MCLE Self-Study: Mendiola v. CPS Security Solutions, Inc.: Employee’s Perspective
By Cathe L. Caraway-Howard and Miles E. Locker
Ms. Caraway-Howard is the founder of the Employee Rights Law Group in Playa Del Rey, and practices employment law throughout California primarily representing plaintiffs. Miles Locker’s long career in wage and hour law and labor relations has included service as an attorney with the DLSE, the ALRB, and the PERB, and private practice spanning expert work, consulting, class action, and appellate litigation.
Mendiola v. CPS Security Solutions, Inc.1 serves as yet another reminder that in the area of wage and hour law, the protections afforded by California’s Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) wage orders and, in particular, the determination of whether an employee must be compensated for "hours worked," cannot be undercut by less protective federal regulations adopted pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), absent convincing evidence of the IWC’s intent to adopt the federal regulation. This simple proposition eluded the majority some twenty-five years ago in Monzon v. Schaefer Ambulance Service, Inc.,2 when it decided that a federal regulation3 excluding "sleep time" from compensable hours worked under the FLSA prevailed over the more restrictive IWC wage order.4 The dissenting opinion in Monzon anticipated Mendiola with a sharp criticism of the majority’s "convoluted reading" which "overlooks the well-settled, commonsense principle that federal interpretations are not controlling in any sense where, as here, the . . . IWC orders differ in language and intent from the federal statutes and regulations."5
Of course, the Monzon majority did not have the benefit of a series of later-decided California Supreme Court opinions which declined to incorporate less protective provisions of federal regulations into California’s wage and hour law requirements: "Courts must give the IWC’s wage orders independent effect in order to protect the commission’s delegated authority to enforce the state’s wage and hour laws and, as appropriate, to provide greater protection to workers than federal law affords."6 These cases could only be read as harbingers of the end of Monzon. But, surprisingly, Monzon was not only given new life, it was substantially expanded by Seymore v. Metson Marine, Inc.,7 which held that the regulation8 in Monzon is not limited to ambulance drivers and attendants, but applies to all employees who work 24-hour shifts, including those for whom the applicable IWC wage order fails to provide for any type of agreement to exclude sleep time from otherwise compensable hours worked. Seymore reached this conclusion without any discussion of how to reconcile Monzon with Martinez, Morillion, and Ramirez.