Sonoma County And Its In-Home Support Services Public Authority Are “Joint Employers” Of Service Provider

In a victory for in-home service providers hired through public programs, a California court of appeal held that Sonoma County (County) and the Sonoma County In-Home Support Services Public Authority (Public Authority) were joint employers of a service provider.  The service provider was hired by a disabled service recipient under the California In-Home Support Services (IHSS) Act.  The worker in question in the case was never paid for any of the services she rendered to the disabled recipient.  The court held that the County and Public Authority were therefore potentially liable for the worker’s wage and hour claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act and California Labor Code.

The court found that a number of factors indicated that both the County and the Public Authority could be held liable as “joint employers.”  For example, the County and Public Authority made the final determination of the number of hours that the worker would work and what tasks the worker would perform, authorized the recipient to hire a household worker, determined the specific tasks that the worker would perform and for which the IHSS program would pay, determined how the worker would be paid, documented the hours worked, authorized payment to the worker, responded to and resolved payment inquiries by the recipient and worker, served as the worker’s “employer” for purposes of collective bargaining, determined the worker’s rate of pay for IHSS services performed, and held the power to terminate the recipient's participation in the IHSS program.  The court held these facts showed that the County and Public Authority exercised effective control over the wages of the worker and served as grounds for potential wage and hour liability.

The court also held that the California Industrial Welfare Commission, in its Wage Order applicable to household occupations, wage order No. 15–2001, did not intend to exempt public agencies or political subdivisions—in general—from complying with its wage, hour and working condition provisions.

For further information, contact your labor law counsel. 

By Russell Naymark

Legal Developments