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Cal. Court of Appeal Rejects Technicality-Based Wage Statement Claim

by D. Gregory Valenza | | April 10, 2019

If you aren’t aware, California employers have to provide wage statements that include specific information. Failing to get it right can lead to significant penalties.  The requirements are contained in Labor Code section 226 (here).

One of the requirements that should be easy to address is the name and address of the employer.  The plaintiff in Savea v. YRC, Inc. claimed in a lawsuit that YRC, Inc.’s wage statement was defective because it did not provide the employer’s complete name or address.  In particular, the plaintiff alleged that YRC, Inc. used its official “Fictitious Business Name” (YRC Freight), rather than YRC, Inc. The plaintiff also claimed that YRC’s address did not include a “Mail Stop” or a “Zip+4” zip code. 

The wage statement law makes it easier for employees to calculate and evaluate whether they are paid properly, and make it easier for employees who believe they are underpaid to assert legal claims.  But it’s not supposed to be a “gotcha game,” requiring detailed information that is not required, either to determine wages or assert legal claims.   Therefore, the trial court dismissed the lawsuit because the officially filed “Fictitious Business Name” (YRC Freight) was legally sufficient and the law neither required a “mail stop” nor a “zip+4.”  The statute simply does not specify that the employer must be so exacting. 

The Court of Appeal agreed the lawsuit had no merit.

Regarding the Fictitious Business Name, YRC registered “YRC Freight”  in two different counties.  A Fictitious Business Name is legally the same as the corporate name. That is, a company can sue or be sued in its Fictitious Business Name. And the statute does not say that the “corporate name registered with the Secretary of State” is required.  So, there is simply no purpose behind requiring the corporate name that would advance the intent of the law.  That said, it’s not the same thing to shorten a corporate name or just print the logo on the wage statement, unless the shortened name is a duly filed Fictitious Business Name. So, be careful relying on that particular holding. And Fictitious Business Names expire, so be double careful to renew them.

Here, YRC Freight was YRC’s actual, recorded fictitious business name in California at the time it issued the wage statements of which Savea complains. YRC had a valid fictitious business name statement and renewal recorded in San Bernardino and Sacramento Counties, and YRC Freight was the company name it used “to transact all regular business in California . . . .” Because YRC properly listed its “name” on its wage statements, there was no violation of section 226, subdivision (a)(8). 

As to the Zip+4 and “mail stop” number, the Court was similarly unimpressed: 

section 226, subdivision (a)(8) simply requires the employer to provide its “address,” which YRC did by listing its proper mailing address—10990 Roe Avenue, Overland Park, KS 66211. Savea does not dispute that this is the correct mailing address. He also does not dispute that the DLSE wage statement template contains no mail stop code or ZIP+4 Code, and has cited no authority to support his position that these additional items are required. We conclude, as the trial court did, that YRC fully complied with section 226, subdivision (a)(8) by providing its “name and address” in its wage statements

Of note, the DLSE’s own form wage statement template includes neither the “mail stop” or Zip+4.  If the address was correct, what was the point of suing YRC based on this alleged defect that wasn’t? 

Anyway, this case is Savea v. YRC, Inc. and the opinion is here.

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