Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, March 11, 2024


Page 1


Court of Appeal:

S.F. Giants Did Not Commit Alleged Labor Code Violations

Enactment Clarifying Earlier Statute Makes Clear That Persons Hired to Perform Roles Such as Security Guards at Games Are Not Fired Upon Conclusion of Their Services, Requiring Immediate Payment of Wages, Opinion Says


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The First District Court of Appeal has affirmed a judgment in favor of the company that owns the San Francisco Giants, holding that persons who performed work intermittently for the club weren’t fired at the completion of each assignment and were therefore not entitled to payment-on-the-spot for the services they performed.

Presiding Justice Alison M. Tucher of Div. Three authored the unpublished opinion, filed Thursday. It affirms a judgment by San Francisco Superior Court Judge John Munter, but rejects his reasoning.

Munter held that Senate Bill 286, authored by Sen. Maria Durazo, D-Los Angeles, was intended by the Legislature to have retroactive effect. That bill, enacted on Sept. 13, 2019, creates Labor Code §201.8, providing that “events employees” of professional baseball teams are not discharged at the “conclusion of an event or series of events (whether it is a single game, concert, or event, or a series of games in a homestand, or the end of the season for a professional baseball team).”

Sec. 201.8, Munter ruled, in granting judgment on the pleadings in favor of defendant San Francisco Baseball Associates, obliterates causes of action in a putative class action brought on Nov. 25, 2015 by security guard George Melendez.

No Retroactive Effect

Tucher discerned no legislative intent that the new statute be applied retroactively.

“The general rule is that statutes operate prospectively only, and there is a presumption against retroactive legislation,” the presiding justice recited.

But she rejected Melendez’s contention that SB 286 establishes new law and, as such, cannot be applied retroactively, and that under §201, which governed at the time the suit was filed, damages and penalties must be awarded to class members. Sec. 201(a) provides, in part:

“If an employer discharges an employee, the wages earned and unpaid at the time of discharge are due and payable immediately.”

The Giants made payments to workers such as Melendez at its next regular pay period

Tucher declared that §201.8 “clarifies existing law,” rather than creating new law.

She noted that “[t]he term ‘discharge’ in section 201 is not defined, which led to the controversy in the present case about whether workers employed in the baseball industry are discharged each time they complete a specific assignment.”

Supreme Court Decision

Language in the California Supreme Court’s April 25, 2019 decision in Melendez I was cited. There, then-Justice Ming Chin (now an arbitrator/mediator) wrote for the court in rejecting the Giants’ contention that an arbitration clause in a collective bargaining agreement is applicable to the dispute.

Chin alluded to the parties’ respective stances on the merits, but said:

“These are credible arguments, and they will have to be considered when the trial court resolves the merits of this lawsuit on remand. But they are arguments concerning the meaning of ‘discharge’ under Labor Code section 201, not concerning the meaning of the collective bargaining agreement.”

Tucher wrote:

 “Within months of that decision, the Legislature added section 201.8 to the Labor Code, which resolves the matter conclusively by expressly adopting the Giants’ view that their employees are not discharged each time a specific job assignment is completed.”

From that, she said, it is reasonable to construe the legislation as an effort to resolve any ambiguity in §201 by declaring what was intended in enacting it.

Declaring Existing Law

“When a statute has been definitively interpreted, an amendment inconsistent with that interpretation would be a change in the law, regardless of any legislative declaration suggesting otherwise,” she wrote. “But when there is a genuine dispute about how properly to interpret a statutory term, the fact that the Legislature promptly acts for the express purpose of clarifying the statute is a strong indication that the resulting statute is indeed a clarification of existing law, applicable to pending cases on that basis.”

Tucher remarked:

 “The fact that our high court recognized Melendez’s interpretation of section 201 as plausible but not incontrovertible reinforces our conclusion that a clarification was in order and was provided when the Legislature enacted section 201.8.”

The case is Melendez v. San Francisco Baseball Associates, LLC, A163560.


Copyright 2024, Metropolitan News Company