The California Supreme Court, in Martinez v. Combs (May 20, 2010) (reposted to correct formatting error), addressed a topic that should prove to be of long-lasting significance. The opinion addresses the weighty question of who is and is not an "employee" under California wage law.
The California Wage Wage and Hour Law Blog, authored by Steven G. Pearl, includes a thorough post discussing this holding, including this important observation:
[T]he Wage Orders set forth a multi-pronged, disjunctive definition of employment: an employer is one who, directly or indirectly, or through an agent or any other person, engages, suffers, or permits any person to work, or exercises control over the wages, hours, or working conditions of any person. Slip op. at 25-26. The “engage, suffer, or permit” component of the definition does not require a common law “master and servant” relationship, but is broad enough to cover “irregular working arrangements the proprietor of a business might otherwise disavow with impunity.” Slip op. at 25. Further, “phrased as it is in the alternative (i.e., wages, hours, or working conditions”), the language of the IWC's 'employer' definition has the obvious utility of reaching situations in which multiple entities control different aspects of the employment relationship, as when one entity, which hires and pays workers, places them with other entities that supervise the work.” Slip op. at 26-27. Finally, the IWC’s “employer” definition is intended to distinguish state law from the federal FLSA.
This is a monumental clarification of the breadth of the definition of employment when wage laws are at issue. The opinion also provides a mighty boost to the authority of the IWC.
For more, visit the blog or see today's Daily Journal for a revised version of the same article.