California CapitolIn McLean v. State of California, ___ Cal.App.4th ___  (August 19, 2014), the California Court of Appeal (Third Appellate District) reversed the judgment of dismissal by the Sacramento County Superior Court (Judge Cadei) after it sustained defendant’s demurrer to plaintiff’s class action complaint for waiting time penalties.

Plaintiff was a retired deputy attorney general who resigned from her employment with defendant, the State of California, in November 2010.  Plaintiff did not receive her final wages on her last day of employment or within 72 hours of that date. Accordingly, she filed a class action complaint on behalf of “all employees employed by the state who resigned or retired from their employment [during the relevant time period] who did not receive prompt payment of wages as required by [California Labor Code] section 202 [which provides for payment of final wages either immediately upon termination or within 72 hours thereafter].”   Defendant demurred to the complaint on the ground that plaintiff “retired, rather than ‘quit,’ which is the relevant descriptive word actually used in the statute . . .” Therefore, according to defendant, plaintiff had not stated a claim for violation of Labor Code Section 202 and, consequently, there was no basis for her claim for “waiting time” penalties under Labor Code Section 203.  The trial court agreed and sustained the demurrer.  Plaintiff appealed.

The appellate court disagreed, finding that there is no distinction between the terms “quit” and “retire” under the statutes.  The court further rejected defendant’s argument that the two terms are distinguishable in the civil service context:  “While the instant case involves civil service employees, section 202. . . and section 203 are not so limited. These statutes apply to all employers and employees not otherwise excluded . . . , including those in the private sector. Nothing in the language of either statute permits an interpretation where the word ‘quits’ has one meaning for the state employer and its employees, and another meaning where the employers and employees are in the private sector.”