On November 13, 2014, the Fifth Circuit addressed the uncertainty stemming from its decision in Owens v. SeaRiver Maritime, Inc., 272 F.3d 698 (5th Cir. 2001), wherein the Court found that a plaintiff’s unloading and loading of vessels was considered “nonseaman” work subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (“FLSA”) overtime requirements. Subsequent to that decision, plaintiffs have advocated for a broad application of Owens’s rule, and district courts struggled with Owens’s application to what are often fact-driven cases.
On September 3, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld certification of a class of approximately 800 nonexempt insurance claims adjusters who claimed they worked overtime without compensation despite the employer’s lawful written policy to pay nonexempt employees for all hours worked.
Today, the California Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Iskanian v. CLS Transp. Los Angeles, LLC, Case No. S204032, upholding class action waivers in employment arbitration agreements. This means that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2011 opinion in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion is to be given full force and effect in the employment setting in California. That said, however, Iskanian distinguishes the right of an employee to bring a representative action under California’s Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”) and holds that such claims may not be barred in an arbitration agreement.
Commentators have quipped that class certification is so easy in California that with little effort a group of plaintiffs could certify even a ham sandwich. In fact, as we have discussed here, we have seen a proliferation of recent appellate decisions hinging class certification on the mere existence of an employer’s uniform policy – no matter how facially lawful that policy may be or how diverse its application is to the putative class at issue.
When an employer settles a collective action lawsuit under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), may the settlement agreement also include a release of any rights to overtime pay which the plaintiffs may have under state law? In Wells Fargo Wage and Hour Employment Practices Litigation, MDL No. H-11-2266 (S.D. Tex. May 12, 2014), the court answered that question with a clear “yes.”
In Stiller v. Costco Wholesale Corp., No. 3:09-cv-2473-GPC-BGS, Plaintiffs Eric Stiller and Joseph Moro alleged that Costco’s loss-prevention closing procedures effectively “forced” employees to work off-the clock without getting paid because they were required to remain on-site after they had clocked out of their shifts to go through security screenings. In December 2010, the district court certified a California-wide class finding that common questions predominated because Costco employed a centralized policy which applied to all employees. However, on April 15, the Court decertified the class finding that the purportedly “common” question of whether Costco had a “de facto policy of detaining employees in warehouses during closing procedures without pay” would only determine whether “employees were sometimes detained without pay as a result of the alleged policy.” Costco’s liability would still hinge on individualized determinations as to “whether, how often, and for how long [individual] class members actually experienced unpaid [off-the-clock] time.”
In its recent per curiam opinion in Rea v. Michaels Stores, Inc., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit clarified rules and procedures relevant to defendants seeking to remove cases to federal court.
American Conference International (ACI)
21st National Forum on Wage and Hour Claims and Class Actions
May 29-30, 2014
New York Marriott East Side Hotel * New York, NY
Laura Reathaford has been invited to speak on a panel titled “Donning and Doffing & Walking Time Allegations, and the Latest Claims Arising from Meal and Rest Breaks.” This premiere conference features two days of programming related to best practices and developing law related to wage and hour claims.
As we recently reported here, there have been a number of appellate decisions ordering class certification based on the existence of an employer’s companywide policy – all while overlooking numerous individualized questions that would undoubtedly create manageability problems during trial. On December 30, 2013, the California Court of Appeal in Johnson v. California Pizza Kitchen, Inc., 2013 WL 6858373 (Cal. App. 2 Dist. Dec. 30 2013) anticipated these trial management issues and upheld the trial court’s decision denying class certification.
Shortly after the California Supreme Court issued its 2012 decision in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, employers saw an immediate uptick in appellate court decisions supporting the denial of class certification to plaintiffs in wage and hour lawsuits.