Class Certification Still Defeated Although Common Evidence of Non-Compliance

CDF Labor Law LLP

California employers may take solace in a recent unpublished decision upholding denial of class certification.  In Salazar v. See’s Candy Shops Incorporated, the California Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s decision to deny certification of a proposed class claiming that the employer failed to provide second meal breaks to employees working longer than 10 hours.  The Court concluded that there were too many individualized issues, and Salazar failed to propose an adequate trial plan to address those individualized issues.

Certification Denied for Lack of Commonality. Salazar argued there was adequate commonality based on the employer’s scheduling form which lacked a column to indicate second meal periods, claiming that the form sufficiently evidenced employees not receiving a second meal period.  The employer’s records, however, demonstrated that (1) it had a policy to provide second meal periods, and (2) approximately 24 percent of employees working on shifts longer than 10 hours actually took a second meal period.  Even though this did not represent a large percentage of second meal periods, the trial court nonetheless ruled that it was sufficient to show some class members were offered a second meal period, thus defeating commonality and requiring individualized proof of facts.  The Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s ruling to deny class certification, based on lack of commonality. 

Certification Also Denied for Lack of Manageability.  The Court of Appeal also supported the trial court’s decision to deny certification as Salazar failed to identify an adequate trial plan that would have manageably addressed individualized issues.  Relying heavily on Duran v. U.S. Bank National Assn., the Court of Appeal emphasized that it was the plaintiff’s burden to demonstrate how individual issues can be resolved fairly and efficiently and, here, Salazar failed by vaguely promising the ability to prove liability without addressing the manageability of individualized issues.

This unpublished decision provides a beacon of hope for California employers confronted with class action issues.  Employers should work with their counsel to ensure that they have a legally compliant policy and attempt to comply with the policy, which may help defeat class certification one day.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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