United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER RE: MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON
LABOR CODE SECTION 2810.3 Re Dkt. 173, 174
JACQUELINE SCOTT CORLEY United States Magistrate Judge
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.
Section 2810.3 Should be Construed in Favor of Employee
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.”).
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.
Definition of “Any Given Time”
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.
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.)
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
raises a host of other arguments on which the Court did not
ask for supplemental submissions. The Court will address them
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. § 2810.3(a)(1)(A). Usual
course of business means the ...