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Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc.

Supreme Court of California

April 16, 2007, Filed


Case Summary

Procedural Posture

Plaintiff employee sought review of a judgment from the Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division One (California), which reversed the trial court's award of payments under Lab. Code, § 226.7, to the employee for meal and rest period violations by defendant employer.


The employee, a store manager, filed a wage claim with the California Labor Commissioner asserting claims for unpaid overtime and waiting time penalties. The commissioner issued a decision in the employee's favor. The employer filed a notice for de novo review. The employee then asserted new claims for meal and rest period and itemized pay statement violations. The trial court applied the three-year statute of limitations in Code Civ. Proc., § 338, when it awarded payments for meal and rest period violations. The court of appeal ruled that the payments were penalties subject to the one-year statute of limitations in Code Civ. Proc., § 340, subd. (a), and that the claims could not be raised for the first time in the de novo trial. The court concluded that payments under Lab. Code, § 226.7, were wages and not penalties. Therefore, the trial court correctly applied the three-year statute of limitations. The court further held that the trial court had discretion under Lab. Code, § 98.2, subd. (a), to allow additional related wage claims in the de novo trial that were not first considered by the commissioner. The employee's new claims were part of the same underlying wage dispute.


The court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal.

LexisNexis® Headnotes



Business & Corporate Compliance > ... > Wage & Hour Laws > Scope & Definitions > Overtime & Work Periods

HN1  Overtime & Work Periods

See Lab. Code, § 226.7, subds. (a), (b).


Governments > Legislation > Statutory Remedies & Rights

Governments > Legislation > Statute of Limitations > Time Limitations

HN2  Statutory Remedies & Rights

A three-year statute of limitations applies to wage claims as provided in Code Civ. Proc., § 338, subd. (a), while a one-year statute of limitations governs claims for penalties. Code Civ. Proc., § 340, subd. (a).


Governments > Legislation > Interpretation

HN3  Interpretation

In determining legislative intent, a court must look first to the words of the statute because they generally provide the most reliable indicator of legislative intent. If the statutory language is clear and unambiguous, the inquiry ends. If there is no ambiguity in the language, the court presumes the legislature meant what it said and the plain meaning of the statute governs. In reading statutes, courts are mindful that words are to be given their plain and commonsense meaning. Statutes governing conditions of employment are to be construed broadly in favor of protecting employees. Only when the statute's language is ambiguous or susceptible of more than one reasonable interpretation may the court turn to extrinsic aids to assist in interpretation.

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40 Cal. 4th 1094 ; 155 P.3d 284 ; 56 Cal. Rptr. 3d 880 ; 2007 Cal. LEXIS 3596 ; 2007 Daily Journal DAR 4981; 12 Wage & Hour Cas. 2d (BNA) 833; 2007 Cal. Daily Op. Service 3958; 154 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P60,391

JOHN PAUL MURPHY, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. KENNETH COLE PRODUCTIONS, INC., Defendant and Appellant.

Subsequent History: Motion to modify denied by Murphy (John Paul) v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc., 2007 Cal. LEXIS 4749 (Cal., May 9, 2007)

Prior History:  [1]  Superior Court of San Francisco County, No. CGC-03-423260, Anne E. Bouliane. Court of Appeal of California, First Appellate District, Division One, Nos. A107219; A10834.

Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc., 134 Cal. App. 4th 728, 36 Cal. Rptr. 3d 418, 2005 Cal. App. LEXIS 1861 (Cal. App. 1st Dist., 2005)