California Business and Professions Code Section 17200
Business and Professions Code section 17200 provides:
"As used in this chapter, unfair competition shall mean and include any unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice and unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising . . . ." Business and Professions Code section 17203 provides in relevant part: "Any person who engages, has engaged, or proposes to engage in unfair competition may be enjoined in any court of competent jurisdiction. The court may make such orders or judgments . . . as may be necessary to restore to any person in interest any money or property, real or personal, which may have been acquired by means of such unfair competition. . . ."
The question of whether to provide the remedy of restitution is a mixed question of law and fact. However, once an unfair business practice has been shown under Business and Professions Code section 17203, the court "'may make such orders or judgments . . . as may be necessary to prevent the use or employment . . . of any practice which constitutes unfair competition . . . or . . . to restore . . . money or property.'That is, as our cases confirm, a grant of broad equitable power. A court cannot properly exercise an equitable power without consideration of the equities on both sides of a dispute." (Cortez v. Purolator Air Filtration Products Co. (2000) 23 Cal.4th 163, 180 (Cortez).)
The Cortez court concludes: "We conclude that orders for payment of wages unlawfully withheld from an employee are also a restitutionary remedy authorized by [Business and Professions Code] section 17203. The employer has acquired the money to be paid by means of an unlawful practice that constitutes unfair competition as defined by section 17200. The employee is, quite obviously, a 'person in interest' ([Bus. & Prof. Code,] 17203) to whom that money may be restored. . . . An order that earned wages be paid is therefore a restitutionary remedy authorized by the UCL." (Cortez, supra, 23 Cal.4th at pp. 177-178, italics added.)
Subsequently, the court again emphasizes that the failure to pay one employee wages is an unfair business practice. The court concludes: "We are satisfied therefore, that an order that a business pay to an employee wages unlawfully withheld is consistent with the legislative intent underlying the authorization in [Business and Profession Code] section 17203 for orders necessary to restore to a person in interest money or property acquired by means of an unfair business practice." (Id. at p. 178.)