On Tuesday, a California trial court judge in Los Angeles issued a tentative ruling denying class certification in a proposed meal and rest period class action relying on the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Brinker. This appears to be the first court in California to deny class certification in a proposed wage-hour class action following Brinker. If the tentative ruling is upheld, this may be a good signal for employers as to how courts will analyze class certification in meal and rest period cases following Brinker.
The lawsuit alleged that a proposed class of engineers working on cellular telephone cites throughout California were allegedly misclassified as independent contractors and not provided with meal and rest periods. Plaintiffs sued Telecom Network Specialists (“TNS”), and a variety of staffing agencies who provided engineers to TNS were also named in the suit. Seyfarth Shaw represents one of the staffing agencies named in the suit and opposed class certification along with attorneys for TNS.
At the hearing on plaintiffs’ class certification motion, the Honorable John Shepard Wiley, a Los Angeles County Superior Court complex litigation judge, issued his tentative ruling denying the class certification motion and appeared inclined to adopt the tentative ruling as the final ruling. Relying heavily on Brinker, the court found that class treatment for meal and rest breaks is inappropriate based on evidence in the record showing no uniformity of policy or circumstance. The court explained that, “There is no single way to determine whether TNS is liable to the class for failure to provide breaks. Some workers did not get breaks. Other workers were on their own and at complete liberty to take breaks as they pleased, with no time or management pressure.” The court indicated that it would take “hundreds of witnesses” to sort this out and determine whether there was or was not liability for improper breaks. The court went on to say, “This is not a practical trial. It is unworkable. The proposal to analyze these disputes as a class matter does not make common sense.”
The court also rejected plaintiffs’ reliance on the concurrence in Brinker. The court said, “[plaintiff] repeatedly cites the Brinker concurrence. The concurrence commanded only two votes. It is not the law.” This may be a good initial sign for employers who wondered how trial courts would interpret the Brinker concurrence, which seemed to suggest a lower bar for class certification in meal period cases than was provided by the actual unanimous decision.
Seyfarth Shaw will provide an update on this blog once the decision is final.