The court denies Specially Appearing Defendant Greg Weitz’s (“Defendant”) Motion to Quash Service of Summons and the First Amended Complaint for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction.

Plaintiffs have met their burden to establish sufficient minimum contacts with California to warrant an exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over Defendant with regard to this lawsuit.  (See Ziller Electronics Lab GmbH v. Superior Court (1988) 206 Cal.App.3d 1222, 1232-1233.)  Defendant purposefully established contacts with California by forming a business here (with 25% personal ownership), becoming the CEO of that new California company (which shared a domain name and telephone number with the other companies that Defendant worked for in Florida and Georgia that were also named some iteration of “Turf Evolutions”), traveling to visit the company’s offices in California four to six times, participated in management of the California company, and purposefully established contacts with California workers that led to this wage and hour dispute. 

Defendant argues that there is no purposeful availment here because his status as CEO and his status as minority shareholder does not create personal liability as an “employer” under California law.  He reasons that because he cannot be responsible for the wage and hour claims made in this lawsuit, the claims do not “arise from” any contact with California.  It is true that only an employer can be sued for unpaid minimum wages or overtime compensation. (Martinez v. Combs (2010) 49 Cal.4th 35, 52-63; Cal. Code Regs. tit. 8, § 11140, ¶ 2(C), (F) [employer has specific definitions that require the exercise of control].)  California law does not impose personal liability on corporate officers or directors for wages owed by a corporate employer.  (Reynolds v. Bement (2005) 36 Cal.4th 1075, 1085, abrogated on other grounds by Martinez v. Combs, supra, 49 Cal.4th at p. 75.)

Here, Defendant may be a joint employer.  Even if Defendant is not a joint employer, he may be liable for penalties.  Labor Code section 558 authorizes civil penalties against “[a]ny employer or other person acting on behalf of an employer” who causes overtime pay violations to occur (Lab. Code, § 558, subd. (a) (emphasis added).)  Further, the Labor Code authorizes civil penalties against “[a]ny employer or other person acting either individually or as an officer, agent, or employee of another person” for failure to pay minimum wages (Lab. Code, § 1197.1 (emphasis added); see Reynolds v. Bement, supra, 36 Cal.4th at p. 1089 [“aggrieved employees may . . . maintain civil actions to recover such penalties”].)

Ultimately, Defendant may not be responsible for the wage and hour violations as an “employer” or as a shareholder. But, a determination of whether there is liability, is separate and distinct from the determination of personal jurisdiction.   Plaintiffs have met their burden to show Defendant’s participation in management of TurfEvolutions California. Defendant purposefully established contacts with the forum state and the claims made in this lawsuit arise from those contacts.

The burden then shifts to Defendant to show that California’s exercise of personal jurisdiction would be unreasonable.  (Jewish Def. Org., Inc. v. Superior Court (1999) 72 Cal.App.4th 1045, 1054-1055.)  Defendant has not met his burden.     

Within 15 days after notice of ruling, Defendant Greg Weitz  shall file his responsive pleading.  ( Code Civ. Proc., § 418.10, subd. (b).)

Plaintiffs shall give notice of the ruling.

image_pdfimage_print