New Laws

New Law Promises More Liability for Employee Wages

California has been a pioneer in terms of enforcing the state’s wage and hour laws.  No sooner is a problem identified than a new law is passed to resolve the problem. This year, the governor signed SB 588 to help ensure employers pay employees the wages they are owed.  It creates powerful enforcement mechanisms for the Labor Commissioner, but it also expands who can be sued when an employee thinks s/he is owed wages.

New Law Promises More Liability for Employee Wages

The new law promises more liability for employee wages by making employers, directors, officers and managing agents responsible for unpaid wage claims.

SB 588 creates Labor Code section 588.1, which provides:

Any employer or other person acting on behalf of an employer, who violates, or causes to be violated, any provision regulating minimum wages or hours and days of work in any order of the Industrial Welfare Commission, or violates, or causes to be violated, Sections 203, 226, 226.7, 1193.6, 1194, or 2802, may be held liable as the employer for such violation.

In other words, directors, officers and managing agents of the employer can be personally liable for the failure to pay wages owed.  This new law may apply to any persons that have control over an employee’s wages, and will make it easier for employees to sue a variety of people to recover allegedly unpaid wages.  The move is seen as a strong tool in the effort to ensure employees are paid properly.  Unfortunately, in the wrong hands, it can also mean more individuals will be sued even when they were “just following orders.”

SB 588 also gives the Labor Commissioner the power to mail a notice of levy to anyone possessing any credits, money, or property belonging to the judgment debtor, or who owe any debt to the judgment debtor at the time they receive the notice of levy.  For example, if a customer owes the employer money, and the employer fails to pay the Labor Commissioner’s award, the customer could receive a notice of levy informing the customer to pay the Labor Commissioner instead of the employer.  If the customer fails or refuses to pay, the customer could be liable to the Labor Commissioner for the amount it should have turned over to the Labor Commissioner

If an employer fails to pay a Labor Commissioner judgment within 30 days, the employer can be prohibited from conducting business in California unless the employer obtains a bond equal to about 10 times the amount of the actual judgment. Failure to obtain a bond can result in a stop notice and, in the instance of a long-term care facility, result in denial of licensure.

SB 588 goes into effect on January 1st. The new law promises more liability for employee wages. In addition to reviewing your policies to ensure compliance with California law, employers should also consider Employer Practices Liability insurance and Directors and Officers Liability insurance to help defray the increasing costs of litigation.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

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