Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Beck v. Stratton (Cal. Ct. App. - March 8, 2017)

The Court of Appeal publishes this opinion today.  One in which, as the old saying goes, the employer was penny-wise but pound-foolish.

Thomas Beck hires Anthony Stratton, and two months later, Stratton quits.  He asks that he be paid (among other things) his accrued wages of $1,075, which corresponds to 43 hours times Stratton's hourly wage of $25.

As the Court of Appeal explains, "Beck promptly directed his payroll service, ADP, to pay Stratton the $1,075 in ordinary wages. For reasons 'no one at trial could explain,' ADP paid Stratton only $771.45 instead of the requested $1,075."  So Stratton's owed a whopping $303.55.

So Stratton files a claim with the Labor Commissioner.  And rather than just paying the $303.55, there's a hearing.  At which point the amount owed grows significantly.  The Commissioner awards Stratton not only his $303, but an additional $5,757.46 in liquidated damages, interest, and statutory penalties as well, for a total award of $6,060.96.

Yep.  The employer gets spanked for twenty times what he originally owed.

But it doesn't end there.

The employer then files an appeal in the superior court.  But loses.  Again.

At which point the employee moves for his attorney's fees.  Which are granted.  Resulting in an additional $31,365 added to the judgment.

Remember.  This thing was originally over $303.55.

And the Court of Appeal affirms.

The only thing the employer has going for him is that the pain at least ends here.  The Court of Appeal, in its discretion, orders each side to bear its own costs.

Avoiding yet additional tens of thousands in fees added to the judgment.

Lesson of the day: Sometimes, just pay the $303.