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Employees need to do the Math

I can write a decent sentence, but I’m lousy at math. Does that mean I can successfully sue my employer because, in order to ensure that I’ve been paid properly, I’m required to perform simple addition? According to a recent court case, the answer is a resounding “no.”

Employee Isaias Hernandez filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of himself and all other hourly employees (who had worked for the company for at least one year) against their employer, BCI Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in Los Angeles. The cause of the suit? Paystubs.

According to court documents, Hernandez alleged that Coca-Cola “knowingly and intentionally failed to furnish each (employee) with accurate itemized wage statements. This prevents the employees from being able to determine whether they are being paid correctly for all days and hours worked…and causes employee confusion about their wages.” Hernandez and his attorneys thought that the company’s alleged failure to provide accurate wage statements, which is a violation of the California Labor Code, entitled the group of 5,475 class-eligible employees to $19.3 million.

U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson thought differently. According to a summary of the case on, Hernandez’s wage statements (paystubs) were not inaccurate, and his pay was not incorrect. The wage statements simply required Hernandez to perform some simple addition in order to determine whether he was paid correctly. “The wage statements Hernandez received calculated time-and-a-half compensation by dividing pay for overtime into two components, one multiplied by the regular rate of pay and the other multiplied by half of the regular rate of pay (which is standard). Thus, to determine the total overtime compensation, the two component figures must be added,” according to the summary.

Hernandez argued that this splitting of the overtime compensation section into two components resulted in the overtime hours appearing twice in the wage statement, which prevented the employees from being able to accurately add the hours listed in order to determine the total hours worked.

Judge Wilson disagreed (especially since the total number of hours were clearly listed on the wage statement) and stated that, “Courts consistently have held that requiring an employee to do simple math – without more – does not constitute a compensable injury under California Labor Code.”

So, what information does need to be listed on paystubs? All of the following:
1. Gross wages earned
2. Total hours worked (not required for salaried exempt employees)
3. The number of piece-rate units earned and any applicable piece rate if the employee is paid on a piece rate basis
4. All deductions (all deductions made on written orders of the employee may be aggregated and shown as one item)
5. Net wages earned
6. The inclusive dates of the period for which the employee is paid
7. The name of the employee and the last four digits of his or her social security number or an employee identification number other than a social security number
8. The name and address of the legal entity that is the employer
9. All applicable hourly rates in effect during the pay period, and the corresponding number of hours worked at each hourly rate by the employee

Coca-Cola was found to be in compliance with the California Labor Code and was, therefore, successful in its defense. Another example that being in compliance with employment laws won’t prevent employers from being sued, but can prevent them from being sued successfully.

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Disclaimer: The information and resources provided herein are not a substitute for experienced legal counsel and does not constitute legal advice or attempt to address the numerous factual issues that inevitably arise in any employment-related dispute. Although this information attempts to cover some major recent developments, it is not all-inclusive, and any recommendations are based upon HR best practices and procedures. We recommend you consult an attorney for legal guidance.

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