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CALIFORNIA CORPORATE & SECURITIES LAW

Pay By Another Name Might Be Salt

Yesterday’s post concerned the classification of directors and officers as employees for purposes of California’s workers’ compensation law. Effective January 1, 2017, California Labor Code Section 3351(c) will define “employee” to include all “officers and members of boards of directors of quasi-public or private corporations while rendering actual service for the corporations for pay” (read the post for possible exclusion).  The statute doesn’t define “pay” and that set me to thinking about the several different words that we use to describe “pay”.

“Pay”  The word “pay” is derived from the Latin word pax meaning peace (a word also derived from pax).  Certainly one will not have peace if salaries are unpaid.

“Salary”  The word “salary” is also of Latin derivation.  It is a descendant of the term for money given to Roman soldiers to buy salt.  Thus, Pliny the Elder in his Natural History wrote “non alio magis vocabulo constat. honoribus etiam militiaeque interponitur salariis inde dictis (“Even in the very honours, too, that are bestowed upon successful warfare, salt plays its part, and from it, our word “salarium”).  Book XXXI, Ch. 41 (John Bostock, translator).

“Wage” Yet another word is “wage”, which is derived from a Gothic word meaning to pledge.  I don’t know why, but we often use the plural form as in “The sheep for fodder follow the shepherd; the shepherd for food follows not the sheep: thou for wages followest thy master; thy master for wages follows not thee: therefore thou art a sheep”.  William Shakespeare, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act. 1, Scene 1, Line 92.  Weirdly, “wages” can also be singular as in “For the wages of sin is death . . .”.  Romans 6:23 (KJV).  In the case of this verse, it may be that the translators were seeking to preserve the sense of the original Greek text which used the plural word, “salaries” (ὀψώνια) and the singular word, “death” (θάνατοσ).  Perhaps Huck Finn was unconsciously echoing Romans 6:23 when he reasons: “Well, then, says I, what’s the use you learning to do right, when it’s troublesome to do right and ain’t no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same?”  Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Ch. 18 (1884).

“Compensation” Still another word is “compensation”.  This word, derived from the Latin, compensare, which means to balance.  Thus, compensation connotes a balancing of labor and payment.  Note surprisingly, all of these words can be found in the California Labor Code.

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