In Alfredo Sanchez v. Miguel Martinez, the Court docket of Attraction, Third Appellate District, held that though an worker who is just not licensed and permitted to take a paid 10-minute relaxation break in compliance with California regulation might assert a declare for both unpaid wages or search one further hour of pay (i.e., a relaxation break premium) below Labor Code Part 226.7, the worker can’t recuperate damages below each theories. All California employers will discover this case instructive, as it might additionally present a foundation to argue in opposition to comparable “double restoration” and/or “stacking” of penalties predicated on different Labor Code violations.
Factual and Procedural Background
In Sanchez v. Martinez, a gaggle of farm laborers who pruned grapes and had been compensated on a piece-rate for every grape vine pruned, filed a wage-hour lawsuit alleging numerous claims together with an alleged failure to have been permitted paid relaxation breaks. The laborers contended they weren’t paid their piece-rate — or any wage fee — throughout their relaxation breaks. Within the lawsuit, they pursued a concept of double-recovery, looking for each minimal wage damages for the precise unpaid break time and an extra relaxation break premium below Part 226.7. Following a trial on the deserves and an preliminary judgment in favor of the employer, an attraction and a partial reversal by the Court docket of Attraction as to the remaining break declare, after which on remand a discovering within the laborers’ favor, the trial court docket awarded the laborers $416 in damages and $17,775 in civil penalties. The trial court docket awarded these damages solely based mostly upon Part 226.7 and reasoned that the extra hour of pay was the one permissible compensatory treatment for the allegedly non-compliant relaxation breaks. Each events appealed.
The Court docket of Attraction’s Resolution
In a nuanced opinion, the Court docket of Attraction first pronounced that each theories of restoration had been independently viable. Extra particularly, the laborers sought compensatory damages below each California’s minimal wage regulation for the precise time they had been allegedly unpaid throughout relaxation breaks, and likewise sought a premium for every allegedly non-compliant relaxation break below Part 226.7. In reaching its holding, the Court docket synthesized two precedential circumstances (Bluford v. Safeway Inc., 216 Cal. App. 4th 864 (2013) (staff paid on a piece-rate foundation should nonetheless be compensated for time spent on relaxation breaks) and Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc., 40 Cal.4th 1094 (2007)), and relied on the revised piece-rate statute, Part 226.2, which turned efficient in 2016. The statute features a secure harbor provision that supplied employers a way to keep away from legal responsibility for Part 226.7 actions based mostly solely on the nonpayment of wages throughout relaxation intervals previous to the enactment of the statute.
In analyzing the statute, the Court docket reasoned that the Legislature contemplated that Part 226.7 actions may very well be asserted based mostly upon an employer’s failure to compensate staff for non-productive relaxation break time. The Court docket additionally confirmed that the laborers’ concept of restoration below the State’s minimal wage legal guidelines was equally viable. Counting on Bluford v. Safeway, Inc. the Court docket famous that “relaxation intervals should be individually compensated in a piece-rate system,” whereas additionally acknowledging that the Bluford determination had been modified when it was codified. Bluford, 216 Cal.App.4th at 872; see additionally Labor Code Part 226.2.
Evaluation of the Potential “Double Restoration”
Regardless that the Court docket discovered that each theories of restoration had been legally viable, it decided that every was a separate compensatory treatment predicated upon the identical alleged hurt. Subsequently, the well-established rule in opposition to “double restoration” precluded the laborers from recovering each the unpaid minimal wages and the one hour of premium pay. The Court docket tethered its conclusion to the California Supreme Court docket’s holding in Murphy that Part 226.7’s “further hour of pay” is akin to a wage and never a penalty. Accordingly, very similar to a vintner selecting between white wine and purple wine, the laborers must select both their precise damages (i.e., the alleged unpaid time) or the extra hour of pay below Part 226.7.
Right here, the trial court docket had awarded damages solely based mostly upon Part 226.7 and, due to this fact, the damages award was based mostly upon the upper further $8.00 per hour of premium pay quite than the fractional precise damages for the alleged unpaid relaxation break time ($8.00 x one-third of an hour, or $2.67, for every day that Martinez allegedly failed to offer paid relaxation intervals). Though the laborers weren’t permitted to decide on their most popular restoration methodology within the trial court docket – i.e., both the upper premium pay v. the smaller fractional precise damages – the Court docket reasoned that the trial court docket’s choice of the upper premium pay award was not reversible error as a result of it maximized the laborers’ restoration they usually weren’t prejudiced by the selection.
California employers ought to be aware two takeaways from this case. First, any employer using a piece-rate system ought to evaluation its insurance policies and practices to make sure it’s complying with the advanced piece-rate and relaxation break guidelines. Second, employers dealing with kitchen sink wage-hour lawsuits that doubtlessly search double restoration or the stacking of penalties might be able to argue for the discount of potential publicity based mostly upon the no double restoration rule set forth in Sanchez v. Martinez.
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