In a test of new California legislation that went into effect in January 2016, Alston & Bird secured a significant trial victory for Quikrete© California LLC in a “piece-rate” wage dispute decided by the California Superior Court of Sacramento County.
The trial court granted judgment in favor of the company following the presentation of plaintiff’s case challenging Quikrete’s piece-rate pay structure for its truck drivers. Under California law, employers must separately compensate piece-rate workers for all non-productive time not directly related to the piece work. California’s new law (Labor Code section 226.2) provides a “safe harbor” for employers who wish to avoid liability for unpaid wages owed for non-productive time. Under the safe harbor, until December 2016, employers can elect to pay their piece-rate employees based upon a percentage of gross wages earned between July 2012 and December 31, 2015. The election insulates employers from all other liability for unpaid wages owed for non-productive time prior to January 2, 2016.
The case arose in December 2015, when the plaintiff, a California truck driver, filed a claim with the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) alleging that Quikrete had not fully compensated him for wages not otherwise compensated for by Quikrete’s piece-rate pay structure. The DIR awarded the plaintiff significant damages and penalties for wages that Quikrete allegedly failed to pay. Quikrete appealed the award to the Sacramento Superior Court, asserting that it was insulated from all claims by piece-rate workers because it had invoked the safe harbor provision of California’s new Labor Code section 226.2.
At trial before the Honorable Donald J. Currier, the court granted judgment in favor of Quikrete following the presentation of plaintiff’s case. In a well-reasoned opinion, Judge Currier ruled that the plaintiff had failed to satisfy his burden of proof and that Quikrete had adequately proven the affirmative defense provided by the new law.
Representing Quikrete are Alston & Bird partner James Evans and counsel Cassandra Hooks.
The case is Quikrete California LLC vs. Vance, case number 34-2016-00189234-CU-OE-GDS, in Superior Court of California.