Employment Law Notes agriculture wage order

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.