The Saqui Law Group Wins Big on Motion to Strike Class Allegations Relating to Nonproductive Time in the Agriculture Industry
- Written by Susannah L. Ashton
On July 7, 2015, the Honorable Susan L. Matcham of Monterey County Superior Court issued a ruling dismissing all allegations of minimum wage and nonproductive time (“NPT”) violations of a putative class of agricultural workers in the Salinas Valley.
The Court ruled that a comparative method of compensation, whereby employees receive the greater of either the piece rate or a base hourly rate that exceeds the minimum wage, is lawful and allows for NPT to be separately calculated and compensated, which is compliant with California law. Any deviation from this lawful policy necessarily requires individual inquiries, and therefore class allegations are not appropriate. Specifically, the Court found:
“[Defendant], however, has provided evidence establishing that its compensation formula does not, in fact, utilize an unlawful averaging method. The compensation formula does not involve averaging at all. Rather, piece-rate employees are paid either (1) the piece-rate set by [Defendant], or (2) a base hourly rate, whichever is greater. The base hourly rate is always at minimum wage or above. Additionally, NPT is calculated and paid separately according to the employee’s base rate. Accordingly, because [Defendant] uses a comparative method of compensation, rather than an average, and NPT is separately calculated and compensated, [Defendant]’s policy appears to comply with applicable California law.”
- Written by Greg Blueford
The California Appellate Court recently ruled in favor of an employer who attempted to reasonably accommodate an employee but could not do so because the employee could not perform the essential job functions and there were not any alternate positions for which the employee was qualified.
A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to the work environment that enables the employee to perform the essential functions of the job he or she holds. The Fair Employment and Housing Act (and comparable federal law) requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for the known disability unless doing so would produce undue hardship to the employer’s operation.
In Nealy v. City of Santa Monica, Plaintiff Tony Nealy was a solid waste equipment operator and injured his knee on the job moving a large bin of food waste in 2003. The City advised Nealy that it would consider a lateral transfer or voluntary demotion and identified a groundskeeper position that was approved by the City doctor.
In 2006, Nealy was having trouble performing some groundskeeper duties and was later permitted to do light duty office work. Nealy expressed his wish to return to a solid waste equipment operator position as a driver of an automatic garbage truck. However, the City identified numerous essential functions that it believed Nealy could not perform based on some restrictions Nealy had, such as his inability to kneel, squat or climb. The City discussed reassigning Nealy to an alternate vacant position and identified alternate positions for which Nealy could apply. However, Nealy was not qualified for these positions and was not hired for either of the positions to which he applied. Nealy sued the city alleging, among other things, failure to engage in the interactive process and failure to provide reasonable accommodation.