Martinez v. Combs, 49 Cal. 4th 35 (2010)

Plaintiffs are seasonal agricultural workers whom Munoz & Sons had employed during the 2000 strawberry season. The employees sued Munoz and two produce merchants (through whom Munoz sold strawberries) for alleged minimum wage violations. Following Munoz’s bankruptcy, plaintiffs contended that the produce merchants were joint employers along with Munoz; that plaintiffs were the third-party beneficiaries of the contract between Munoz and the merchants; and that they were parties to an oral employment agreement with one of the merchants. The California Supreme Court held that although the Industrial Wage Commission’s (“IWC”) wage orders do generally define the employment relationship in actions to recover unpaid minimum wages, the IWC’s definition of “employer” does not impose liability on individual corporate agents acting within the scope of their agency.

The Court held that the merchants did not “suffer or permit” the employees to work on their behalf and did not “exercise control over their wages, hours or working conditions.” Furthermore, the employees were not third-party beneficiaries of any contract to which Munoz was a party. See also Schmidt v. Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co., 605 F.3d 686 (9th Cir. 2010) (Burlington Northern may have been employer for purposes of Federal Employers Liability Act claim); Valladolid v. Pacific Operations Offshore, LLP, 604 F.3d 1126 (9th Cir. 2010) (workers’ compensation benefits provision of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act applies to any injury resulting from operations on the outer continental shelf regardless of the site of the injury).

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Photo of Tony Oncidi Tony Oncidi

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including…

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including litigation and preventive counseling, wage and hour matters, including class actions, wrongful termination, employee discipline, Title VII and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, executive employment contract disputes, sexual harassment training and investigations, workplace violence, drug testing and privacy issues, Sarbanes-Oxley claims and employee raiding and trade secret protection. A substantial portion of Tony’s practice involves the defense of employers in large class actions, employment discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination litigation in state and federal court as well as arbitration proceedings, including FINRA matters.

Tony is recognized as a leading lawyer by such highly respected publications and organizations as the Los Angeles Daily JournalThe Hollywood Reporter, and Chambers USA, which gives him the highest possible rating (“Band 1”) for Labor & Employment.  According to Chambers USA, clients say Tony is “brilliant at what he does… He is even keeled, has a high emotional IQ, is a great legal writer and orator, and never gives up.” Other clients report:  “Tony has an outstanding reputation” and he is “smart, cost effective and appropriately aggressive.” Tony is hailed as “outstanding,” particularly for his “ability to merge top-shelf lawyerly advice with pragmatic business acumen.” He is highly respected in the industry, with other commentators lauding him as a “phenomenal strategist” and “one of the top employment litigators in the country.”

“Tony is the author of the treatise titled Employment Discrimination Depositions (Juris Pub’g 2020; www.jurispub.com), co-author of Proskauer on Privacy (PLI 2020), and, since 1990, has been a regular columnist for the official publication of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar of California and the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

Tony has been a featured guest on Fox 11 News and CBS News in Los Angeles. He has been interviewed and quoted by leading national media outlets such as The National Law JournalBloomberg News, The New York Times, and Newsweek and Time magazines. Tony is a frequent speaker on employment law topics for large and small groups of employers and their counsel, including the Society for Human Resource Management (“SHRM”), PIHRA, the National CLE Conference, National Business Institute, the Employment Round Table of Southern California (Board Member), the Council on Education in Management, the Institute for Corporate Counsel, the State Bar of California, the California Continuing Education of the Bar Program and the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills Bar Associations. He has testified as an expert witness regarding wage and hour issues as well as the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and has served as a faculty member of the National Employment Law Institute. He has served as an arbitrator in an employment discrimination matter.

Tony is an appointed Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission Board of Rights and has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law and a guest lecturer at USC Law School and a guest lecturer at UCLA Law School.