Plaintiff James Sheppard was a part-time instructor employed by defendant North Orange County Regional Occupational Program ("NOCROP"). NOCROP was created by four public school districts NOCROP is a regional occupational program established by one or more public school districts under Education Code section 52301. During his employment, Sheppard was required to spend 20 minutes of unpaid time preparing for every hour he spent teaching. Sheppard sued NOCROP and sought compensation for his unpaid preparation time by asserting claims for violation of the minimum wage law, pursuant to the Industrial Welfare Commission's (IWC) wage order No. 4-2001 (Wage Order No. 4-2001) and Labor Code section 218, breach of contract, and quantum meruit. To summarize a somewhat more complicated procedural history, the trial court effectively granted a motion for judgment on the pleadings, finding that neither "the wage order relied upon by the Plaintiff nor the implementing Labor Code sections expressly, or by necessary implication, obligate Defendant to pay Plaintiff hourly wages for 'preparation time' beyond the hourly wages mandated by Education Code section 45025."
In Sheppard v. North Orange County Regional Occupational Program (December 23, 2010), the Court of Appeal (Fourth Appellate District, Division Three) held that "(1) by its terms, the minimum wage provision contained in Wage Order No. 4-2001 applies to Sheppard‟s employment with NOCROP; (2) the Legislature authorized the IWC to so extend the application of the minimum wage law to apply to certain public employees; and (3) the Legislature has plenary authority over public school districts in California and was not otherwise barred by the state Constitution from requiring school districts to comply with the minimum wage provision of Wage Order No. 4-2001." Slip op., at 9.
The Court began its analysis by interpreting Wage Order 4-2001 and Labor Code section 1173. The Court examined the sovereign powers immunity and the broad reach of employment statutes and regulations. The Court then read Wage Order 4-2001 to impose, in clear terms, the minimum wage requirements to employees of the State or any political subdivision of the State. Next, the Court rejected NOCROP's argument that the IWC exceeded its authority when it issues a Wage Order purporting to regulate public employees. The Court concluded that the IWC was authorized to do so by the Legislature, which itself assumed that it had conferred such power on the IWC when it enacted Labor Code section 512.5 in 2003.
Looks like part time instructors stand to recover a good deal of unpaid wages for their uncompensated preparation time.