Kao v. Joy Holiday, 58 Cal. App. 5th 199 (2020)

Ming-Hsiang Kao was employed by Joy Holiday (a travel tour company) initially performing IT-related duties and then eventually as its office manager. While he was still in Taiwan, Kao worked with Jessy Lin (one of the owners of Joy Holiday) as a tour organizer. Kao later arrived in California on a tourist visa and moved into the home of Lin and her husband Harry Chen. Kao was paid a salary of $1,700 per month, representing a gross amount of $2,500 less an $800 rent deduction. After he received an H-1B visa, Kao was put on the company payroll and worked as the “office manager” of Joy Holiday where he booked hotels and coordinated bus tours. The trial court determined that Kao worked roughly 50 hours per week. Kao was later demoted to “non-manager status,” moved into his own apartment and eventually was terminated after working for Joy Holiday for approximately two years. Kao filed suit for breach of contract and violation of various wage/hour statutes. Following a bench trial, the court awarded Kao $481,089 in unpaid wages, prejudgment interest, attorney’s fees and costs. The trial court also determined that Lin and Chen had individual alter-ego liability based on the unity of interest and ownership between them and Joy Holiday; among other things, they commingled and made unauthorized use of corporate assets. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment.