California piece-rate employees to receive compensation for other tasks and rest breaks under AB 1513

On October 10, 2015, Gov. Brown signed Assembly Bill 1513 into law.  This law is the result of the hard fought litigation that led to the very favorable decisions in Gonzalez v. Downtown LA Motors, LP (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 36, and Bluford v. Safeway Stores, Inc. (2013) 216 Cal.App.4th 864.

All employees compensated on a piece-rate basis will now be separately compensated for: 1) rest and recovery periods, and 2) any time they spend under the employer’s control performing non-piece rate tasks.   For example, if a worker is paid a dollar for each widget he makes, under the old law the worker would only be paid for each widget and he would not be paid for his time taking rest breaks or performing other tasks that were part of his job (e.g. cleaning the shop, writing reports, ordering parts, etc.).  Now, the worker will be paid at least his average hourly rate for his rest breaks and at least minimum wage for the time he spends performing other tasks.

In addition to being paid for rest breaks and non-piece rate time, employees’ wage statements must show the amount of non-piece rate compensation.  Specifically, wage statements must now state the total hours of rest and recovery periods, the total hours of other nonproductive time, the employee’s rate of compensation for those periods, and the gross wages paid for those periods during the pay period.  While there is an exception to this rule, it is rare.  If you are paid on a piece-rate basis and do not see the above changes in your wage statement in 2016, please consult an attorney immediately.

The law also provides a “safe harbor” provision that allows employers whose present and/or past practices violated the terms of AB 1513 to avoid liability.  In order for an employer to avoid liability to their employees for unpaid wages, the employer must pay all eligible employees any unpaid wages in a timely fashion.  The terms of this safe harbor provision are very complex.  If you believe that your are entitled to past wages or if your employer attempts to provide you with unpaid back wages for missed rest breaks and/or “other nonproductive time,” please seek legal counsel to determine whether all requirements have been met.

Please contact your labor law counsel with any questions regarding piece-rate compensation or AB 1513.

By Michael Burstein | November 6, 2015

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