Smith v. Superior Court (L’Oréal USA, Inc.), 39 Cal. 4th 77 (2006)

Aspiring actress and model, Amanza Smith, worked as a “hair model” for L’Oréal at Christophe hair salon for which she was paid $500 for one day’s work. L’Oréal considered Smith to be an independent contractor and took more than two months to pay her the compensation it owed to her. Smith filed a class action on behalf of herself and other similarly-situated hair models, alleging, among other things, violation of Labor Code § 201 (requiring immediate payment of wages earned upon discharge of an employee) and seeking waiting-time penalties under section 203 in the amount of $500 per day per hair model for 30 days based on the latepayment of compensation. The trial court agreed with L’Oréal that the word “discharge” as used in Labor Code § 201 means “the affirmative dismissal of an employee by an employer from ongoing employment and does not include the completion of a set period of employment or a specified task” and granted summary adjudication in L’Oréal’s favor. Although the Court of Appeal denied Smith’s petition for a writ of mandate, the California Supreme Court reversed, holding that when an employee is released after completing a specific job assignment or time duration for which the employee was hired, he or she is entitled to immediate payment of the earned wages. Cf. Marathon Entm’t, Inc. v. Blasi, 140 Cal. App. 4th 1001 (2006) (actor’s personal manager could be entitled to commission for procuring employment for actor despite not being licensed as a talent agency).