“Rowdy” Roddy Piper famously said: “Just when they think they have the answers, I change the questions.”

California employers can relate to this feeling of uncertainty, given a recent trend of California appellate decisions that have upended established legal “answers” regarding certain employment law issues. Following last year’s decision by the California Supreme Court in Dynamex to adopt a new “ABC test” to determine employment status under the Wage Order, and the Court of Appeal’s decision in AMN Healthcare that cast doubt 33 on years of established authority regarding non-solicitation of employee provisions, the Court of Appeal in Ward v. Tilly’s, Inc. recently adopted a new standard for reporting time pay. Because disputes over reporting time pay may lead to putative class action claims, this decision is particularly important for California employers.

California is one of a few states requiring employers to pay a certain minimum amount to nonexempt employees as “reporting time” (also referred to as “show-up pay”) if the employee reports to work but does not actually work the expected number of hours. Specifically, each of California’s Industrial Welfare Commission wage orders requires employers to pay employees “reporting time pay” for each workday “an employee is required to report for work and does report, but is not put to work or is furnished less than half said employee’s usual or scheduled day’s work.”

In Ward v. Tilly’s, a divided Court of Appeal has expanded the “reporting time” obligation to situations where employees are required to contact their employer two hours before on-call shifts—even though they never actually physically report to work.


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To help multi-state employers determine the minimum amount they must pay non-exempt employees, our chart below summarizes state and local increases this year. (Unless otherwise indicated, the following increases are effective January 1, 2019.)

This chart is intended to discuss rate changes that affect employers generally, and may not necessarily cover all industry-specific rate changes.


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The Department of Labor’s newly issued opinion letter provides good news for employers who use tipped workers. On November 8th, the DOL reversed its previous “80/20” guidance on use of the tip credit. The tip credit permits employers to pay employees in tip-based positions, such as bartenders and waiters, a lower hourly wage than the federally mandated minimum wage (with the thought that earned tips will make up the difference). Under the previous “80/20” rule, employers were barred from paying the lower cash wage to tipped employees who spent more than 20% of their time performing non-tip generating duties such as setting tables or cutting lemons.


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The California Court of Appeal recently held that an individual (i.e., an owner, director, officer, or managing agent of a corporate employer) can be found liable for civil penalties resulting from the employer’s failure to comply with California’s overtime pay and minimum wage laws  with no showing that the individual misused or abused the corporate laws for a wrongful or inequitable purpose.


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The First District Court of Appeal’s August 1, 2018 decision in Nishiki v. Danko Meredith, APC reminds employers of the harsh consequences for failing to timely (and properly) pay an employee’s wages upon resignation or termination.

The Court of Appeal addressed the Superior Court’s order 1) affirming the California Labor Commissioner’s award of $4,250 in “waiting time” penalties (i.e., the statutory penalty under Labor Code section 203 for the time an employee has to wait for the late payment of final wages), and 2) awarding Nishiki attorneys’ fees in the amount of $86,160 following the employer’s unsuccessful appeal from the Labor Commissioner to the Superior Court. On further appeal to the Court of Appeal, the employer argued the waiting time penalties were unwarranted and the attorney fees award was excessive. Though the Court of Appeal reduced the waiting time penalties, it otherwise affirmed the judgment and remanded for the trial court to award Nishiki additional attorneys’ fees incurred in responding to Danko’s appeal to the First District.


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Last week, in Troester v. Starbucks Corporation (Case No. S234969), the California Supreme Court weighed in for the first time on the viability of a de minimis defense to California wage and hour claims.

Many commentators have since rushed to declare that “de minimis” is dead. Not so.


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The California Supreme Court’s decision in Brinker v. Superior Court unleashed a flood of single-plaintiff and class-action lawsuits involving alleged violations of California’s meal and rest period laws. Under California law, employees are entitled to take at least one 30-minute uninterrupted, off-duty meal break no later than the end of their 5th hour of work. If employees work over 10 hours, they must be provided a second 30-minute meal period. Similarly, employees must also receive 10-minute rest periods for each 4 hour-period worked or major fraction thereof.


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We are pleased to report that a California federal judge put to rest claims by a proposed class of Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. workers that they weren’t given adequate meal breaks and rest periods, saying the company was exempted from liability by a valid collective bargaining agreement.

In reconsidering a portion of his November ruling