Shortened Time Period to File Wage and Hour Claims Unenforceable

In Pellegrino v. Robert Half International, Inc., the Fourth District Court of Appeal in California affirmed summary judgment in the employees’ favor, holding that a provision in the parties’ employment agreements requiring that any claims be brought within six months of termination of employment, was unenforceable as to plaintiffs’ statutory claims. Building on prior cases holding that Labor Code provisions governing wages and hours are unwaivable, the Court of Appeal determined that it would contravene public policy to deny these employees a remedy for unpaid wages. It could be argued that Section 17200 itself sets an arbitrary cut-off date for wage and hour claims that has nothing to do with any public policies in the Labor Code, but since the limitations period under the unfair business practices statute is longer than the periods in the Labor Code, presumably that could not violate any public policies regarding the payment of required wages.

The Court also affirmed a finding after trial that the plaintiffs in this case, who were account executives at a temporary employment agency, had been improperly mis-classified as exempt.

Finally, in another interesting discussion, the Court of Appeal found that defendant had not been denied the right to jury trial by the court’s decision to try the equitable issues under Business and Professions Code Section 17200, which included the classification issues, to the court. (The parties’ stipulation regarding the amount of damages applicable to each employee’s claim made trial of any legal issues unnecessary.)

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