Three Important Wage & Hour Changes
Uniform and Travel Reimbursements
Last week, a California court affirmed a victory for clothing retailer Wet Seal, who successfully defeated class certification on wage and hour claims for alleged failure to reimburse uniform expenses and alleged failure to compensate employees for expenses associated with using their personal vehicles to travel between store locations. The plaintiff and proposed class of retail employees alleged that Wet Seal required employees to purchase and wear Wet Seal clothing at work, but failed to reimburse employees for the cost of this alleged “uniform.” The employees further alleged that Wet Seal at times required them to use their own cars to travel from one store location to another for meetings or other business reasons, but did not reimburse employees for mileage or other travel expense. In seeking to have a class of some 12,000 employees certified, the plaintiff submitted declarations of several employees stating that they purchased Wet Seal clothing without being reimbursed and used their car to travel to stores without reimbursement. In opposing the motion, Wet Seal presented its expense reimbursement and work attire policies, which on their face made very clear that employees are entitled to reimbursement for travel expenses in accordance with law and employees are not required to purchase Wet Seal clothing but rather simply expected to dress in the fashion style of the store. Wet Seal also offered employees a generous discount on the cost of store merchandise. Wet Seal additionally presented declarations of numerous employees confirming that they understood they did not have to buy or wear Wet Seal clothing, and that they had submitted documentation of travel expense and been reimbursed in accordance with company policy.
In concluding that class certification was not appropriate on these claims, the court explained that Wet Seal’s policies were facially lawful and thus could not supply the necessary “common policy” or “common method of proof” needed to support a determination of liability on a class wide basis.
Minimum Wage Going Up
For those California employers with employees in the cities of San Francisco and San Jose should take note of minimum wage increases for these cities taking effect in 2013. San Francisco passed its minimum wage ordinance a few years ago, but the minimum wage is subject to adjustment each year based on the cost of living. Effective January 1, 2013, the minimum wage for employees who perform at least two hours of work per week in the City of San Francisco is $10.55 per hour (up from $10.24/hour in 2012).
This week, San Jose voters approved a local minimum wage for the City of San Jose as well. With the passage of Measure D, the minimum wage for employees working in San Jose will be $10.00 per hour. The new San Jose minimum wage takes effect 90 days after the election results are certified, which means approximately March 2013.
The state minimum wage otherwise remains at $8.00 per hour.
Computer Professionals & Licensed Physicians
California Labor Code sections 515.5 and 515.6 provide an overtime exemption for certain computer professionals and licensed physicians/surgeons who meet specified criteria for exemption. One of those criteria is that they earn specified minimum pay, the amount of which is subject to annual adjustment by California’s Department of Industrial Relations (DIR). The DIR has announced increases to the minimum pay for these workers as follows:
- The DIR has increased the computer software employee’s minimum hourly rate of pay for exempt status from $38.89 to $39.90, the minimum monthly salary from $6,752.19 to $6,927.75, and the minimum annual salary from $81,026.25 to $83,132.93, effective January 1, 2013; and
- The DIR has increased the licensed physicians and surgeons employee’s minimum hourly rate of pay for exempt status from $70.86 to $72.70, effective January 1, 2013.
Employers relying on these exemptions for exempt computer professionals and licensed physicians/surgeons will want to take note of these changes and adjust their pay practices accordingly.