Reminder: Statutory Wage and Hour Rights Cannot Be Waived

Second Quarter 2010Newsletters California Update Employment Law

Employees' statutory rights cannot be waived by private agreement. Account executives recently sued their employer for damages for Labor Code violations relating to overtime, meal periods, commissions and itemized wage statements. The complaint also included unfair competition claims, which extended the statute of limitations period to four years. The employer asserted that the claims were barred because the plaintiffs signed employment agreements limiting the time during which they could file suit to six months after termination, and that this lawsuit was brought beyond that sixmonth limitation. The appellate court upheld the lower court's finding that such an employment agreement violated strong public policy and was unenforceable. The Court of Appeal held that claims for violations of wage and hour laws were based on unwaivable and fundamental statutory rights. The court cited Labor Code Section 219, which states: "Nothing in this article shall in any way limit or prohibit the payment of wages at more frequent intervals, or in greater amounts, or in full when or before due, but no provision of this article can in any way be contravened or set aside by a private agreement, whether written, oral, or implied." This case should remind employers to review their employment agreements to identify potential risks and issues that may be challenged by employees. The case is Pellegrino v. Robert Half International, Inc., 181 Cal.App.4th 713 (2010).