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Riding A Wave of Wage and Hour Class Action Litigation

California’s Leading Wage and Hour Class Action Lawyer, San Diego’s own Bill Turley is the “Go-To” Lawyer for Wage and Hour Legislation in Sacramento.

What does big wave surfing have to do with the law? A lot, as it turns out. As Justice Werdegar points out in the first paragraph in her majority opinion in the landmark California Supreme Court case Brinker vs. Superior Court:

For the better part of a century, California law has guaranteed employees wage and hour protection, including meal and rest periods intended to ameliorate the consequences of long hours. For most of that time, only injunctive remedies were available for violations of meal and rest period guarantees. In 2000, however, both the Legislature and the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) adopted, for the first time, monetary remedies for the denial of meal and rest breaks. These remedies engendered a wave of wage and hour class action litigation...San Diego’s Bill Turley is one of the leading attorneys riding California’s tidal wave of wage and hour litigation. Perhaps no lawyer in California has ridden this wage and hour class action wave more successfully than San Diego lawyer Bill Turley.

The Story that Is Driving the Wage Litigation Tidal Wave
As Bill explains, “In order to fully grasp this tidal wave of wage and hour litigation, you first have to understand what’s actually driving the litigation. According to a 2018 report by Politico, $15 billion dollars in wages is stolen each year, just from low wage workers alone.” At one of the California Assembly hearings on wage theft legislation when Bill Turley was testifying, Bill met Julie Su—the California Labor Commissioner. Labor Commissioner Su testified about the horrendous delays and hurdles workers face in bringing claims through the State of California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). She talked about the severe lack of funding provided to the Labor Commission that is tasked with helping California workers recover unpaid wages. All this goes a long way in explaining why so many wage and class action and Private Attorney Generals Act (PAGA) cases are filed in California. Bill says, “In a PAGA action, private attorneys are deputized to represent the State of California to enforce Labor Code violations. For most workers, a collective action, such as a wage and hour class action and a PAGA action, is the only way that they can recover unpaid wages. This explains the tidal wave of litigation that Justice Werdegar was referring to in her landmark Supreme Court ruling in the Brinker case.” Bill goes on to explain, “Many employers and the Chamber of Commerce are quick to attack PAGA wage cases. But what often gets lost in the discussion is the original purpose of PAGA. The California legislature enacted PAGA to enforce California labor statutes, because District Attorneys simply weren’t enforcing California Labor Code Sections which criminalized wage theft. A PAGA action is fundamentally a law enforcement action designed to protect the public and penalize employers for past illegal conduct.”

Telling the Story Behind the Story of the Brinker Case
The California Supreme Court made powerful worker rights in their Brinker decision. Most wage and hour lawyers see the Brinker case as the most important California Supreme Court wage case for California workers. What you may not realize is that the Brinker case started right here in San Diego.
San Diego lawyer Bill Turley was the original lawyer representing the workers in the Brinker case. Here’s the story behind the story, so to speak, regarding the Brinker case. As Bill explains, “You have to go back to the year 2000 where it all starts.” This tidal wave of litigation really all begins with Labor Code Section 226.7 going into effect in 2000. Under 226.7, workers are entitled to an hour’s pay for every missed meal break and rest break. This is the monetary remedy that is powering this wave of litigation. In 2001, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) used California Labor Code Section 226.7 to launch an investigation into Brinker (Chili’s restaurants) after receiving complaints that Brinker wasn’t providing employees with meal breaks and rest breaks. The DLSE files suit against Brinker. With the usual disclaimer of liability, Brinker settles the DLSE case in 2003 for $10 million dollars. Adam Hohnbaum is a bartender at Chili’s. Based upon his experience, Adam—along with all the other Chili’s employees—rarely receives either rest breaks or meal breaks at Brinker. When he gets his DLSE settlement check in the mail, Adam is understandably skeptical of whether he is releasing his rights to receive compensation from Brinker for all his missed meal breaks and rest breaks by cashing the DLSE settlement check. Adam decides to talk to a lawyer about his rights. When Adam walks into Bill Turley’s office in 2003, neither Adam nor Bill have any idea of the wild, crazy and historic ride that is before them. Certainly, Bill doesn’t realize that he will be regularly testifying before the California State Senate and California State Assembly due to being “THE” expert on California wage and hour law. In 2003, Adam doesn’t see that it will take 13 years, three trips to the Fourth District Court of Appeals and being the lead Plaintiff in what many consider the most important wage and hour California Supreme Court case ever. Adam undoubtedly has no idea that he will be instrumental in helping to make the most powerful worker wage protection law in America. Adam certainly doesn’t foresee sitting in a deposition where the company lawyers are asking him if he knows that he may lose his house if he loses the case because of the company’s huge cost bill in defending the case. And the company lawyers certainly don’t anticipate the backbone that this bartender has when his reply to the company lawyers is, “Bring it, game on.” It takes workers with the wherewithal of Adam Hohnbaum to take on a big company and the vision of Bill Turley and the other lawyers that represented the workers in the Brinker case to make great law. You might have heard of the expression, “Good facts— good law, bad facts—bad law.” Or at least, words to that effect. As Bill points out, “With the Brinker case, it really was strong facts that resulted in the most powerful wage protection law in America.” What most wage and hour lawyers don’t realize is that after the California Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Brinker and all the trips to the Fourth District Court of Appeals, the trial court certified every cause of action except the off-the-clock claim. Or that the Brinker case went on to settle for $56.5 million dollars. But, that isn’t what the Brinker case “is about.” Just ask Bill Turley.

What the Brinker Case Is About
Bill is understandably proud of the historic worker protection laws that were made in the Brinker case, “What the Brinker case is about is protecting every hourly employee in California. In the Brinker decision the California Supreme Court held that the California Labor Code and California Wage Orders must be liberally construed for the protection and benefit of employees.” Bill observes, “The Supreme Court in Brinker established the duties an employer must meet to provide meal periods. An employer must relieve employees of all duties, relinquish all control, permit a reasonable opportunity to take the meal period, and not give an incentive to not take a meal period.” As Bill explains, “No other worker in America has stronger meal and rest break protections. I use these powerful duties every day to win unpaid wages class actions for California workers.”

Bill’s Obsession with Wage Theft
Some people obsess over bacon. You probably know someone that binge watches Netflix. Other people keep up with the Kardashians. Bill’s obsession is stopping wage theft. That is, helping workers get their unpaid wages back. He’s preoccupied with finding new and novel theories and tactics to help workers recover unpaid wages. As Bill explains it, “Unfortunately, there is a reason for the tidal wave of wage and hour litigation in California. It’s due to wage theft being so shockingly prevalent in California. My passion is helping workers when their wages are stolen. So many low wage workers are one or two paychecks away from being homeless. When they aren’t paid what they are owed it’s usually devastating for them and their families.” Bill has developed unique strategies, techniques and legal theories to find ways to get workers their hard-earned wages that have been stolen, back. Bill has successfully recovered over $100 million dollars in unpaid wages for hundreds of thousands of California workers.

The Brinker Case Is Just the Beginning
Since the Brinker case there have been two more very powerful pro-worker California Supreme Court cases. Bill and his partner, Dave Mara, wrote the winning amicus briefs in both cases—Augustus vs. ABM and Williams vs. Superior Court. In the 2016 California Supreme Court case Augustus vs. ABM Security, the first case cited to support the pro-worker decision was the Brinker case. The very first lines of the Augustus opinion state: We granted review to address two related issues: whether employers are required to permit their employees to take off-duty rest periods and whether employers may require their employees to remain “on call” during rest periods. What we conclude is that state law prohibits on-duty and on-call rest periods. During required rest periods, employers must relieve their employees of all duties and relinquish any control over how employees spend their break time. (See Brinker v. Superior Court.) Which is exactly what Bill and his partner Dave Mara argued in the winning Supreme Court amicus brief they filed in support of California workers in the Augustus case. Similarly, in the 2017 California Supreme Court case—Williams vs. Superior Court—Bill is proud to point out the California Supreme Court stuck to the same path that Dave Mara and he suggested they should in the Supreme Court amicus brief that they filed. In the Williams case, the California Supreme Court held that workers can conduct state-wide discovery in Private Attorneys General Act cases and workers must be provided the contact information for their co-workers.


Getting on the Road to Success by Following the “Go-Giver” Philosophy
Unlike what you might expect based upon his outstanding successes, Bill will tell you that he’s not a “go-getter.” In fact, Bill’s the opposite. When you meet Bill, you will quickly see that he’s all about giving. That is, giving people more in value than he receives, both professionally and socially. Bill explains, “I believe in the go-giver philosophy, which is actually the opposite of a go-getter. If you haven’t read the book, The Go-Giver—I highly recommend it. If you want to jump start your life and/or your law practice, reading and following the philosophy in this book is a great way to do it. It really is all about giving. You will find that the more that you give, with no expectation of getting anything in return, the more successful you will become.” Bill has been giving for years. Bill is listed as amicus counsel on over 20 California Supreme Court cases in addition to the winning amicus briefs in the Augustus and Williams cases. Bill regularly works with the United States Senate Commerce Committee on potential federal wage legislation affecting workers. Bill is quick to point out that he doesn’t work for the United States Senate Commerce Committee. But the fact that the Senate Commerce Committee contacts him for advice on important federal legislation regarding wages speaks volumes about his skills and reputation as a wage and hour class action lawyer. Truth be told, Bill doesn’t get paid when he goes to Sacramento to testify on potential wage theft legislation. This is even though when Bill’s invited to Sacramento to testify on wage and hour legislation he’s been the only wage and hour class action/PAGA lawyer invited to testify. Another example of his giving philosophy is Bill helped draft the recent legislative changes to PAGA laws. Bill was the wage and hour lawyer that was asked to meet with the Governor’s office to help write the new PAGA amendments. Another example of Bill’s go-giver approach is when the recent initiatives were filed that would have effectively repealed the PAGA laws, Bill was invited to meet with the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) addressing the fiscal impact posed by the anti-worker PAGA initiatives. Bill was also invited to meet with the California Attorney General’s Office regarding the ballot language for the PAGA initiatives. It says a lot about Bill’s reputation that he was the wage and hour lawyer that was invited to these high-level meetings. Due to Bill and organized labor’s hard work, the PAGA initiatives were withdrawn.
Bill has been awarded the Superlawyer award for the last eight years and he has the highest lawyer rating. Bill is a past President of the Consumer Attorneys of San Diego and he has been on the Board of Governors of the Consumer Attorneys of California for over 15 years. All of this goes a long way to explain why Bill is known as the “go-to” lawyer for wage and hour law at the Capitol in Sacramento. However, Bill will tell you that he had a modest start. In third grade he stuttered so bad he was put into remedial reading. “At the time, being put into remedial reading was pretty difficult for me. But it gave me the drive to become successful,” Bill points out.

Truth Is, Truth Wins
Believe it or not, Bill Turley is known for telling it like it is. “I’m never going to tell you what you may want to hear. I’m going to tell you the brutal, frank truth, no matter what, especially if it isn’t what you want to hear,” Bill explains. “Every good lawyer knows that a big part of this job is managing clients’ expectations. Telling them things are all rosy when, in fact, they’re standing in cow manure, is never helpful. Instead, telling them they are standing in manure and your plan to try to use fertilizer to try and grow some roses is a much better plan,” claims Bill. “Folks appreciate that I’m going to tell them the facts of life. I give professional advice the same way that I want it when I hire a professional,” Bill states. He goes on, “Frankly, my straight-shooter, frank approach is why I’m asked to testify before the California legislature, it’s why I’m invited to help draft wage and hour legislation, and its why so many clients ask me to handle their case. At the end of the day, you have to win your case with truthful evidence,” Bill goes on to explain.

A Family that Plays Together…
When Bill isn’t obsessing over wage law, he and his two daughters—Kaila (12) and Waian (10)—can be found surfing. They all surf competitively for the Cardiff Surf Club. Kaila has won the WindNSea Surf Contest twice and the Mission Jetty Surf Contest. Waian won last year’s WindNSea Surf Contest. Bill and his girls are also avid powder skiers. They love cat-skiing in Utah. Bill exclaims, “There are very, very few girls that can powder ski as well as these girls. If there are, I haven’t seen it. Kai and Wai have been skiing since they can walk, and they ski like it.”

Family Values: A Family Tradition
Bill tells his kids that, in many respects, they live in a make-believe world here in California. For this reason, the last few years Bill has made it a point to go to different parts of the world for his children to see folks that are less fortunate economically than themselves. This is all part of teaching his kids how to be go-givers. For example, this past summer while they were on a surf trip to El Salvador, Bill and his family visited a local Catholic orphanage. As Bill tells it, “There were 74 children at the orphanage and 23 of those children were under one year of age. It was heartbreaking to see these children living in such a tough environment. But the children were fortunate to live behind a huge wall that protected them from the harsh life that was right outside the front gate.” The girls at the El Salvador orphanage that are around the age of Kaila are trained to work in local bakeries. They face a very different future than kids that are fortunate enough to grow up in California. The children at the orphanage were so grateful for the Turley family’s visit. The headmaster and the older children teared up with joy when Bill and his girls handed them a donation check. Bill figures the folks at the orphanage didn’t realize that his family got more out of their visit to the orphanage than the children at the orphanage did. “The visit to the orphanage helps Kai and Wai learn how to give. And giving when you expect nothing in return. These lessons are so vitally important. I want them to learn about charity, being generous, and being responsible.” The way Bill sees it, “Supporting a foundation, cause or charity is important. Whether it be for clean water, the Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, cancer or other causes—it is important for us as citizens.” Giving at an orphanage in a country where poverty is a way of life is, in Bill’s view, even a more powerful lesson.

The Turley & Mara Law Firm, APLC
7428 Trade Street
San Diego, CA 92121
Phone (619) 234-2833
Fax (619) 234-4048

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