Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s violation of a California wage and hour law means the company also is liable under an unfair business practice law to a class of approximately 694 drivers who say they weren't paid for all hours worked, a federal judge ruled (Ridgway v. Wal-Mart Stores, N.D. Cal., No. 3:08-cv-05221, 4/25/16).
The Unfair Competition Law has a broad scope that covers any unlawful business act or practice, Judge Susan Illston of the U.S. District Court for the Northern Dis...trict of California said.
This means that violations of other laws are “independently actionable” as violations of the UCL, she said, granting summary judgment to the drivers on the issue of Wal-Mart's liability under it.
The company's policy of not paying separately for activities such as completing mandatory paperwork and fueling vehicles because they can be performed while completing tasks that are compensated is unlawful, Illston ruled at an earlier point of the litigation (106 DLR A-11, 6/3/15).
The ruling shows that California workers with unpaid wage claims may be able to recover under either the state's wage and hour law or the UCL.
Wages become a worker's property as soon as they are earned, Illston said. An employer commits an unfair business practice by withholding them from their rightful owner, she said. The UCL provides an alternative method for the employee to pursue wages, she said.
Wal-Mart said the drivers' motion was premature because discovery hasn't concluded. This is irrelevant because “the prior summary judgment adjudication in plaintiffs’ favor mandates that the Court likewise rule for plaintiffs as to their UCL claim,” Illston said.
Wagner, Jones, Kopfman, & Artenian LLP represented the drivers. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and the Law Offices of Jacob M. Weisberg represented Wal-Mart.