An employer is liable for waiting time penalties under Lab. Code 203 if it willfully underpays the employee on termination of employment.  This decision holds that an employer’s underpayment is willful and waiting time penalties must be assessed if the employer pays wages at a former rate after halfheartedly investigating its suspicions that the required wage rate has been increased. Here, the employer suspected it was underpaying employees due to the enactment of a living wage ordinance enacted by Los Angeles where its business was located.  But it made no reasonable effort to acquire a copy of the ordinance or determine its requirements.  The employer’s challenge to the living wage ordinance as unconstitutionally vague lacked merit and was not a “good faith dispute” that could immunize the employer from waiting time penalties.  The decision also holds that the court lacks discretion, on equitable grounds, to relieve an employer from having to pay waiting time penalties.  The statute provides that the waiting time penalty shall be paid, and the penalty is assessed for the purpose of forcing employers to promptly pay workers the salary they need to survive.

California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division 2 (Hoffstadt, J.); May 24, 2018; 2018 Cal. App. LEXIS 479