Mamika v. Barca
In Mamika v. Barca (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 487, the Court of Appeal reversed a trial court's calculation of waiting-time penalties under Labor Code section 203.
There, an employee filed a claim for unpaid wages with the Labor Commissioner. After the employee prevailed in the administrative proceeding, the employer sought a trial de novo of the wage dispute in the superior court.
At the trial de novo, the employee testified that his annual salary was $ 60,000, that he occasionally worked Saturdays and Sundays, but worked an average of eight hours per day, five days per week.
The trial court awarded him unpaid wages and found he was entitled to waiting-time penalties under section 203 in the amount of $ 5,000, or one month's wage.
Because the employee was not confined to a normal five-day work week, the trial court equated the mandated penalty with one month's salary.
The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that the trial court's method of calculating the waiting-time penalties did not comport with section 203, and that the statute required the calculation of a daily wage rate multiplied by the number of days of nonpayment, for a maximum of 30 days, for a total of $ 6,923.10.
In interpreting section 203, Mamika looked to the express wording of section 203. "The statute does not provide for an award of 'up to one month's salary.' Had the Legislature intended to award penalties limited to one month's salary, section 203 would have been worded in that fashion." (Mamika v. Barca, supra, 68 Cal.App.4th at p. 492.)
Reasoning that the reference to "days" in the statute meant "calendar days," the appellate court concluded that unpaid wages continued to accrue on a daily basis for up to a 30-day period, and that penalties accrued not only on the days that the employee might have worked, but also on nonworkdays.
"The failure to pay wages has nothing to do with the number of days an employee works during the month. If it did, a part-time employee who worked two days a month would be entitled to only two days' penalty if he quit and was not paid the wages that were owed to him. This inconsequential amount would not further the statute's goal of encouraging prompt payment of wages due upon termination of employment. The targeted wrong is the delay in payment, a wrong that continues so long as payment is not made. A proper reading of section 203 mandates a penalty equivalent to the employee's daily wages for each day he or she remained unpaid up to a total of 30 days. This larger penalty acts as a disincentive to employers who are reluctant to pay wages in a timely manner, thus furthering the intent of the statutory scheme. ? Thus, the critical computation required by section 203 is the calculation of a daily wage rate, which can then be multiplied by the number of days of nonpayment, up to 30 days." (Id. at p. 493.)