The California Court of Appeal, in Cirrincion v. American Scissor Lift, Inc. recently upheld a trial court order denying class certification in a wage and hour class action. Since class certification is so often granted, this decision warrants further attention.
The underlying case involved an employee bringing multiple wage and hour claims, including allegations that the employer engaged in unlawful rounding of employee’s hours worked because it did not have any rounding policy. The trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion for class certification concluding that plaintiff had failed to establish that common questions of fact and law would predominate over individual questions, or that plaintiff’s claims were typical of those of the proposed subclass. The trial court focused on the predominance of common questions requirement.
The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court, also focusing on predominance of common questions, citing prior case law that “one valid reason for denying certification is sufficient.”
The Court of Appeal, like the trial court, did an extensive review of the allegations related to rounding finding that the trial court had correctly observed that an employer in California is entitled to round its employees’ work time if the rounding is done in a “fair and neutral” manner that does not result, over a period of time, in a failure to properly compensate an employee for all the time they have actually worked. Moreover, the court noted, there is nothing in California case law indicating that the “absence of a written rounding policy constitutes a violation of California law where an employer has a practice of rounding its employees’ worktime.” Thus, the plaintiff’s theory of liability is not a recognized theory of legal responsibility.
This decision builds further supports that rounding procedures, so long as conducted in a fair and neutral manner that does not undercompensate employees over a period of time, are still permitted under California law. Although employers should remember that last year the California Supreme Court ruled that employers were not permitted to round time for meal breaks.
The decision also indicates how even in wage and hour matters, class action certification is not necessarily a foregone conclusion if the employer can show that individual questions predominate.