California Supreme Court to Review Section 203 Waiting Time Penalties

The statute of limitations for a penalty is usually one year under California law. But, Labor Code Section 203 says that the statute of limitations for "waiting time penalties" is the same as the limitations period for the underlying wage claim. So, if the underlying wage claim is three years (such as unpaid overtime), then the statute of limitations for late payment of those wages at termination is also three years.

But, what happens if the underlying wages are paid already and an employee just wants to recover penalties in a civil lawsuit? There IS no underlying claim for wages in that case. So, the court of appeal reasoned in Pineda v. Bank of Am., that the one-year statute of limitations should apply in cases where there is no accompanying claim for unpaid wages.

The court in Pineda also clarified that the unfair competition law's four year statute does not apply to waiting time penalties, since the UCL ordinarily only applies to "restitution" of the plaintiff's property, and waiting time penalties are not the employee's property.

The California Supreme Court just accepted review of Pineda on both issues discussed above. The docket is here. We posted about the court of appeal's opinion here.