California Supreme Court Authorizes Additional Remedies For Meal Break Violations: Waiting Time And Wage Statement Penalties Now On The Menu

Published date30 May 2022
Subject MatterEmployment and HR, Employee Benefits & Compensation
Law FirmJones Day
AuthorMr Aaron L. Agenboard, Allison Crow, Mark Earnest, Kelsey Israel-Trummel, Cindi L. Ritchey, Amanda C. Sommerfeld, Liat Yamini, Steven Zadravecz, Elizabeth B. McRee and Rick Bergstrom

The California Supreme Court sides with employees in Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services, finding derivative claims available for waiting time and pay stub penalties available for meal and rest break violations.

This week, the California Supreme Court issued its opinion in Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services Inc., No. S258966 (May 23, 2022), resolving a long-standing debate over whether waiting-time and wage statement penalties are recoverable when an employer fails to pay employees premium pay owed for meal and rest break violations. Siding with employees, the Court held that that they are. Moreover, the Court additionally interpreted California's wage statement statute to require that wage statements reflect "all amounts earned and now owing, not just those amounts actually paid."

The decision reverses a 2019 decision by the Court of Appeal, which had held that unpaid meal period premiums were not "wages" under the Labor Code, and thus did not trigger derivative penalties for inaccurate wage statements under Section 226(e) or waiting time penalties for unpaid final wages under Section 203. In disagreeing, the Supreme Court explained that the Court of Appeal's holding rested on a "a false dichotomy" that assumed "that a payment must be either a legal remedy or wages." (Naranjo, No. S258966 at *9.) Premium pay, the Court held, "is both."

Reaching an issue that the Court of Appeal had not addressed, the Supreme Court additionally rejected the employer's argument that no wage statement violation occurs when a wage statement accurately reports all wages paid, but omits additional wages owed but not paid. Focusing on statutory language requiring that wage statements accurately report all wages "earned," the Court distinguished the holdings in...

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