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.
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.