enforcement efforts -- and the lessons and experience gained from them -- spawned another partnership involving the Labor Commissioner. In 1993, by Executive Order, Governor Wilson created the Joint Enforcement Strike Force (JESF) to attack abuses in California's estimated $3 billion underground economy. The task force, led by EDD with DLSE and other government agencies participating, has been investigating businesses suspected of operating in the underground economy in a variety of industries. The Legislature codified the JESF in 1994.

Immediately upon her appointment as Labor Commissioner, Bradshaw's office was pushed into the spotlight as California began legally protecting employees from sexual orientation employment discrimination. In Soroka v. Dayton Hudson Corp., the First District Court of Appeal ruled that Labor Code Sections 1101 and 1102 protecting an employee's political activity also prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Bradshaw immediately directed her staff to begin accepting sexual orientation discrimination complaints for investigation under her office's discrimination complaint process and she trained her staff on proper procedures. The holding in the Soroka case was codified by the Legislature under Assembly Bill 2601, which Governor Wilson signed in 1992. AB 2601 also added exemptions for employers with fewer than five employees, not-for-profit businesses, and religious organizations.

Bradshaw was a very visible Labor Commissioner, receiving profiles in newspapers and magazine and appearing often on television and radio segments. Her most visible action, receiving national attention, was in August when she personally led a pre-dawn enforcement action in El Monte on an illegal sewing operation in an apartment complex. She and her team uncovered a slave labor operation in which over 70 Thai immigrants had been held captive and forced to manufacture garments to pay for the cost of their entry into the United States. In addition to freeing the workers, the Labor Commissioner filed a lawsuit to recover wages owed to the workers and obtained a court order freezing the captors assets.

In departing as Labor Commissioner, Bradshaw said that she is most proud of the accomplishments her office made in most effectively deploying its resources during lean times.