May 13, 2020
In addition to leading to actions by government agencies and lawsuits by individual employees, violations of the California Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders can lead to class actions.
In 2010, plaintiff brought a class action against 99¢ Only Stores for providing inadequate seating in violation of Wage Order No. 7.
The Court of Appeal held that the suitable seating requirement of Wage Order No. 7 falls within the terms of the California Labor Code Private Attorney General Act (Labor Code § 1198), which means the employer could be liable for penalties of $100 per affected employee per pay period for the first seating violation, and $200 per affected employee per pay period for each subsequent violation. Clearly, the sum total of these damages could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for larger employers. A different three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal later reached the same holding in a class action against Home Depot. (Note: The fact that a large employer acts a certain way does not necessarily mean it is correct under the law.)
What should employers do? First, employers should read the Wage Order which applies to their industry! The Wage Orders are written in fairly plain language, and should be understandable to employers. Second, employers should comply with the applicable Wage Order. Wage Orders can be quite complicated and confusing. If there is a question about whether one is complying, or how to comply, an employer should seek legal advice from a competent employment law attorney.
The Wage Orders are available at http://www.dir.ca.gov/iwc/wageorderindustries.htm.
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This article is based on the law as of the date posted at the top of the article. This article does not constitute the provision of legal advice, and does not by itself create an attorney-client relationship with Eskridge Law.