McLeod Witham

Employer Not Liable For Failing To Provide "Easy Access" To Wage Statements

Synopsis: 
Federal Jury Finds That Employer Not Liable For Failing To Provide "Easy Access" To Wage Statements

This week, in Guillen v. Dollar Tree Stores Inc., (15-CV3813) a federal jury found that Dollar Tree was not liable for how it provided wage statements to those employees who received their pay via direct deposit.  Although Plaintiffs conceded that the wage statements provided all of the information required by California Labor Code Section 226(a) and were, therefore, compliant they nevertheless alleged that Dollar Tree violated Section 226(a) because it didn’t provide easy access to those employees who used direct deposit as the Company required them to use the store’s cash register printers in order to make physical copies of their pay stubs.  (For those of you wondering, Labor Code Section 226 does not require “easy access” to pay stubs, although a 2006 DLSE Opinion Letter provided that electronic wage statements are permissible “so long as each employee retains the right to elect to receive a written pay stub or record and those who are provided with electronic wage statements retain the ability to easily access the information and convert the electronic statements into hard copies at no expense to the employee.”)

 Even though it only took the jury approximately one hour to determine that Dollar Tree’s policy did not violate the Labor Code, the case provides a valuable reminder that “defective” wage statement class actions are alive and well and that plaintiffs are willing to file such claims for the most technical of “violations” or – as was the case in Dollar Tree – for no real violation at all.  Accordingly, employers should review their wage statements to ensure that they are in compliance with Section 226(a) and that their wages statements provide:  (1) gross wages earned; (2) total hours worked by non-exempt employees; (3) the number of piece-rate units earned and any applicable piece-rate if the employee is paid on a piece-rate basis; (4) all deductions; (5) net wages earned; (6) the inclusive dates of the period for which the employee is paid; (7) the name of the employee and only the last four digits of his or her social security number or an employee identification number; (8) the name and address of the legal entity that is the employer; and (9) all applicable hourly rates in effect during the pay period and the corresponding number of hours worked at each hourly rate by the employee. 

It is crucial that employers are in compliance with these requirements as Section 226(e) provides that an employee “suffering injury as a result of a knowing and intentional failure” to comply with Section 226(a) is entitled to up to $4,000 in penalties depending on the number of non-compliant wage statements.  To make matters worse, the California Legislature made clear that an employee suffers “injury” if the employer fails to provide any of the nine pieces of information set forth in Section 226(a) and, therefore, it is extremely difficult for employers to offer up any defense for even the most technical of wage statement violations.