meal and rest breaks

California Appellate Court Rejects ABC Test for Non-Wage-Order Claims

Some positive news for those employers that retain independent contractors. On October 22, 2018, the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District, held that the Dynamex “ABC” test (which we previously discussed here) to determine whether an independent contractor is an employee, only applies to wage order claims. But the case is a mixed bag and is a reminder that post-Dynamex, hiring parties bear a heavier burden to overcome the presumption that all workers are employees.

The case is Jesus Cuitlahuac Garcia v. Border Transportation Group, LLC, et al., involving plaintiff Jesus Garcia (“Garcia”), a taxi driver, who brought a wage and hour lawsuit against Border Transportation Group (“BTG”), with whom he drove taxi for several years. The trial court granted summary judgment for BTG, applying the decades-old multifactor S.G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations, 48 Cal. 3d 341 (1989) test and finding Garcia was an independent contractor, not an employee entitled to wage order protection. The trial court’s reasoning included that Garcia controlled the means and manner of his work and “could and did market his business in his own name.”

Garcia appealed, during which time the California Supreme Court decided Dynamex, adopting the “ABC” test to determine whether a worker is an employee. Under this test, a hired individual is presumed an employee and the burden lays entirely on the hiring party to rebut that presumption by showing:

  • that the worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of such work and in fact;
  • that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business;
  • that the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity.

Turning first to Garcia’s wage order claims, the court focused on the “C” prong and found that BTG failed to carry its burden to show Garcia actually “provided services for other entities ‘independently’ of his relationship with BTG.” The court rejected BTGs reliance on Sebago v. Bos. Cab Dispatch, Inc., which focused the inquiry on whether the worker is permitted to establish an independent business operation. The court noted that Dynamex requires an “existing, not potential showing of independent business operation.” The court reversed summary judgment on the wage order claims.

But in positive news for hiring parties, turning next to Garcia’s non-wage-order claims, the court held the ABC test did not apply, and upheld summary adjudication as to those claims.[1] The court explained that the Supreme Court did not reject the more flexible, multifactor Borello test in all instances, and that Borello applies when a cause of action is predicated solely on the Labor Code, while the ABC test is properly limited to wage-order claims. The court reasoned that the Supreme Court “recognized that different standards could apply to different statutory claims…” and emphasized that “primacy of statutory purpose” should resolve “the employee or independent contractor question.” The court found “no reason to apply the ABC test categorically to every working relationship, particularly when Borello…remains the standard for worker’s compensation.” And because the parties did not identify a “a basis to apply Dynamex to [the] non-wage-order claims,” the court concluded that Borello “furnished the proper standard as to those claims” without analyzing their primary statutory purposes.

Orrick will continue to track interpretations of the Dynamex case as they are published. For the latest employment law updates, subscribe to the Orrick Employment Law and Litigation Blog.

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[1] Garcia’s non-wage-order claims included wrongful termination in violation of public policy, failure to pay overtime, and waiting time penalties.

Not All Class Actions Are Created Equal Under CAFA, Says the Ninth Circuit

The Ninth Circuit recently delivered a setback to defendants seeking to remove cases to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”) when it interpreted the statute narrowly to exclude consideration of non-class claims in determining the jurisdictional amount in controversy in Yocupicio v. PAE Grp., LLC, No. 15-55878, 2015 WL 4568722 (9th Cir. 2015).

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Employers Finally Get a Break—Court Reverses $90 Million Verdict and Holds That Employers Are Not Required to Relieve Employees of All Duty During Rest Periods

On December 31, 2014, the Court of Appeal for the Second District of California held in an unpublished opinion that employers are not required to relieve employees of all duty during rest periods mandated by California state law.  In so holding, the court in Augustus v. ABM Sec. Servs., Inc., No. B243788, 2014 WL 7463154 (Cal. Ct. App. Dec. 31, 2014), reversed the trial court’s award of approximately $90 million dollars in statutory damages, interest, penalties, and attorneys’ fees to the employees.

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

Gavel and Hundred-Dollar Bill

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

Post-Brinker Class Certification Decisions – Where are they now?

Coins and Hourglass

Brinker continues to impact meal and rest period and off-the-clock cases as lower courts continue to grapple with the contours of its application.  Several cases at the appellate level were remanded after the California Supreme Court’s Brinker decision, and those cases are now working their way through the lower courts.  On our July 6, 2012 blog post, we identified three post-Brinker decisions denying class certification in meal period cases.  Below is a brief summary of post-Brinker decisions issued since our last update. READ MORE

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

3 Minutes to 12:00

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

The Price of Peace – Consulting Group Identifies Average Cost of Wage-and-Hour Class Settlements

It is no secret that the vast majority of wage-and-hour class actions are settled.  What is less clear is the going settlement rate.  Researchers from NERA, an economic consulting group, recently answered this question:  approximately $1,100 per plaintiff per class year.  READ MORE