California Labor Code Section 226: Clarifications on Compliance with Wage Statement Overtime Listings

Stokes Wagner
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Anyone who has considered filing a petition for writ of mandate from a superior court ruling knows the odds are not in favor of the court granted this extraordinary relief. Apart from clear error, the requirement of showing irreparable harm is a hurdle that derails even the strongest advocates, but some cases present such important questions of law, they warrant a writ. General Atomics v. Superior Court, filed May 28, 2021, was one such case.

Plaintiff Tracy Green sued General Atomics (“GA”) for failure to provide accurate, itemized wage statements showing “all applicable hourly rates in effect during the pay period and the corresponding number of hours worked at each hourly rate” as required by Labor Code section 226, subd. (a). Rather than showing overtime hours in one entry paid at 1.5x the regular rate of pay, GA’s wage statements show all hours worked in one entry at the regular rate of pay and overtime hours at the 0.5x overtime premium rate. By combining non-overtime and overtime hours and listing the overtime hours a second time with the 0.5x overtime premium, the wage statements did not show the 1.5x overtime rate.

GA moved for summary judgment, arguing the wage statements complied because they showed total hours worked, with the standard rate, and overtime hours worked, with the additional premium rate. Asserting a class claim under Section 226 and a claim under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), Plaintiff admitted that GA’s method accurately displayed total payments ultimately received but claimed it did not accurately show the 1.5x overtime rate or allow employees to easily calculate it. The trial court denied the motion, but the court of appeal issued a writ of mandate finding that GA’s method of calculation complied with the Labor Code and that the plaintiff’s proposed alternative “makes it more difficult for an employee to calculate the statutory regular rate of pay and the statutory overtime rate.” Citing multiple examples to illustrate the varying approaches, the court found that this was especially true in instances where employees had multiple standard hourly rates in the same pay period.

While other formats may also be acceptable, “given the complexities of determining overtime compensation in various contexts,” GA’s method adequately conveys the information required by section 226 and allows employees to readily determine whether their wages were calculated correctly, which is, after all, the “core purpose of section 226.” This case clarifies what California employers should do to avoid any unnecessary confusion: confirm that all compensation is fully documented and accurately and clearly reflected in wage statements. GA’s method, while perhaps not the only acceptable format available to employers, is now an effective way to comply with the law as determined by published case law.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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