Failure to Use Company’s Legal Name on Pay Stubs Didn’t Violate Calif. Law

 

By Joanne Deschenaux April 29, 2019
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Failure to Use Company’s Legal Name on Pay Stubs Didn’t Violate Calif. Law

A company's use of its fictitious, or "doing business as," name on its wage statements rather than its legal name as shown on its California registration did not violate state law, a California appellate court ruled. Similarly, the company's failure to include in its address the final four digits of its nine-digit ZIP code did not violate the law, the court said.

The plaintiff filed a complaint against his employer, YRC Inc., alleging that the company failed to provide the correct employer name and address on its wage statements. He alleged that the wage statements did not "accurately show the name of the legal entity that is the employer" and failed "to completely and accurately show the employer's address," in violation of California law.

Specifically, the wage statements listed the employer name as YRC Freight, while the entity registered with the California Secretary of State was YRC Inc. The wage statements listed the employer address as 10990 Roe Avenue, Overland Park, KS 66211, even though "its complete address" also included a Mail Stop Code and a ZIP+4 Code, as follows: 10990 Roe Ave. MS A515, Overland Park, KS 66211 1213.

The trial court dismissed the lawsuit, and the plaintiff appealed.

Wage Statement Requirements

Section 226 of the California Labor Code requires an employer to provide employees with "an accurate itemized statement," including:

  • Gross wages earned.
  • Total hours worked (with the exception of exempt salaried employees).
  • The number of piece-rate units earned and any applicable piece rates if the employee is paid on a piece-rate basis.
  • All deductions.
  • Net wages earned.
  • The inclusive dates of the pay period.
  • The employee name and either the last four digits of his or her Social Security number or an employee identification number.
  • The name and address of the legal entity that is the employer.
  • All hourly rates in effect during the pay period and the corresponding number of hours worked at each hourly rate.

An employee who suffers an injury as a result of an employer's knowing and intentional failure to comply with the statute is entitled to recover damages.

[SHRM members-only toolkitComplying with California Wage Payment and Hours of Work Laws]

With respect to the plaintiff's challenge to the employer's name as it appeared on the wage statements, the court first noted that YRC Freight was YRC's actual, recorded fictitious name in California at the time it issued the wage statements in question. YRC had a valid fictitious business name statement and renewal recorded in two California counties, and YRC Freight was the company name it used to transact all regular business in California. Because YRC properly listed its "name" on its wage statements, there was no violation of the law, the appellate court said.

The court rejected the plaintiff's claim that the use of a fictitious business name on wage statements was improper. The use of a fictitious business name does not create a separate legal entity, the court said, and there is no distinction between the legal corporation and its fictitious business name.

The court further concluded that YRC complied with the requirement of providing the employer address on its wage statements. The wage statement law simply requires the employer to provide its "address," which YRC did by listing its proper mailing address—10990 Roe Avenue, Overland Park, KS 66211.

The court noted that the plaintiff did not dispute that this was the correct mailing address and that the plaintiff cited no authority to support his position that the entire nine-digit ZIP code was required.

The court concluded that YRC fully complied with California law by providing its "name and address" in its wage statements. It affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the complaint.

Savea v. YRC Inc., Calif. Ct. App., No. A152379 (April 10, 2019).

Professional Pointer: Sometimes technical mistakes on wage statements can be costly for businesses. Employers should review their pay stubs to make sure the statements contain all of the information required by Labor Code Section 226.

Joanne Deschenaux, J.D., is a freelance writer in Annapolis, Md. 

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