Superior Court extends filing deadline for piece-rate safe harbor protection

A Superior Court judge in Fresno late last week issued an order extending the deadline for employers to file for piece-rate safe harbor protection related to AB 1513 to July 18.

The original deadline had been July 1.

According to C. Bryan Little of the Sacramento-based Farm Employers Labor Service (FELS), if the court lifts the order enjoining the Department of Industrial Relations from enforcing certain parts of AB 1513, employers will have an additional 10 days to file, extending the deadline to July 28.

AB 1513, legislation passed by the California Legislature that became effective on January 1, created the safe harbor, which was intended to protect employers from liability for failing to properly compensate employees for rest periods and other non-productive time in the wake of several appellate court decisions in 2013 that held that employers must separately compensate employees for rest and other non-productive time.

According to Little, a Labor-Affairs Specialist and the Chief Operating Officer at FELS, “It appears the Superior Court granted this extension to allow time for a hearing, now scheduled for July 18, on allegations raised in the underlying lawsuit by Nisei Farmers League which questions the legal validity of several features of AB 1513, in particular the meaning of the phrases ‘other non-productive time’ and ‘directly related’ in the context of activity directly related to the production of piece-rate compensated work.” Nisei Farmers League v. California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, et al. case 16CECG02107

Nisei successfully sought a temporary restraining order against the operation of the AB 1513 safe harbor deadlines and requested a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Department of Industrial Relations from enforcing the July 1 sign-up deadline; the December 15, 2016 back wage payment deadline, and any requirements included in AB 1513 dependent on the phrases “other non-productive time” or “directly related.”

Little added “that while this extension means employers who have used piece-rate compensation may have more time to decide whether to try to utilize the safe harbor and to make any necessary preparations to do so, the Superior Court has not yet invalidated the safe harbor. “

The Court also has not invalidated the new provisions — effective Jan. 1 — of the Labor Code requiring employers to pay piece-rate employees for rest periods at their average weekly earning rate, and to pay employees separately for other non-productive time, including safety trainings and moving from field to field.

Source: Farm Employers Labor Service (FELS®) – The Business Journal

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