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California court rules Labor Code language is 'reasonably clear and specific'

By Takesha Thomas | Jan 18, 2019

FRESNO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) – A California appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling over a new wage requirement statute in California's Labor Code.

The California 5th District Court of Appeal on Jan. 4 affirmed a Fresno County Superior Court ruling that denied Nisei Farmers League, et al.'s motion challenging the constitutional validity of Labor Code section 226.2 in a complaint against the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency.

The court also affirmed the Superior Court's denial of declaratory relief, concluding that Nisei "failed to allege an adequate basis for finding the statute to be facially unconstitutional." 

The decision was written by Judge Herbert I. Levy.

The suit, filed in July 2016, stems from a recently enacted Labor Code section 226.2, which articulates "wage requirements applicable where an employer uses a piece-rate method of compensating its employees."

Under a piece-rate system, employees are not paid by the hour but rather by tasks or units of production completed. Nisei contends that their “'members’ employees regularly earn through piece-rate compensation sums that far exceed minimum wage or what they could expect to earn through hourly compensation,” the ruling states.

According to the filing, California has long recognized that wages may be paid on a piece-rate basis. Nisei argued that among other things, "provisions of section 226.2 were so uncertain as to render the statute void for vagueness."

Nisei argued that the law was "so unclear that it was impossible for the employers to know what would be expected of them to comply with the terms" or "whether they should even make the election to commit to the requirements of the affirmative defense," the ruling states.

"The statue explicitly defines 'other nonproductive time' to mean 'time under the employer’s control, exclusive of rest and recovery periods, that is not directly related to the activity being compensated on a piece-rate basis.' The language of the statutory definition is reasonably clear and specific and provides adequate notice of the nature of the conduct that is being described," Levy wrote.

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