Attorneys on both sides of the debate say that Miles Locker was just doing his job. In May, Locker wrote a controversial opinion interpreting a new California labor law to mean that salaried employees lose their exempt status for the month if they are placed on involuntary leave, a common practice for companies that are threatened by power shortages and the economic slowdown. In other words, employers would have to pay them for any overtime that they later accrued if they returned to work that month (See "Opinion: Firms Can't Force Time Off," Photonics Spectra, July 2001, p. 60). As a result, Locker was demoted to staff attorney from his position as chief counsel for the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, and the opinion has been rescinded.
No one seems to want to take credit for the action, which prompted Locker's co-workers to petition Gov. Gray Davis to reinstate him to chief counsel. Sources at the division reportedly claimed that the orders for the demotion came from the governor's office; Davis spokeswoman Hillary McLean suggested that the demotion came from within the state's Department of Industrial Relations.
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