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Public employers not subject to some California overtime, pay rules

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In what may be a classic case of “do as I say, not as I do,” a California appeals court has ruled that public employers in the state don’t have to follow the same state overtime and pay rules that apply to private employers.

Recent case:
Randell Johnson, who worked for the Arvin-Edison Water Storage District, filed a class-action complaint, alleging that he and a group of current and former employees had not been paid overtime and provided with meal breaks as required by the California Labor Code and the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) wage orders.

Johnson also argued that employees were entitled to immediate wage payment when they quit or were discharged.

The employer argued that, as a public entity, it’s exempt from California wage-and-hour statutes. It said the federal Fair Labor Standards Act applies. It requires employees to receive overtime wages for work performed in excess of 40 hours in a workweek, and does not require meal periods.

Johnson said the water district should be required to follow the more stringent California Labor Code provisions and wage orders such as section 510 (requiring overtime for any work performed in excess of eight hours in one workday) and section 512 (requiring specific meal periods).

The Court of Appeal of California agreed with the district and said it only had to follow federal rules. (Johnson v. Arvin-Edison Water Storage, No. F05621, California Court of Appeal, 5th Appellate District, 2009)

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