Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Johnson v. Serenity Transportation, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 22, 2017

CURTIS JOHNSON, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SERENITY TRANSPORTATION, INC., et al., Defendants.

          ORDER RE: MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON LABOR CODE SECTION 2810.3 Re Dkt. 173, 174

          JACQUELINE SCOTT CORLEY United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiffs allege they were misclassified by Serenity Transportation, Inc. as independent contractors rather than employees and thus denied the benefits of California and federal wage-and-hour laws. Plaintiffs also sued SCI and the County of Santa Clara under a joint employer theory, arguing the entities were jointly and severally liable for Serenity's wage and hour violations. On April 14, 2017, the Court granted summary judgment to SCI and the County on the joint employer common law claims, and deferred decision as to whether, as a matter of law, SCI is not subject to liability under California Labor Code Section 2810.3. (Dkt. No. 172 at 46:14-27.) The Court requested further briefing regarding the “five or fewer workers supplied by a labor contractor or labor contractors to the client employer at any given time” exemption under Section 2810.3. (Id.) Having carefully reviewed the parties' supplemental briefs, the Court DENIES SCI's motion for summary judgment of Plaintiffs' Labor Code Section 2810.3 claim.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Section 2810.3 Should be Construed in Favor of Employee Protection

         In interpreting a California statute, federal courts apply California rules of construction. Lares v. West Bank One (In re Lares), 188 F.3d 1166, 1168 (9th Cir. 1999). “The touchstone of statutory interpretation is the probable intent of the Legislature.” Hale v. Southern Cal. IPA Med. Group, Inc., 86 Cal.App.4th 919, 776 (2001). To determine that intent, a court looks first to the language of the statute and gives effect to its plain meaning. California Teachers Assn. v. Governing Bd. of Rialto Unified School Dist., 14 Cal.4th 627, 632-633 (1997). “If there is no ambiguity in the language, we presume the Legislature meant what it said and the plain meaning of the statute governs.” People v. Snook, 16 Cal.4th 1210, 1215 (1997). But language that appears unambiguous on its face may be shown to have a latent ambiguity; if so, a court may turn to customary rules of statutory construction or legislative history for guidance. Stanton v. Panish, 28 Cal.3d 107, 115 (1980). The California Supreme Court has routinely recognized that statutes governing conditions of employment are to be construed broadly in favor of protecting employees. Pineda v. Bank of Am., N.A., 50 Cal.4th 1389, 1394 (2010); Sav-On Drug Stores, Inc. v. Superior Court, 34 Cal.4th 319, 340 (2004); Ramirez v. Yosemite Water Co., 20 Cal.4th 785, 794 (1999); see also Earley v. Superior Court, 79 Cal.App.4th 1420, 1429-1430 (2000) (California adheres to “a clear public policy ... that is specifically directed at the enforcement of California's minimum wage and overtime laws for the benefit of workers.”).

         Labor Code section 2810.3 is indisputably a statute governing employment conditions and thus the Court must construe it broadly in favor of protecting employees. See Noe v. Superior Court, 237 Cal.App.4th 316, 330 (2015) (holding that California Labor Code provision making it unlawful to willfully misclassify an employee as an independent contractor should be interpreted consistent with the principle “that statutes governing conditions of employment are to be construed broadly in favor of protecting employees.” (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). SCI's insistence to the contrary is unpersuasive as none of the cases it cites involves the California Labor Code.

         II. Definition of “Any Given Time”

         “Client employer” for purposes of Section 2810.3 does not include a business entity with five or few workers “supplied by a labor contractor or labor contractors to the client employer at any given time.” Cal. Labor Code § 2810.3(a)(1)(B)(ii). A court must give significance to every word in a statute to avoid “a construction that would make some words surplusage[, ]” and to view words “in context, keeping in mind the nature and obvious purpose of the statute.” See Gonzales v. CarMax Auto Superstores, LLC, 840 F.3d 644, 651-52 (9th Cir. 2016) (citation omitted). Thus, the Court must construe the words “at any given time” in context with the word “supplied.” The common language definition of “supplied” includes: to provide for, to make available for use, and to satisfy the needs or wishes of. Supply, Merriam Webster Dictionary (Web ed. 2017). The question, then, is whether Serenity supplied, or made available for use, to SCI at least six removal technicians at any given time.

         In light of the statute's use of the word “supplied, ” the Court need only decide whether a reasonable trier of fact could find that at least six Serenity removal technicians were available for SCI's use at any given time. The record reflects that Serenity had more than six removal technicians scheduled for 24-hour shifts, ready to make calls for SCI. (Dkt. No. 174-4 ¶¶ 2-4, Exs. A-B.) SCI relied on this 24-hour coverage to address its labor needs, calling upon Serenity drivers when needed. (Dkt. No. 156-20 at 2; Dkt. No. 156-9 at 26:19-22). Indeed, SCI required technicians to arrive at SCI worksites within 60-75 minutes of dispatch. (Dkt. No. 124-17 at 3 ¶ 4 “Duties”.) Further, at times, SCI also had six or more technicians simultaneously dispatched by Serenity to perform SCI removals. (Dkt. No. 174-1 ¶ 5, Dkt. No. 174-2 at 2.)

         Drawing all reasonable inferences in Plaintiffs' favor, a reasonable trier of fact could find that Serenity supplied or made available to SCI six or more removal technicians at any given time. Accordingly, SCI has not shown as a matter of law that it qualifies for the exemption under Section 2810.3(a)(1)(B)(ii).

         III. Other Arguments

         SCI raises a host of other arguments on which the Court did not ask for supplemental submissions. The Court will address them briefly here.

         A. Worksite

         California Labor Code § Section 2810.3 provides that a “client employer shall share with a labor contractor all civil legal responsibility and civil liability for all workers supplied by that labor contractor for ... the payment of wages.” Cal. Labor Code § 2810.3(b). Client employer is defined as a “business entity, regardless of its form, that obtains or is provided workers to perform labor within its usual course of business from a labor contractor.” Id. ยง 2810.3(a)(1)(A). Usual course of business means the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.