California Supreme Court Lets Stand Class Certification in Meal and Rest Decision

For those of you following the Jaimez v. Daiohs USA, Inc. case, on May 12, the California Supreme Court denied defendant Daiohs' requests for review and depublication of the appellate court's decision. For those of you who have not been following the Jaimez case, read on. The decisions of both the California court of appeal and California Supreme Court are as significant as they are discouraging.

In Jaimez, the plaintiff moved to certify a number of claims on behalf of a class of drivers, including alleged claims for misclassification of drivers as exempt from overtime, failure to provide meal periods to the drivers, failure to authorize and permit drivers to take rest breaks, and failure to provide drivers with compliant pay stubs. In support of his motion, the plaintiff submitted nine declarations from drivers who claimed that: (1) they had been reclassified from exempt to non-exempt, (2) they had not been paid overtime before or after reclassification, (3) their managers had pressured them to complete their route within eight hours, leaving insufficient time for them to take meal periods or rest breaks, and (4) their pay stubs were inaccurate. The defendant submitted 25 declarations from putative class members indicating that the drivers had been paid all overtime wages due, had routinely been provided meal periods and rest breaks, and had been provided accurate pay stubs. The trial court denied class certification, finding: the named plaintiff (a convicted felon) was not an adequate class representative; common questions of fact did not predominate the dispute; and class action procedure would not be superior to individualized litigation.

Despite the high degree of deference California appellate courts routinely give trial court class certification decisions, the Jaimez court: reversed the trial court's order denying class certification; ordered the trial court to certify the class claims; and, because the court agreed the named plaintiff was an inadequate representative, ordered the trial court to permit the plaintiff to find an adequate class representative. The appellate court held that conflicts in putative class members' declarations regarding whether they had been afforded the opportunity to take meal periods and rest breaks did not raise individualized questions of fact. Instead, the plaintiffs’ declarations alone were sufficient to corroborate a common theory of liability – that the defendant failed to provide meal periods and rest breaks – and the defendant's conflicting declarations simply meant the defendant's ultimate liability would be reduced.

Daiohs asked the California Supreme Court to review the appellate court decision, or to at least depublish it. On May 12, the California Supreme Court denied both requests. This decision could have significant ramifications on meal period and rest break practices in California and employers are encouraged to speak to their employment counsel to discuss these issues in detail.

This entry was written by Julie Dunne.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.