Articles Posted in Employment Law Class Actions

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District Court Erred in Granting Employee’s Motion for Summary Judgment in Class Action Alleging Failure to Pay Overtime under Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) because Auto Damage Adjusters Exercise Sufficient Discretion and Independent Judgment to Fall Within FLSA’s Administrative Exemption District of Columbia Circuit Holds

Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against their employer, Government Employees Insurance Corporation (GEICO) alleging violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA); specifically, the class action complaint alleged that defendant misclassified its automobile insurance policy damage adjusters as “exempt” and therefore failed to pay them overtime wages due under the FLSA. Robinson-Smith v. Government Employees Ins. Co., 590 F.3d 886, 887-88 (D.C. Cir. 2010). According to the allegations underlying the class action complaint, “GEICO employs at least three categories of personnel at varying levels of responsibility who may service a given automobile claim: the liability adjuster, the auto damage adjuster and the auto damage appraiser.” Id., at 888. The liability adjuster is at the “high” end of the responsibility scale, and the damage appraiser is at the “low” end of the responsibility scale. Id. “GEICO considers the former exempt as an administrative employee under the FLSA (and thus not entitled to overtime wages) but not the latter.” Id. The issue in this class action concerned the middle group of employees. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment on the issue of whether the damage adjusters were administrative employees exempt from overtime pay under the FLSA; the district court used the Department of Labor’s “short test” and “held that GEICO’s auto damage adjusters do not exercise ‘sufficient’ discretion and independent judgment to qualify for the exemption[.]” Id. Accordingly, the district court ruled in favor of plaintiffs, id. GEICO appealed – “arguing that the undisputed fact that the adjusters exercise ‘some discretion’ means that they are exempt from overtime pay as administrative employees under the FLSA” – and the District of Columbia Circuit reversed. Id.

The Circuit Court explained that a GEICO damage adjuster, on average, “handles more than 1,000 claims per year, totaling over $2.5 million.” Robinson-Smith, at 888. We do not here summarize the detail outlined in the court’s opinion concerning the job responsibilities of damage adjusters. Briefly, we note that while GEICO’s damage adjusters utilize software to assist them in estimating repair costs, they are also responsible for determining when to declare a vehicle a total loss. Id., at 888-89. Additionally, the adjuster “makes decisions that are not dictated by the software…, such as interviewing insureds about pre-existing damage, determining whether damage was caused by a covered event and recommending that payment be withheld on a claim if the damage did not result from a covered loss.” Id., at 889. Further, total loss determinations may account for 20-30% of an adjuster’s workload, and “can involve thousands of dollars in additional liability for GEICO.” Id. In fact, about 30% of the total loss claims involve further negotiation between the adjuster and the insured, and “the adjuster generally has full authority to settle a claim within his limits ($10,000 for a Level I adjuster or $15,000 for a Level II adjuster) if he can justify his decision within GEICO guidelines and based on his experience.” Id.

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Class Action Alleging Employer Misclassified Managers as Exempt and Failed to Pay them Overtime Wages Properly Decertified as Class Action because Amount of Time Spent on Managerial Duties Required Individual Inquiry and because “Individualized Issues of Liability and Damages will Predominate” California Appellate Court Holds

Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against their employer, Tuesday Morning, alleging violations of California labor laws; specifically, the class action complaint alleged that defendant misclassified its managers as exempt employees and failed to pay them overtime wages. Keller v. Tuesday Morning, Inc., ___ Cal.App.4th ___ (Cal.App. November 4, 2009) [Slip Opn., at 1-2.] Plaintiffs’ motion for class action certification was granted. Id., at 1. Two years later, defense attorneys moved the trial court to decertify the class. Id. Defendant filed the motion after the parties had conducted “extensive discovery” and supported the motion with 10 declarations and references to the deposition testimony of 49 managers. Id., at 2. “A different trial judge granted the motion on the ground that individual issues predominated over common issues, thus a class action was not the appropriate mechanism by which to litigate the managers’ claims.” Id., at 1. The new trial judge issued his ruling after conducting a three-day evidentiary hearing on the motion. Id., at 6. Based on the evidence, the court concluded that even though there were some common issues, “the amount of time a manager spent performing [various] acts and his or her exercise of discretion are matters of individual inquiry.” Id. Specifically, “the time spent in a managerial duty is an individual inquiry,” and “[e]ach manager’s background and management style varied from store to store.” Id., at 7. Plaintiffs appealed the class action decertification order, and the Court of Appeal affirmed.

The appellate court summarized the evidence presented by defense attorneys in support of the decertification motion. See Keller, at 2-5. The Court of Appeal also discussed two appellate court decisions that similarly concerned “unpaid overtime in retail chain operations” – Walsh v. IKON Office Solutions, Inc., 148 Cal.App.4th 1440 (Cal.App. 2007), and Dunbar v. Albertson’s Inc., 141 Cal.App.4th 1422 (Cal.App. 2006) – each of which affirmed trial court orders denying or decertifying class action treatment. See Keller, at 9-10. Based on Walsh and Dunbar, and the evidence presented in support of the motion to decertify the class, the Court of Appeal held that “[s]ubstantial evidence supports the trial court’s conclusion that individualized issues of liability and damages will predominate over issues common to the class if the overtime claims are tried as a class action.” Id., at 11. Accordingly, the appellate court affirmed the trial court order decertifying the litigation as a class action. Id.

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Trial Court did not Err in Holding that Class Counsel owed Duty to Absent Class Members to Represent them in Collection of Judgment, not merely through Obtaining Judgment, Particularly in Light of Defendant-Employer’s Lack of Assets and Possible Bankruptcy Filing California Appellate Court Holds

Plaintiffs filed a putative class action in California state court against their employer, West Coast Digital GSM, alleging labor law violations; specifically, the class action complaint alleged that West Coast violated California’s Labor Code by “unlawful deductions from wages, failure to pay overtime, and failure to provide meal and rest breaks.” Barbaroza v. West Coast Digital GSM, Inc., 179 Cal.App.4th 540 (Cal.App. 2009) [Slip Opn., at 1-3.] Plaintiffs sought class action certification, but the motion was denied. Id., at 3. While the appeal on the denial of class action treatment was pending, the lawsuit went to trial on plaintiffs’ individual claims. Id. Plaintiffs generally prevailed, losing on only one of their causes of action. Id. The trial court disallowed some of the attorney fees sought by plaintiffs as the prevailing party, and that order was appealed. Id. The California Court of Appeal thereafter issued its opinion concerning class action certification and reversed the trial court’s order, directing the court to certify the litigation as a class action. Id. However, because the named plaintiffs already had litigated their individual claims, the appellate court also directed the trial court to determine whether could adequately represent the class and, if not, to allow plaintiffs’ counsel to find new representatives for the class action. Id. Almost a year later, the same plaintiffs filed a motion for class action certification, which was granted. Id., at 3-4. West Coast sold its assets and ceased operations. Id., at 4. West Coast then permitted plaintiffs to obtain its default, and secured a default judgment in excess of $5.7 million. Id. Plaintiffs’ counsel filed a motion for attorney fees but proposed to give notice to the class that West Coast “had sold its assets and ceased operations, and that it claimed to have no assets and would eventually declare bankruptcy.” Id. The proposed notice also advised the class that counsel had obtained a default judgment but once counsel obtained an award of attorney fees “class counsel no longer had any obligation to pursue the matter on behalf of the class because its obligation was only to pursue the matter on behalf of the class because its obligation was only to represent the class until judgment was obtained.” Id., at 4-5. The trial court denied the proposed notice on the ground that “class counsel had a duty to pursue the class claims ‘until the end (i.e., enforcement of the judgment) and not just until judgment.’” Id., at 5. Plaintiffs and class counsel appealed, id. The appellate court affirmed.

Despite the general rule regarding the duties of an attorney and class counsel’s claim that “enforcement of judgments requires specialized knowledge on the part of the attorney,” the Court of Appeal explained that “there are in fact important reasons to treat class counsel differently[.]” Barbaroza, at 6. Notably, the class action device puts in place “certain safeguards” to protect the interests of absent class members, id., at 7. One such safeguard is the requirement that class counsel demonstrate an ability to “adequately represent the interests of the class as a whole,” id. (citations omitted). Another safeguard is the requirement that the class representatives and their counsel “owe absent class members a fiduciary duty to protect the absentees’ interests throughout the litigation.” Id. (citation omitted). And finally, the trial court itself must safeguard the rights of absent class members, id. (citation omitted). This last protection was implicated by the trial court’s ruling when it concluded that “class counsel’s job did not end with entry of judgment.” Id., at 8. The class claims were too small to be pursued individually for purposes of securing a judgment, and they remained too small to be pursued individually for purposes of collection. Id. The Court of Appeal explained further that “more importantly, since it seems unlikely…that there are sufficient assets to pay each class member what is owed, plus attorney fees, there remains an important class issue – i.e., how the recoverable assets (if any) are to be distributed.” Id. At this stage of the proceedings, and based on this showing, the trial court did not err in requiring class counsel to continue representation of the class. Id., at 8-9. Accordingly, the appellate court affirmed the trial court order, id., at 9.

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Trial Court Properly Granted Summary Judgment in Favor of Employer in Class Action Alleging Failure to Pay Wages under Labor Code because Prospective, Bilateral Agreement between Employer and Employee to Pay a Portion of Compensation in Restricted Stock Shares that were Forfeited upon Resignation or Termination for Cause Prior to Expiration of Two-Year Vesting Period did not Violate Labor Code California Supreme Court Holds

Plaintiff, a former stockbroker at Smith Barney (a subsidiary of Citigroup), filed a putative class action in California state court against Citigroup and others alleging violations of California’s labor laws; specifically, the class action complaint alleged that Citigroup’s voluntary employee incentive compensation plan, which permitted employees to obtain “shares of restricted company stock at a reduced price in lieu of a portion of that employee’s annual cash compensation,” violated California law because the plan provided that if the employee resigns or is fired then he forfeits any shares of stock that had not yet vested. Schachter v. Citigroup, Inc., 47 Cal.4th 610 (Cal. 2009) [Slip Opn., at 1-2]. According to the allegations underlying the class action complaint, plaintiff, “along with officers and other key individuals in the company’s employ,” participated in the plan – receiving restricted stock in lieu of a portion of their salary. Id., at 3. The stock would not vest for two years, and if an employee was fired without cause prior to that time then “the employee forfeited his or her restricted stock, but received in return, without interest ‘a cash payment equal to the portion of his or her annual compensation that had been paid in the form of such forfeited [r]estricted [s]tock.’” Id. However, if the employee voluntarily resigned or was terminated for cause prior to that time, then “the employee forfeited his or her restricted stock as well as the percentage of annual income designated by the employee to be paid as shares of restricted stock.” Id. Plaintiff resigned before all of his stock vested, and therefore fell within this latter group, forfeiting his stock and that portion of his income that he directed to be paid as stock. Id., at 4. His class action complaint followed, id. Defense attorneys moved for summary judgment but the motion was denied, id. After several years of litigation, and after the trial court certified the litigation as a class action, the trial court reconsidered its summary judgment ruling sua sponte and concluded that the plan’s forfeiture provision did not violate California law; accordingly, it granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment. Id., at 5. The California Court of Appeal affirmed, see id., at 5-6, and the California Supreme Court granted review, id., at 7. The Supreme Court affirmed, concluding that “the forfeiture provision does not run afoul of the Labor Code because no earned, unpaid wages remain outstanding upon termination according to the terms of the incentive plan.” Id., at 1.

The issue before the Supreme Court was whether employees “would be owed – and therefore would be required to forfeit – any ‘earned and unpaid’ wages upon resigning or being terminated for cause.” Schachter, at 8. Plaintiff argued “the percentage of his annual compensation he directed be paid to him in the form of shares of restricted stock constitutes a wage that remained earned but unpaid following his resignation.” Id., at 9. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the shares of restricted stock constituted wages. Id. The controlling factor was that the employer and employees had entered into a bilateral agreement after the employees had been hired: “It cannot be questioned that employers and employees are free to prospectively and bilaterally alter the terms of employment.” Id., at 11. Here, plaintiff specifically requested that he be paid in part in restricted stock shares, and contractually agreed that “his resignation or termination for cause before the end of the two-year vesting period would result in forfeiture of the restricted stock and the percentage of his compensation that he ‘authorized to be paid in the form of such restricted stock.’” Id. The Supreme Court summarized its holding at page 13:

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Judicial Panel Grants Plaintiff Request for Pretrial Coordination of Class Action Lawsuits Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, Over Objection of Common Class Action Defendants, but Transfers Class Actions to Western District of Pennsylvania

Seven class actions – two in the Northern District of Illinois, and one each in the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida, the Northern District of Georgia, the Southern District of New York and the Western District of Pennsylvania, – were filed against various Enterprise Rent-A-Car entities alleging labor law violations. In re Enterprise Rent-A-Car Wage & Hour Employment Prac. Litig., ___ F.Supp.2d ___ (Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit. June 10, 2009) [Slip Opn., at 1]. According to the allegations under the class actions, “defendants violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by misclassifying their assistant managers as salaried and thus not entitled to overtime.” Id. Attorneys for plaintiffs in one of the Illinois class actions filed a motion with the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) requesting centralization of the class actions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407 in the Northern District of Illinois, where their class action was pending. Id. “With the exception of plaintiff in the Western District of Pennsylvania action, who urges that the Panel select that district as transferee district, all responding plaintiffs support selection of the Northern District of Illinois. Responding defendants Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co., Inc., and its affiliates, however, oppose centralization, and, if the Panel orders centralization over their objections, ask that the Eastern District of Missouri be selected as transferee district.” Id. The Judicial Panel granted the motion to centralize the class action lawsuits, rejecting defendants’ claims that the various class actions presented individual issues. The Panel explained:

In opposing centralization, defendants argue, inter alia, that the actions do not share factual issues, because individual Enterprise subsidiaries – unique to each state – employed the assistant branch managers and were responsible for classifying them as exempt and ensuring compliance with the FLSA. We are not persuaded by this argument, however, because the record indicates that the involvement vel non of Missouri-based Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co., Inc., in overseeing its subsidiaries and, in particular, setting policies affecting the employment of assistant managers is, in fact, an open question common to the actions in the litigation. On this and any other common issues, centralization under Section 1407 has the benefit of placing all actions in this docket before a single judge who can structure pretrial proceedings to consider all parties’ legitimate discovery needs, while ensuring that common parties and witnesses are not subjected to discovery demands that duplicate activity that has already occurred or is occurring in other actions.

Id., at 1-2. The Judicial Panel rejected the Northern District of Illinois, however, even though it enjoyed wide support, deciding instead that the Western District of Pennsylvania as the appropriate transferee court because “[t]he first-filed action is pending there, and that action is measurably more advanced than either [class action in Illinois],” id., at 2. Accordingly, the Panel transferred all class actions pending outside of Pennsylvania to that district. Id.

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District Court Properly Granted Defense Motion for Summary Judgment as to Commute Time and Preliminary Activities Time, but Issue of Fact Existed as to Whether Postliminary Activity of Daily Transmissions to Employer Warranted Compensation Ninth Circuit Holds

Plaintiff filed a putative class action against his employer, Lojack, alleging violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA); specifically, the class action complaint alleged that defendant failed to compensate its installation technicians for “time they spent commuting to worksites in Lojack’s vehicles and for time spent on preliminary and postliminary activities performed at their homes.” Rutti v. Lojack Corp., Inc., 578 F.3d 1084, 1086-87 (9th Cir. 2009) (footnote omitted). According to the allegations underlying the class action, most installation and repair work was performed on location, and plaintiff was “required to travel to the job sites in a company-owned vehicle.” Id. Lojack paid its installation technicians on an hourly basis, and plaintiff was paid “for the time period beginning when he arrived at his first job location and ending when he completed his final job installation of the day.” Id., at 1086. Plaintiff alleged, however, that he was not compensated for “off-the-clock” activities that he “performed before he left for the first job in the morning and after he returned home following the completion of the last job,” and that “Lojack required technicians to be ‘on call’ from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays,” during which time they had to “keep their mobile phones on and answer requests from dispatch to perform additional jobs, but they were permitted to decline the jobs.” Id. (footnote omitted). Defense attorneys moved for summary judgment; the district court granted the motion, “holding that [plaintiff’s] commute was not compensable as a matter of law and that the preliminary and postliminary activities were not compensable because they either were not integral to [plaintiff’s] principal activities or consumed a de minimis amount of time.” Id. Plaintiff appealed, id., at 1087. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part, agreeing that plaintiff’s commute time and preliminary activities were not compensable, but reversed and remanded with respect to plaintiff’s “postliminary activity of required daily portable data transmissions,” id., at 1086.

The Ninth Circuit first held that the time plaintiff spent commuting was not compensable. See Rutti, at 1088-93. The Circuit Court explained that, under the Employee Commuting Flexibility Act, 29 U.S.C. § 254(a)(2), an employer may require an employee to commute in a company vehicle. See id., at 1088-90. Further, the Court held that the conditions placed by defendant on plaintiff’s use of the company vehicle did not render his commute time compensable. See id., at 1090-92 (citing Bobo v. United States, 136 F.3d 1465 (Fed. Cir. 1998), and Adams v. United States, 471 F.3d 1321 (Fed. Cir. 2006)). And finally, the Ninth Circuit held that California law did not require Lojack to compensate plaintiff for his commute time in the company’s vehicle. See id., at 1092-93. Accordingly, the Circuit Court affirmed the district court’s conclusion “that [plaintiff] is not entitled to compensation for the time spent commuting to and from his job sites in a vehicle provided by Lojack under either 29 U.S.C. § 254(a)(2) or California law.” Id., at 1093.

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Class Action Filed in State Court Against Defendant and Co-Defendant Debtor in Bankruptcy Removable to Federal Court under CAFA (Class Action Fairness Act) because Co-Defendant Sued in Violation of Automatic Stay and because Co-Defendant’s Bankruptcy does not Preclude Defendant from Removing Class Action to Federal Court Third Circuit Holds

Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against JEVIC Transportation and its parent company, Sun Capital Partners, alleging labor law violations; specifically, the class action complaint alleged that defendants violated New Jersey’s WARN Act which, “[l]ike its federal counterpart, …requires advance notice of a plant closing under certain circumstances.” Brown v. JEVIC, 575 F.3d 322, 325 (3d Cir. 2009). JEVIC had filed for bankruptcy protection, and the class action was filed as an adversary proceeding in the United States Bankruptcy Court, id. One week later, and despite the automatic stay afforded by the bankruptcy proceeding, plaintiffs filed a class action in New Jersey state court against JEVIC and Sun Capital Partners. Id. Defense attorneys for JEVIC removed the state court class action to federal court under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA); the district court remanded the class action sua sponte on the grounds that the automatic stay precluded the debtor’s petition for removal. Id. Defense attorneys for Sun Capital then removed the state court class action to federal court under CAFA; the district court again remanded the class action, ruling that “[w]hen an action is initiated after the filing of a Chapter 11 petition, in violation of the accompanying stay, removal is not available.” Id., at 325-26. The Third Circuit granted Sun Capital’s petition for leave to appeal the remand order, id., at 326. The Circuit Court explained at page 325, “In this appeal implicating the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, we consider whether a defendant is precluded from removing a class action to federal court because a co-defendant is in bankruptcy. We hold that it is not.”

The Third Circuit began its analysis by noting that Sun Capital bore the “heavy burden” of establishing federal court jurisdiction. Brown, at 326 (citation omitted). Central to the Circuit Court’s analysis was the fact that Sun Capital was not in bankruptcy, so the district court’s reliance “on cases dealing with debtor defendants who attempted to remove actions” were inapplicable. Id. Also central to its analysis was the fact that the state court class action against JEVIC was improper because it was filed in knowing violation of the automatic stay, so plaintiffs had “improperly joined JEVIC in the [state court class action], [and] that joinder cannot prevent Sun from removing the action.” Id. In essence, plaintiffs fraudulently joined JEVIC in the state court class action. Id., at 326-27. The Third Circuit summarized its holding at page 327: “In sum, because [plaintiffs] had no reasonable basis to believe that JEVIC was amenable to suit, we hold that JEVIC was a fraudulently joined party and its status as a Defendant could not be used to defeat otherwise proper federal jurisdiction.” (The Third Circuit also held that the district court erred in remanding the class action to state court because JEVIC had never been served with legal process and therefore was not properly before the district court. See id., at 327. We do not here analyze that aspect of the Circuit Court’s opinion.) Accordingly, the Circuit Court reversed the district court order remanding the class action to state court, id., at 329.

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Labor Law Class Action Complaint did not Warrant Class Action Treatment because Individualized Inquiries would Predominate and because Rule 23(b)(1)(A)’s Requirements for Class Action were not Met given Monetary Relief Sought by Plaintiffs Eleventh Circuit Holds

Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against their employer, Federal Express, alleging labor law violations; specifically, the class action complaint alleged that FedEx “failed to pay employees for ‘all hours worked.’” Babineau v. Federal Express Corp., ___ F.3d ___ (11th Cir. July 27, 2009) [Slip Opn., at 2]. According to the allegations underlying the class action complaint, “FedEx has engaged in a pervasive and long-standing policy of failing to pay hourly employees for all time worked.” Id. The class action claimed “FedEx breached their contracts by failing to pay for three categories of time worked: (1) the interval between an employee’s manual punch in time and his scheduled start time; (2) the interval between an employee’s scheduled end time and his manual punch out time; and (3) the time worked during unpaid breaks.” Id., at 3. Plaintiffs moved the district court to certify the litigation as a class action, id., at 2. Originally a class action was filed on behalf of a nationwide class asserting “substantially similar claims,” but the district court denied class action treatment in that case. See Clausnitzer v. Federal Express Corp., 248 F.R.D. 647 (S.D. Fla. 2008). This class action complaint was filed in “[an] attempt[] to address the defects identified in Clausnitzer by limiting the scope of the class to Florida employees, adding a claim for quantum meruit, and altering the theory of their breach of contract claim.” Babineau, at 2-3. As defined, the class action seeks to represent a class that “includes couriers, courier/handlers, service agents, and any other nonexempt employees who are, or were, required during the class period to punch in and out on a manual time clock, but were paid only from their scheduled start time to their scheduled end time.” Id., at 3. The district court again denied class action treatment, holding class certification “was improper primarily because individualized factual inquiries into whether and how long each employee worked without compensation would swamp any issues that were common to the class.” Id. Plaintiffs appealed. The Eleventh Circuit explained at page 2, “The sole question before this Court is whether the district court abused its discretion in declining to certify the class. We hold that the district court acted within the bounds of its discretion and affirm its decision.”

The resolution of this case is very fact-specific, so the Eleventh Circuit spent considerable time on claims and facts supporting and contradicting those claims. See Babineau, at 3-11. We give only a brief summary. The Circuit Court noted that FedEx provides two manuals to its employees – a “People Manual” and an “Employee Handbook.” Id., at 4. Each manual states, “It is the policy of FedEx [] to compensate for all time worked in accordance with applicable state and federal law,” and the People Manual also provides that “[e]xcept for certain approved preliminary and post-liminary activities, no employee should perform work ‘off the clock’ for any reason, whether on their own initiative or at the request of management.” Id. The Eleventh Circuit also explained that FedEx tracks employee time three ways: “First, employees track their time by entering various codes corresponding to different work activities into a hand-held computerized tracking device (a ‘tracker’). Employees manually enter into the trackers their scheduled start times and end times as well as the times at which they start and finish a break…. Additionally, as a backup for the tracker data, employees manually write on a time card the time codes for each task, as well as the start and end time for that task. [¶] FedEx also requires employees to punch in and out on a manual punch clock before and after their shifts. Until 2007 the trackers did not automatically time stamp the employees’ entries, so an employee who was supposed to commence work at 8:00 a.m. but arrived for work at 8:05 a.m. could hide his tardiness by entering an 8:00 a.m. start time into the tracker. Thus, FedEx claims that the manual punch records were simply used to verify the integrity of time entries that employees entered into the trackers. FedEx paid its employees only for the time between the scheduled start and end times as entered into the trackers, which did not necessarily coincide with employees’ manual punch in and punch out times. The periods of time between the start/end times entered into the tracker and the punch in/out times are referred to as ‘gap periods.’” Id., at 5-6.

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Trial Court Order Denying Class Action Treatment not Appealable because not “Final Judgment” so Court of Appeals Erred in Exercising Appellate Jurisdiction to Review Order Denying Class Action Certification Arizona Supreme Court Holds

Plaintiff filed a putative class action in Arizona state court against his former employer, Swift Transportation, a trucking company, alleging labor law violations; specifically, the class action complaint alleged that Swift paid its truck drivers per “dispatched mile” but “systematically underestimated mileage and, by doing so, routinely underpaid its drivers.” Garza v. Swift Transportation Co., Inc., ___ P.3d ___, 2009 WL 2579527 (Ariz. August 24, 2009) [Slip Opn., at 2-3]. The class action complaint defined the putative class as “[a]ll persons who contracted with Swift Transportation [through the form contract].” Id. Plaintiff’s counsel moved the trial court to certify the litigation as a class action; the trial court denied class action treatment “finding that (1) [plaintiff] did not have a claim under his proposed definition of the class, (2) the class was not adequately defined, and (3) the dispute over the meaning of the contract term ‘dispatched miles’ would require inquiry into extrinsic evidence for each class member.” Id., at 3. Plaintiff appealed, and the Court of Appeals found “without discussion” that it had appellate jurisdiction over the denial class action certification. Id. The appellate court then vacated the trial court order, “determining that [plaintiff] has a claim typical of other potential class members’ claims” and “holding that the term ‘dispatched mile’ should be interpreted uniformly for all class members.” Id. Defense attorneys sought review by the Arizona Supreme Court without reference to the appellate jurisdiction issue, id. The Supreme Court “granted review and d ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefs on the jurisdictional issue.” Id., at 3-4. The Arizona Supreme Court reversed: “In this case, we address whether the court of appeals properly exercised jurisdiction over an appeal from a superior court order denying a motion for class certification. We hold that the court of appeals lacked appellate jurisdiction.” Id., at 2.

In considering whether a trial court order denying class action certification was appealable, the Arizona Supreme Court explained that “federal courts of appeal long struggled with whether a district court’s order denying class certification was an appealable order.” Garza, at 4-5 (citations omitted). Further, “Even those federal courts finding orders denying class certification appealable acknowledged that such decisions were not technically final judgments…because they did not finally dispose of the underlying action,” but they “applied the so-called ‘death knell’ doctrine to find finality when, because of the small size of the claim, ‘a plaintiff simply [could not] continue his law suit alone.’” Id., at 5 (citations omitted). The Arizona Supreme Court noted, however, that “[t]he United States Supreme Court ultimately rejected the federal death knell doctrine in Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U.S. 463, 465 (1978).” Id., at 6-7. The Court then reversed Arizona appellate cases applying the death knell doctrine to find appellate jurisdiction over denials of class action certification motions. See id., at 7-16. The Court emphasized, however, that interlocutory review was still available “in an extraordinary case,” id., at 17. But because appellate jurisdiction does not exist over denials of class action certification orders, the Arizona Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision. Id., at 18.

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Labor Law Class Action Seeking to Hold Individual Managers Liable for Wages due Employees Properly Dismissed as to Class Action Claims under Nevada State Law, but Improperly Dismissed as to Class Action Claims under Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Ninth Circuit Holds

Plaintiffs, former employees and their local union, filed a putative class action in Nevada state court against individual managers of the Castaways Hotel, Casino and Bowling Center alleging violations of state and federal labor laws; specifically, the class action complaint alleged that That the three individual managers – the Chairman and CEO, who had a 70% ownership interest in Castaways, the CFO, who had a 30% ownership interest in the Castaways, and the head of labor and employment matters for the Castaways – were personally liable for the state and federal labor law violations because “each defendant had custody or control over the ‘plaintiffs, their employment, or their place of employment at the time that the wages were due.’” Boucher v. Shaw, ___ F.3d ___ (9th Cir. July 27, 2009) [Slip Opn., at 9731, 9734-36]. According to the allegations underlying the class action, plaintiffs were not paid for their final pay period or were paid late, and were not paid for accrued vacation and holiday time. Id., at 9735. Plaintiffs had filed the lawsuit against the individuals because the Castaways was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings at the time the plaintiffs were fired, and subsequently went through a Chapter 7 liquidation. Id. Defense attorneys removed the class action to federal court, and moved to dismiss the class action complaint for failure to state a claim. Id., at 9736. The district court dismissed the class action because it found “that the defendants were not ‘employers’ under Nevada law, Local 226 lacks standing to bring a claim under Nevada law and the plaintiffs cannot maintain a cause of action under the Fair Labor Standards Act [(FLSA)] against the defendants.” Id. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part, but reversed as to the class action’s FLSA claim.

The Ninth Circuit opened its opinion as follows: “This appeal raises three issues: (1) whether the Castaways’ individual managers can be held liable for unpaid wages under Nevada law; (2) whether the union has standing to raise the state law claim; and (3) whether the managers can be held liable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).” Boucher, at 9734. Because the question of whether individual managers may be liable under Nevada law for unpaid wages was a matter of first impression, the Circuit Court certified the issue to the Nevada Supreme Court – the Nevada Supreme Court held that “individual managers cannot be held liable as ‘employers,’ and therefore that claim was properly dismissed by the district court.” Id., at 9734, 9737-38. That decision rendered moot the second issue on appeal, as it did not matter whether the local union had standing to raise a state law claim that did not exist. Id., at 9734-35. The issue became, then, whether individual managers may be held liable under the FLSA. Id., at 9735. 9738-39. This was not a matter of first impression in the Ninth Circuit. The Court noted at pages 9739 and 9740 that in Lambert v. Ackerley, 180 F.3d 997, 1011-12 (9th Cir. 1999) (en banc), the Ninth Circuit held:

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