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Eight-Year-Old California Unpaid Wages Lawsuit can go Forward

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Los Angeles, CAIt’s been a long haul for California Donning and Doffing lawsuit plaintiff Pamela Silva, who filed her unpaid wages lawsuit against her employer See’s Candy Stores Inc. (See’s Candy) back in 2009. And it’s not over yet, as a three-judge appellate panel ruled that Silva’s claims related to unpaid wages for meal and rest periods could go forward.

It’s a new day for the California Unpaid Wages lawsuit, even though the appellate panel ruled mostly in favor of the defendant. Nonetheless, the plaintiff’s years-long dispute with See’s Candy will go forward based on grounds granted to the plaintiff by the appellate panel.

The California employment lawsuit was originally filed in October, 2009. Silva alleged her employer failed to pay for all hours worked, and failed to pay overtime. The dispute qualified as a California donning and doffing lawsuit, in that Silva alleged See’s Candy forced her to perform work during her lunch hour, when she was – or so it was alleged – clocked out.

Donning and doffing is a general term used to address a wide-ranging basket of allegations encompassing the performance of tasks off-the-clock, which effectively sees the employee performing tasks on his or her own time. Donning and doffing relates to the putting on, and subsequent casting off of uniforms or protective gear mandated by the employer for work-related activities, while expecting employees to don, and then shed uniforms or protective gear on their own time. Depending upon the job involved, and the number of times donning and doffing would have to take place, such activity can eat several minutes out of a day, or accumulate hours over the course of a work week or month.

Silva no longer works at See’s Candy.

Central to the dispute is a rounding policy maintained by the defendant that rounds employee clock in-and-out times to the nearest tenth of the hour. The policy is interpreted by the defendant as a ‘grace period’ allowing employees to clock in, or out up ten minutes before, or after the start of their scheduled shift without penalty, so long as the employee is not performing job-related activities during that time.

The appellate panel found no fault with the defendant’s rounding policy. However, on a lower court’s position granting summary judgment to See’s Candy for claims related to meal and rest periods, as well as alleged violations related to business expenses, the appellate panel disagreed and revived those claims.

The panel also ruled that a settlement agreement between the two parties under the auspices of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 2010 did not disqualify claims couched in the present California Unpaid wages lawsuit.

The appellate panel arrived at its conclusion in December but published its opinion just after the New Year. The case is Silva v. See’s Candy Shops Inc., Case No. D068136 in the Fourth Appellate District, Division One, in the Court of Appeal of the State of California.

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