Case Brief - Hernandez v. Mendoza (1988)
199 Cal. App.3d 721


Main Issues:
(1) If an employee is placed on salary, how many hours is that to represent? Does it include overtime?
(2) If an employer did not keep track of the employees hours, what is the standard for reconstructing a the hours worked?

Holdings:
(1) A fixed salary must be construed as payment for a regular work week of 40 hours, since absent an explicit, mutual agreement, a fixed salary does not serve to compensate an employee for overtime.

(2) When an employer fails its affirmative duty to recorded hours worked, the employee may reconstruct hours worked by a "just and reasonable" inference. The employer then carries the burden to rebut the inference.

Facts and Law:
Hernandez brought an action to recover for uncompensated overtime from his former employer Mendoza. The employer had agreed to pay the employee a fixed salary per week, but there was no agreement as to the number of hours or days per week that the employee would work, or that the salary would include remuneration for overtime. The testimony of the parties was in conflict as to the number of hours and days that the employee had worked, although both parties agreed that the employee had worked in excess of 40 hours per week.

Hernandez introduced a calendar that he had filled out from memory over a year later that purported to show the hours and days worked. The employer introduced time cards that he admittedly had falsified.

The Court of Appeal held that the fixed salary must be construed as payment for a regular work week of 40 hours, since absent an explicit, mutual agreement, a fixed salary does not serve to compensate an employee for overtime.

Although the employee's evidence was imprecise as to the amount of overtime he had worked, the consequences of the employer's failure to keep accurate records as required by statute should fall on the employer, not the employee.

Hernandez carried out his burden by proving that he had performed work for which he was improperly compensated and by producing sufficient evidence that showed the amount and extent of that work as a matter of just and reasonable inference. The burden then shifted to the employer to produce evidence either of the precise amount of work or evidence to negate the reasonableness of the inference to be drawn from the employee's evidence. Since the employer could not produce accurate information, the court's duty is to draw whatever reasonable inferences it could from the employee's evidence.

 
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