New positive developments in CA law for workers paid on a flat-rate or piece-rate system

The California Supreme Court has denied petitions for review of two recent California Court of Appeal opinions with big consequences for truck drivers, auto mechanics, farmworkers, and others workers who are compensated through flat-rate or piece-rate incentive plans.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal held that an employer should have paid its automotive service technicians, who were paid on a flat-rate basis for repair work, a separate hourly minimum wage for time spent waiting for vehicles to repair or performing other non-repair tasks. (Gonzalez v. Downtown LA Motors, LP (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 36.)

While the Gonzalez court expressly did not consider “any obligation with respect to mandatory rest breaks,” the 3rd District Court of Appeal squarely did so in the other case. In line with the Gonzalez court, the 3rd District Court of Appeal held that “a piece-rate compensation formula that does not compensate separately for rest periods does not comply with California minimum wage law.” (Bluford v. Safeway Stores, Inc. (2013) 216 Cal.App.4th 864.)  Safeway's truck drivers, represented by Weinberg, Roger & Rosenfeld, have been pursuing class action litigation for twelve years over the issue.  The Court's decision requires the trial court to grant the plaintiff's motion for class certification—a crucial step toward trial.

The employer in each case filed a petition for review with the California Supreme Court.  Despite being bombarded with employer group letters predicting disaster for the California economy if the Supreme Court did not overturn the decisions of the Courts of Appeal, the Supreme Court denied the petitions in Gonzalez and Bluford on July 17 and August 28 respectively. (Gonzalez v. Downtown LA Motors, LP, No. S210681; Bluford v. Safeway Stores, Inc., No. S211498.)

Please contact your labor law counsel for more information. 

By Ted Franklin | September 9, 2013

Legal Developments