Appellate Court Rules in Favor of CWR in Piece Rate Truck Driver Case

The Center for Workers’ Rights began representing truck driver Curtis Vance after he attended our Workers’ Rights Clinic during its first year in January 2015. Vance often spent more than half his day “on duty, not driving,” which mostly went unpaid under the piece rate scheme. The Center filed his claim in February 2015.

 

Meanwhile, the Legislature enacted AB 1513, which provided a limited safe harbor to employers who have improperly paid their workers under a piece rate scheme. In December 2015, just days before the new law went into effect, the Labor Commissioner found that the company’s piece rate scheme did not compensate Mr. Vance for all his hours worked and awarded him $78,537.38 for back wages, meal period premiums and other penalties.

 

The employer appealed the Labor Commissioner’s decision and, citing the new law, argued at trial in the Superior Court in Sacramento that they should be absolved of all liability. The court agreed, finding that the employer’s payment of $4,762.52 in an effort to utilize the safe harder allowed it to evade penalties for even those claims specifically excluded from the new safe harbor provision. Although required by the safe harbor provision, the defendant, Quikrete, offered no evidence that it had paid all workers for whom piece rate wages had been improperly withheld.  We appealed the trial court’s order arguing that the employer did not comply with all the provisions of the safe harbor and, even if it had, the trial court improperly swept in claims with the safe harbor that were expressly excluded by the new law.

 

On July 18, 2018, with our co-counsel from Leonard Carder, LLC, we argued the case before the 3rd District Court of Appeal.  The court concluded that the trial court erred in granting the affirmative defense based on the safe harbor provision because Quikrete had not shown that it had paid all its employees as required by the statute and remanded to the trial court for re-hearing on that issue and to reconsider all issues included in the appeal.

 

The Center for Workers’ Rights will continue to represent Mr. Vance in the second trial.