Kao v. Joy HolidayAnnotate this Case
The appellants owned Joy Holiday, a travel company operating bus tours for Chinese-speaking travelers. In 2009, Kao, a Taiwanese national, came to the U.S. after accepting a job offer from Joy. Joy filed an H-1B visa application stating it wished to employ Kao at an hourly salary of $29.30. Before receipt of the visa, Kao moved into the appellants’ home and began working for Joy. Kao was paid monthly: $2,500 less $800 for rent. The appellants characterized the payments as an allowance or stipend. Joy’s accountant characterized the payments as salary despite Kao not being on the payroll. Kao received no itemized statements. After receipt of the visa, Kao was put on Joy’s payroll with a $2,500 monthly salary. Kao normally worked 10-12 hours daily. His rent was reduced to $600. In January 2011, Kao was demoted and his salary was reduced to $2,000. Kao moved into an apartment but the payroll records reflect the $600 rent deduction through April 2011. Kao’s employment was terminated in May 2011.
Kao filed suit, alleging violations of federal and state law regulating minimum wage and overtime pay, 29 U.S.C. 201; Lab. Code 1194, 1194.2. The court of appeal found that Kao was a non-exempt employee, entitled to recover unpaid wages under his statutory claims and remanded with instructions to calculate the wage and overtime payments for Kao’s entire employment. The court subsequently affirmed the award on remand: $481,088.94 for unpaid wages, attorney fees, and costs, with prejudgment interest. Kao was employed by Joy and it was appropriate to invoke the alter ego doctrine to hold the appellants personally liable.