Most automotive technicians at auto dealers and repair facilities are required at their own expense to provide and maintain a toolbox with thousands of dollars worth of handtools. In California, a special “double minimum wage” applies for laborers who provide their tools at work, meaning these mechanics should be paid $22 per hour, rather than $11 per hour. (For mechanics working at dealers with more than 27 employees, the regular minimum wage is one dollar higher or $12, so the rate for laborers using their own tools is $24.)
Most of the California wage orders, including Wage Order 4-2001 which applies to automotive dealers include the same language:
“9. UNIFORMS AND EQUIPMENT
(B) When tools or equipment are required by the employer or are necessary to the performance of a job, such tools and equipment shall be provided and maintained by the employer, except that an employee whose wages are at least two (2) times the minimum wage provided herein may be required to provide and maintain hand tools and equipment customarily required by the trade or craft.” (8 Cal. Code Reg. 11040.)
Compliance with this wage order is not voluntary. California Labor Code section 1194 (a) provides that when an employer has paid less than the applicable minimum wage for that employee under a wage order, the employee may seek to recover the unpaid balance.
Still, many shops try to evade this requirement by providing a wholly inadequate set of tools to their mechanics and lube technicians. These employers try to skirt the law by forcing their mechanics to sign forms stating that they use the company’s tools, while they ignore the giant red and blue toolboxes at each technician’s stall. Notwithstanding the forms a mechanic may have been forced to sign to keep his job or the mechanics’ agreement to be paid less,
The first line of defense for most dealers and repair facilities is often to claim that their mechanics are provided a set of tools to share. Sometimes they have fabricated documents they force mechanics to sign claiming that the mechanic only uses the shop tools. Often this set exists, but is disorganized, incomplete, or scattered, and any mechanic who spent hours per day looking for missing socket wrenches would be terminated for inefficiency. While the shops unethically compel their mechanics to sign forms stating that they use their own tools, the shop knows this is not true. There are many ways to prove that the employer is attempting to evade the minimum wage including the fact that the mechanics have giant tool boxes at every stall, the fact that vendor trucks regularly come to the shop to sell tools to the mechanics since the tools wear out, and the fact that the shop almost never buys new hand tools despite allegedly being shared by numerous technicians.
Still, a mechanic who seeks to recover the thousands of dollars they may be owed needs an attorney who has dealt with these issues before. Important issues can include:
Every situation is different, and under California law their can be no guarantee about results. Repair shops and dealers will argue that even if they knew that the mechanic was being paid less than double the minimum wage, that the employer is not liable because they claim they are only required to provide tools for the mechanic, not pay double the minimum wage. Relying on section 45.5.8 of the DLSE Enforcement Manual, the lawyers for these employers typically argue that even though an employer is required to provide all tools necessary to do the work, any employer who fails to do so is liable for merely to reimburse the mechanics for tools purchased. Some employers have prevailed on such arguments, such as the employer in the unpublished 9th Circuit decision Gonzalez v. Nefab Packaging, Inc., — Fed. Appx. —, 2016 WL 560204 (9th Cir., Feb. 11, 2016) .
Lawyers representing mechanics who were not paid double the minimum wage need to consult with an attorney who is thoroughly familiar with the realities of the job for mechanics and equally familiar with all the arguments used by the employers’ attorneys. Glenn Nunes has helped dozens of satisfied mechanics recover tens of thousands of dollars, even when the mechanic had signed forms agreeing to use only the company’s tools.
With cases like Gonzalez v. Downtown LA Motors, 215 Cal.App.4th 36 (2013) and the Death of Flag Time compensation systems and more recent decisions such as the Nefab the law concerning pay for automotive technicians has evolved greatly in recent years and continues to evolve. With each change, in consultation with sophisticated attorneys, automotive dealers have developed new approaches to avoid paying the lawful double minimum wage and overtime. Few attorneys have been more committed to vindicating the wage rights of California mechanics in this time. Again and again, in court, arbitration, and mediation, Glenn has advocated for mechanics, helping them understand California law as it applies to their situations and helping them obtain excellent results.
Over dozens of successful cases, Glenn Nunes has developed deep knowledge of California wage law as it applies to mechanics. He is well versed concerning:
If you are a California auto mechanic who believes his employer may have skirted the law on meal periods, overtime, or the special double minimum wage for laborers who use their own tools, Glenn Nunes is a knowledgable and caring attorney committed to helping employees understand and protect their rights. Glenn provides reliable employment law guidance to mechanics and service advisers. Call 424-281-0785 or contact me online to schedule your FREE consultation at my office.