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The Law of ‘Joint Employers’ in California, and How It May Help Your Unpaid Wages Case Sometimes, a worker who has been denied overtime or other compensation may face a problem that has nothing to do with the strength of their claim. Even with the strongest case, one may struggle to get fair compensation if the entity you sued is a business with very few assets. Protecting yourself may mean extra legal steps, including adding additional defendants as your "joint employers." Proving that an entity is your joint employer can be a technical and complex process, so make sure you have a knowledgeable San Mateo wage and hour lawyer handling your case. The unpaid wages case of S.M., a gas station manager, illustrates how a worker can succeed. The manager worked at a Shell gas station in Orange County until late 2008 when the manager's employer fired him. The manager sued, alleging that he was illegally denied certain break compensation as well as overtime pay. The manager didn't simply sue the smaller entity that was his direct employer, though. He also named Shell as a defendant, asserting that it was his "joint employer." In the manager's station and others like it, Shell used a "multi-site operated" (MSO) model where a subordinate company served as the operator of a certain number of Shell's stations. The operator paid rent and employed all of the station's employees. Entities like an operator or a franchisee can often be small and may lack the financial resources to pay a wage-and-hour judgment. Fortunately, California law has a broad standard for who qualifies as a joint employer. S.M.'s case is significant because it broadens that standard even more. The Court of Appeal, in addressing S.M.'s case, declined to apply the rulings in two previous appellate cases where the courts had found that Shell was not a joint employer of its MSO operators' employees.
The Importance of Control in Proving an Entity's Joint Employer Status
The key difference that yielded success in this manager's case was the evidence he presented regarding Shell's power to hire and fire MSO operators' employees. In the two previous cases, the workers didn't have that proof. S.M. did. He asserted that a Shell employee told him during a training session that "you have no idea how many managers I have fired over not complying" with Shell's policies. Also, a different Shell employee allegedly told him, "I would hate to have you fired over [this]. I believe you’re a good manager. But believe me, I have the power to get you fired." That evidence pointing to Shell's hands-on power over hiring and firing decisions added a layer of control that meant his case satisfied the California standard for a joint employer.
Contact a Wage and Hour Attorney
When it becomes necessary to launch a wage and hour lawsuit, it's about more than just getting a favorable judgment; it's also about being able to obtain the compensation you deserve. The most powerful case in the world won't help you if all the defendants are "judgment-proof." The skilled San Mateo wage and hour attorneys at Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos, LLP have the experience and the know-how to get you the full and fair recovery you deserve. To set up a free consultation with one of our helpful attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.
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