Justia Class Action Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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Plaintiffs deliver baked goods by truck to stores and restaurants in designated territories within Connecticut. They brought an action in district court on behalf of a putative class against Flowers Foods, Inc. and two of its subsidiaries, which manufacture the baked goods that the plaintiffs deliver. Plaintiffs allege unpaid or withheld wages, unpaid overtime wages, and unjust enrichment pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act and Connecticut wage laws. The district court granted Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration and dismissed the case.   The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s order compelling arbitration and dismissing the case. The court explained that it concludes that an individual works in a transportation industry if the industry in which the individual works pegs its charges chiefly to the movement of goods or passengers, and the industry’s predominant source of commercial revenue is generated by that movement. Here, because Plaintiffs do not work in the transportation industry, they are not excluded from the FAA, and the district court appropriately compelled arbitration under the Arbitration Agreement. View "Bissonnette v. LePage Bakeries" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought a class action complaint against Cellular Sales of New York, LLC and Cellular Sales of Knoxville, Inc. (“Cellular”) for unfair wage deductions, unpaid compensable work, untimely commissions, unjust enrichment, and failure to pay minimum wage and overtime under the FLSA and New York Labor Law. Essentially, Plaintiffs claim that Defendants misclassified them as independent contractors instead of employees as defined by the FLSA and [New York Labor Law], thus depriving them of employee benefits required by law.   Cellular appealed the district court’s order granting attorney’s fees to Plaintiffs. Cellular argued that (1) the district court abused its discretion in finding that Plaintiffs’ successful minimum wage and overtime claims were sufficiently intertwined with their unsuccessful unfair wage deduction, unpaid compensable work, and untimely commissions claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law; and (2) regardless of whether the claims were intertwined, that the district court abused its discretion in reducing the attorney’s fees award by only 40 percent given Plaintiffs’ relative lack of success. 
 The Second Circuit affirmed. The could be explained that Plaintiffs brought wage-and-hour statutory claims that clearly arise from a common nucleus of operative fact regarding their time working for Cellular. Thus, the district court’s finding that the discovery involved in litigating the unpaid overtime wage claims is inseparable from the discovery involved in the unfair wage deductions, unpaid compensable work, or untimely commissions claims is well supported.  Further, the court affirmed the attorney’s fee awards explaining that fee awards are reviewed under a deferential abuse of discretion standard. View "Holick v. Cellular Sales" on Justia Law

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Clemens, then an employee, provided ExecuPharm with sensitive information, including her address, social security number, bank, and financial account numbers, insurance, and tax information, passport, and information relating to her family. Clemens’s employment agreement provided that ExecuPharm would “take appropriate measures to protect the confidentiality and security” of this information. After Clemens left ExecuPharm, a hacking group (CLOP) accessed ExecuPharm’s servers, stealing sensitive information pertaining to current and former employees, including Clemens. CLOP posted the data on the Dark Web, making available for download 123,000 data files pertaining to ExecuPharm, including sensitive employee information. ExecuPharm notified current and former employees of the breach and encouraged precautionary measures. Clemens reviewed her financial records and credit reports for unauthorized activity; placed fraud alerts on her credit reports; transferred her bank account; enrolled in ExecuPharm’s complimentary one-year credit monitoring services; and purchased three-bureau additional credit monitoring services for herself and her family for $39.99 per month.Clemens's suit under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d), was dismissed for lack of Article III standing. The court concluded that Clemens’s risk of future harm was not imminent, but “speculative.” Any money Clemens spent to mitigate the speculative risk was insufficient to confer standing; even if ExecuPharm breached the employment agreement, it would not automatically give Clemens standing to assert her breach of contract claim. The Third Circuit vacated. Clemens’s injury was sufficiently imminent to constitute an injury-in-fact for purposes of standing. View "Clemens v. Execupharm Inc" on Justia Law

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Principal Life Insurance Company (Principal) offers a product called the Principal Fixed Income Option (PFIO), a stable value contract, to employer-sponsored 401(k) plans. Plaintiff on behalf of himself and a class of plan participants who deposited money into the PFIO, sued Principal under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), claiming that it (1) breached its fiduciary duty of loyalty by setting a low-interest rate for participants and (2) engaged in a prohibited transaction by using the PFIO contract to make money for itself. The district court granted summary judgment to Principal after concluding that it was not a fiduciary. The Eighth Circuit reversed, holding that Principal was a fiduciary. On remand, the district court entered judgment in favor of Principal on both claims after a bench trial. Plaintiff challenges the court’s judgment.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court agreed with the district court that Principal and the participants share an interest because a guaranteed CCR that is too high threatens the long-term sustainability of the guarantees of the PFIO, which is detrimental to the interest of the participants. The question then becomes whether the court clearly erred by finding that Principal set the CCR in the participants’ interests. The court held that the district court did not clearly err by finding that the deducts were reasonable and set by Principal in the participants’ interest of paying a reasonable amount for the PFIO’s administration.  Finally, the court affirmed the district court’s judgment in favor of Principal on the prohibited transaction claim because it is exempted from liability for receiving reasonable compensation. View "Frederick Rozo v. Principal Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs here—proposed class representatives of former employees of various Burger King franchisees—plausibly alleged that Burger King and its franchisees engaged in “concerted action” in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act. The district court, though, dismissed the Plaintiffs’ complaint on the basis that Burger King and its franchisees constituted. A single economic enterprise and were not capable of the concerted action that a Section 1 violation requires.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded, concluding that the complaint plausibly alleged concerted action. The court explained that the No-Hire Agreement removes that ability and also prohibits the hiring of any Burger King employee for six months after they have left another Burger King restaurant. In this way, the No-Hire Agreement “deprive[s] the marketplace of independent centers of decisionmaking [about hiring], and therefore of actual or potential competition.” For this reason, the court wrote, that the Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged that the No-Hire Agreement qualifies under Section 1 of the Sherman Act as “concerted activity,” and the Plaintiffs sufficiently alleged that aspect of a Sherman Act Section 1 violation. View "Jarvis Arrington, et al v. Burger King Worldwide, Inc., et al" on Justia Law

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The federal district court for the Western District of Washington certified a question of law to the Washington Supreme Court. The federal court asked the Supreme Court to clarify the standards for equitable tolling in civil cases under Washington law. The underlying federal case involved a long-running dispute between a certified class of more than 25,000 Washington teachers (Teachers) and the Department of Retirement Systems (DRS). The federal district court determined that while the Teachers established a Fifth Amendment takings claim, the applicable statute of limitations on that claim lapsed several years before the Teachers filed this suit. The Teachers asked the federal district court to apply the doctrine of equitable tolling to allow the suit to proceed despite the statute of limitations. The Supreme Court answered the certified question by reiterating the four conditions it previously identified as necessary to justify equitable tolling of a statute of limitations in the civil context. Washington law allows equitable tolling of a statute of limitations in a civil suit when: (1) the plaintiff has exercised diligence; (2) the defendant’s bad faith, false assurances, or deception has interfered with the plaintiff’s diligent efforts; (3) tolling is consistent with (a) the purpose of the underlying statute and (b) the purpose of the statute of limitations; and (4) justice requires tolling the statute of limitations. View "Fowler v. Guerin" on Justia Law

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Innovel hired Diakon to take furniture from warehouses to customers’ homes. Plaintiffs, two of Diakon's drivers, were citizens of Illinois who drove out of Innovel’s Illinois warehouses and made deliveries to customers in Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri. They signed “Service Agreements” that classify the drivers as independent contractors yet include detailed expectations for the drivers, covering uniforms, business cards, truck decals, and how to perform deliveries and installations. The Agreements select Virginia law to govern the parties’ relations and authorize Diakon to deduct fees and penalties from the drivers’ pay for truck rental fees, insurance, workers’ compensation coverage, damaged merchandise, and customers’ refused deliveries.Plaintiffs sued, alleging that Diakon misclassified them as independent contractors when they were employees under Illinois law. Illinois courts apply a three-part test to determine employee status, which is more likely to classify workers as employees than is Virginia law, which would treat the plaintiffs as contractors. The Illinois Wage Payment and Collections Act allows deductions from pay only if the employee consents in writing at the time of the deduction.The district judge certified a class but ruled in favor of Diakon. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The plaintiffs’ claims arise from their work in Illinois, not from their contracts. The Illinois Act governs payment for work in Illinois regardless of what state’s law governs other aspects of the parties' relations. View "Timothy Johnson v. Diakon Logistics, Inc." on Justia Law

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This class action arises out of claims by commercial truck drivers who assert that they were not paid proper amounts while working for Werner Enterprises, Inc., and Drivers Management, LLC, (collectively Defendants) as part of Defendants’ Student Driver Program. In a previous appeal, we considered Defendants’ challenge to a jury verdict in favor of Philip Petrone and others (collectively, Plaintiffs) on some of Plaintiffs’ claims, concluding that the district court erred in amending the scheduling order to allow Plaintiffs to submit an expert report past the disclosure deadline without good cause.   Because the expert evidence was integral to the jury’s verdict, the Eighth Circuit determined that this error was not harmless, and vacated the judgment. The case returned to the court after the district court, on remand, entered judgment in favor of Defendants. The court then vacated the judgment. The court explained that read in its entirety, the decision left the door open for the district court to consider how to proceed in light of the Circuit Court’s ruling that the district court should not have granted the motion to amend the scheduling order. The court explained that its mandate thus did not direct the district court to affirmatively find in Defendants’ favor, and their suggestion to the contrary is without merit.   Finally, while the district court properly determined that Plaintiffs could not present evidence of damages through summary evidence pursuant to Rule 1006, it failed to conduct an analysis pursuant to Rule 37(c)(1) and failed to address Plaintiffs’ request for appointment of an expert pursuant to Rule 706. View "Philip Petrone v. Werner Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitioners are truck drivers previously employed by real party in interest Haralambos Beverage Co. (Haralambos). Petitioners' filed a putative wage and hour class action alleging, among other things, that Haralambos failed to provide meal and rest breaks in violation of Labor Code sections 226.7 and 512 and the Industrial Welfare Commission’s Wage Order No. 9-2001. Nearly two years later, on December 28, 2018, the FMCSA issued an order concluding that California’s meal and rest break rules are laws “‘on commercial motor vehicle safety,’” are preempted pursuant to title 49 United States Code section 31141 (section 31141).   Thereafter, Haralambos filed a motion to strike the class allegations on federal preemption grounds, which the parties agreed was a request to strike petitioners’ third and fourth causes of action for failure to provide meal and rest breaks. On August 18, 2021, the superior court granted the motion and struck the two causes of action.   The Second Appellate District granted Petitioners’ petition for writ of mandate. The court held that in light of the FMCSA’s authority to determine and communicate what it is preempting, its use of language suggesting prospective application only, and its failure to expressly extend its decision to pending claims, the court concluded the Preemption Decision does not apply to bar claims arising from conduct that occurred prior to the decision, i.e., before December 28, 2018. View "Garcia v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint against their former employer, US Well Services, Inc. (“US Well”) for allegedly violating the WARN Act by terminating them without advance notice. The WARN Act requires covered employers to give affected employees sixty days’ notice before a plant closing or mass layoff. 29 U.S.C. Section 2102(a). The Act provides three exceptions to the notice requirement—including the natural-disaster exception, under which no notice is required.   The parties cross-moved for summary judgment. US Well argued that COVID-19 was a natural disaster under the WARN Act, and consequently, that it was exempt from the WARN Act’s notice requirement pursuant to the natural-disaster exception. Plaintiffs countered that COVID-19 was not a natural disaster and was not a direct cause of their layoffs.   Plaintiffs filed an interlocutory appeal seeking reversal of the district court’s order denying their motions for summary judgment and reconsideration. In its order denying Plaintiffs’ motions, the district court certified two questions for interlocutory appeal: (1) Does COVID-19 qualify as a natural disaster under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act’s (“WARN Act” or “the Act”) natural-disaster exception, 29 U.S.C. Section 2102(b)(2)(B)?; (2) Does the WARN Act’s natural-disaster exception, 29 U.S.C. Section 2102(b)(2)(B), incorporate but-for or proximate causation?   The Fifth Circuit held that the COVID-19 pandemic is not a natural disaster under the WARN Act and that the natural-disaster exception incorporates proximate causation. The court explained that based on the DOL regulation’s “direct result” requirement and binding precedent equating direct cause with proximate cause, the court held that the WARN Act’s natural-disaster exception incorporates proximate causation. View "Easom v. US Well Services" on Justia Law