What’s in a Name? An Analysis of California Wage Statements and the Requirement that an Employer Provide both its Name and Address

“What’s in a name?” That was the question asked by the California Court of Appeal in Noori v. Countrywide Payroll & HR Solutions, Inc. (2019) 43 Cal. App. 5th 957, 964. California Labor Code Section 226(a)(8) requires employers to provide wage statements that list “the name and address of the legal entity that is the employer” each pay period. “Name” is undefined in Section 226(a)(8). The California Labor Code further provides that “[a]n employee is deemed to suffer injury for purposes of this subdivision if the employer fails to provide accurate and complete information as required […] and the employee cannot promptly and easily determine from the wage statement alone […] the name […] of the employer.” Cal. Lab. Code § 226(e)(2)(B)(iii).

Section 226(a)(8) seeks to avoid confusion by employees regarding the identity of their employer so that employees may quickly identify their employer when grievances arise out of wages, for unemployment insurance purposes and for income tax and pension purposes. Mejia v. Farmland Mut. Ins. Co., No. 217CV00570TLNKJN, 2018 WL 3198006, at *6 (E.D. Cal. June 26, 2018) (citing Paul D. Ward, bill mem. to Governor Brown re Assem. Bill No. 1750 (1963–1964 Reg. Sess.) June 24, 1963).

Courts have held that Section 226(a)(8) does not expressly require that the company’s complete name or the name registered with the California Secretary of State be included on the wage statement. See, e.g., Mejia, 2018 WL 3198006, at *6 (“[I]f the Legislature had intended the name on wage statements be identical to the name registered with the Secretary of State, it would have stated so.”) Instead, Courts have repeatedly held that companies may list their fictitious business names on wage statements. See Savea v. YRC Inc. (2019) 34 Cal. App. 5th 173, 180 (using California registered fictitious business name “YRC Freight” instead of the legal corporate name “YRC Inc.” did not violate statute); see also York v. Starbucks Corp., No. CV-08-07919 GAF, 2009 WL 8617536, at *8 (C.D. Cal., Dec. 3, 2009) (using “Starbucks Coffee Company” a fictitious business name of “Starbuck Corporation” rather than the official corporate name satisfied Section 226(a)(8) as a matter of law); see also Mejia, 2018 WL 3198006, at *6 (Defendant’s use of the name “Farmland Mutual Insurance Co.” instead of its registered name “Farmland Mutual Insurance Company” did not violate Section 226(a)(8) as a matter of law); see also Sali v. Corona Reg’l Med. Ctr. (9th Cir. 2018) 909 F. 3d 996, 1011 (finding no violation where company issued wage statements that listed the employer as Corona Regional Medical Center, rather than Corona’s corporate name, UHS-Corona, Inc.).

However, not all fictitious business names satisfy the statute. Numerous courts have found that “severe truncations or alterations of the employer’s name can violate the statute, particularly where confusion might ensue.” Noori, 43 Cal. App. 5th at 965. For example, in Cicairos v. Summit Logistics, Inc. the California Court of Appeal found a violation of Section 226(a)(8) where an employer printed the word “SUMMIT” along with logo on earning statements, instead of “Summit Logistics, Inc.” (2005) 133 Cal. App. 4th 949, 961. Likewise, the District Court for the Central District of California found a violation where an employer listed “Wal-Mart Associates, Inc.” instead of “Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.” on earnings statements, where multiple Wal-Mart entities shared the same address. See Mays v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (C.D. Cal. 2019) 354 F. Supp. 3d 1136, 1142-1144. The District Court for the Central District of California also found that an employer did not comply with Section 226(a)(8) where the employer printed “First Transit” and a logo on wage statements, instead of “First Transit Transportation, LLC,” where a different entity “First Transit, Inc.” also existed. Clarke v. First Transit, Inc., No. CV 07-6476 GAF (MANX), 2010 WL 11459323, at *4 (C.D. Cal., Nov. 4, 2010).

If your wage statements list a company name that is confusing and makes it difficult to identify your employer, please feel free to contact the experienced attorneys at Hunter Pyle Law for a free and confidential intake process. We can be reached at inquire@hunterpylelaw.com, or at (510) 444-4400.