Court Strikes Down Proposed Class of Female Wal-Mart Employees – Again!

After suffering defeat in the United States Supreme Court, Plaintiffs in Dukes et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. returned to court in California in an attempt to certify a newly defined and smaller class of 150,000 current and former female employees. On August 2, 2013, Judge Charles R. Breyer of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California denied Plaintiffs’ Motion for Class Certification, which leaves each member of the proposed class to pursue her claims individually against Wal-Mart. Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 3:10-CV-03005-CRB, Slip Op. at 2 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 2, 2013).  Read More

Do as I Say, Not as I Do: Differences in Duties Means No Commonality, No Class Certification for Unpaid Interns

As employers welcome a new group of eager interns to their offices this summer, employers may be thinking about the recent wave of class action lawsuits alleging that unpaid internships violate minimum wage and overtime laws. Should these claims be litigated on a classwide basis? Read More

Put up your Dukes! Supreme Court Clarifies that Damages Must be Capable of Class Wide Resolution in Rule 23(b)(3) Class Actions the United States Supreme Court’s Recent Ruling in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend

The United States Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, Case No. 11-864 (March 27, 2013) reinforces class certification requirements as spelled out in Wal-Mart v. Dukes. However, the closely divided court (5-4) and a strong dissent underscore that the battle over class certification standards may be far from over. While Comcast involved antitrust claims, the Court’s decision has implications for all Rule 23 cases, including employment class actions. Read More

Rule 23(b) or Not to Be: Wang v. Chinese News the Ninth Circuit’s Latest Decision to Reevaluate Certification after Wal-Mart

The Ninth Circuit’s recent decision in Wang v. Chinese Daily News is the latest to affirm that Wal-Mart v. Dukes is controlling in wage-and-hour class action cases.  Read More

California Court of Appeal Says No to Class Certification of Independent Contractors

The California Court of Appeal has affirmed a trial court’s order denying class certification on the alleged misclassification of independent contractors. The Court of Appeal provides a lengthy analysis of ascertainability and predominance of common issues of law and fact under California’s class action laws.  Read More

Post-Brinker Class Certification Decisions

On April 12, 2012, the California Supreme Court in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, 53 Cal. 4th 1004 (2012) issued a critical decision regarding break and off-the-clock class claims and the standards governing an employer’s obligation to provide breaks under California law. Since the Supreme Court issued its opinion, employers have been eagerly awaiting its application by the lower courts in determining the suitability of class treatment for break and off-the-clock claims. Below is a brief summary of post-Brinker class certification decisions that are helpful to employers.

Benton v. Tanintco, BC349267, Los Angeles County Superior Court: On May 2, Judge Wiley denied certification to a class of technicians who were allegedly misclassified as independent contractors. The court found that individualized issues predominated on the break and overtime claims and that there was no single way to determine liability. The court noted that there were no uniform break or overtime policies and that the declarations the employer submitted demonstrated that workplace experiences varied drastically. The court further stated that the plaintiff’s 43 “substantively identical…lawyer-drafted” declarations should be taken “with a grain of salt” and that at most, they established similar work conditions for only 6% of the putative class. Judge Wiley also reiterated that the Brinker concurrence, which only commanded two votes, is not the law.

Kimani v. Healthcare Investments, Inc., Case No. BC432360, Los Angeles County Superior Court: On May 11, Judge Strobel denied certification to a class of nurses on plaintiffs’ claim that the nurses were not provided a second meal break when working double shifts. The court had previously denied certification of plaintiffs’ overtime, first meal break and rest break claims. In analyzing the remaining double shift/second meal break claim and the derivative wage statement, final pay, unpaid wages and penalties claims, the court cited Brinker and found that determining liability would require individualized inquiries as to each class member and each double shift worked. Accordingly, individualized issues predominated, rendering class treatment inappropriate.

Peters v. Wells Fargo Bank NA, Case No. BC429408, Los Angeles County Superior Court: On June 20, citing Brinker, Judge Palazuelos denied certification of a class of personal bankers, finding that without a classwide policy impacting overtime and breaks, individualized issues predominated on plaintiff’s break and overtime claims and related off-the-clock allegations.

Upcoming Decisions

After granting review of Brinker, the California Supreme Court also granted review of many other class certification decisions involving break claims. See Brinkley v. Public Storage, Inc., Tien v. Tenet Healthcare, Inc., Hernandez v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., Faulkinbury v. Boyd & Assoc., Bradley v. Networkers Int’l LLC, Brookler v. Radioshack Corp. and Flores v. Lamps Plus. These cases are in the process of being sent back to the appellate courts for reanalysis in light of Brinker and we can expect decisions on these cases in the coming months.

 

Brinker‘s Effect on California Meal and Rest Periods

In a highly anticipated decision largely hailed as a victory for employers, the California Supreme Court, in Brinker v. Superior Court, No. S166350 (Cal. April 12, 2012), clarified employers’ obligations to provide meal and rest periods under California law and provided guidance regarding class certification issues in wage-and-hour litigation. On the most contentious of the issues raised in Brinker—the nature of an employer’s duty to provide meal periods under California law—the court held that an employer’s obligation is simply to relieve the employee of all duty for the designated period, with the employee free to use the time for whatever purpose he or she desires, but the employer need not ensure that no work is done. Thus, if an employer relieves an employee of all duty, but the employee continues to work, the court held that the employer will not be liable for premium pay. The court cautioned, however, that an employer may not undermine a formal policy of providing meal periods by coercing employees to skip breaks, creating incentives for employees to forego breaks, or otherwise encouraging employees not to take legally protected breaks. Read More