Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
Fowler v. Guerin
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
Timothy Johnson v. Diakon Logistics, Inc.
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
Philip Petrone v. Werner Enterprises, Inc.
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
Garcia v. Super. Ct.
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
Easom v. US Well Services
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
Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana
California’s Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) authorizes any “aggrieved employee” to initiate an action against a former employer on behalf of himself and other current or former employees to obtain civil penalties that previously could have been recovered only by California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency. California precedent holds that a PAGA suit is a “representative action” in which the plaintiff sues as an “agent or proxy” of the state. Moriana filed a PAGA action against her former employer, Viking, alleging multiple violations with respect to herself and other employees. Moriana’s employment contract contained a mandatory arbitration agreement with a “Class Action Waiver,” providing that the parties could not bring any class, collective, or representative action under PAGA, and a severability clause. California courts denied Viking’s motion to compel arbitration.The Supreme Court reversed. The Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 1 (FAA), preempts California precedent that precludes division of PAGA actions into individual and non-individual claims through an agreement to arbitrate. Viking was entitled to compel arbitration of Moriana’s individual claim. Moriana would then lack standing to maintain her non-individual claims in court.A PAGA action asserting multiple violations under California’s Labor Code affecting a range of different employees does not constitute “a single claim.” Nothing in the FAA establishes a categorical rule mandating enforcement of waivers of standing to assert claims on behalf of absent principals. PAGA’s built-in mechanism of claim joinder is in conflict with the FAA. State law cannot condition the enforceability of an agreement to arbitrate on the availability of a procedural mechanism that would permit a party to expand the scope of the anticipated arbitration by introducing claims that the parties did not jointly agree to arbitrate. View "Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana" on Justia Law
Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services, Inc.
The Supreme Court held that the additional hour of pay an employer must pay an employee if the employer unlawfully makes the employee work during all or part of a meal or rest period constitutes "wages" that must be reported on statutorily-required wage statements during employment and paid within statutory deadlines when an employee leaves the job.Plaintiff, who was suspended from his job as a guard after leaving his post to take a meal break. Plaintiff filed a putative class action on behalf of employees of Defendant seeking an additional hour of pay, so-called "premium pay," for each day on which Defendant failed to provide employees a legally-compliant meal break. The trial court determined that Defendant had violated the meal break laws for a certain period and that a failure to pay meal break premiums could support claims under the wage statement and timely payment statutes. The court of appeal reversed in part. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding (1) the court of appeal erred in concluding that extra pay for missed breaks does not constitute "wages" to be reported on wage statements during employment; and (2) the seven percent default rate of prejudgment interest set by the state Constitution applies to amounts due for failure to provide meal and rest breaks. View "Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services, Inc." on Justia Law
Leshane v. Tracy VW, Inc.
Plaintiffs Nicole Leshane, Steve Garner, Justin Prasad, Isaac Saldana, and Maurice West sued defendants Tracy VW, Inc. and RJ Gill Ventures, Inc. alleging several Labor Code violations. Plaintiffs brought suit on behalf of themselves as defendants’ former employees, on behalf of others similarly situated, and on behalf of the state pursuant to the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004. After defendants filed a petition to compel arbitration, plaintiffs filed a first amended complaint alleging violations of the Labor Code solely as representatives of the state under the Private Attorneys General Act. Defendants continued to seek arbitration of plaintiffs’ individual claims and dismissal of their class-wide claims pursuant to the arbitration agreements each plaintiff signed. The trial court denied defendants’ petition to compel arbitration finding plaintiffs’ claim under the Private Attorneys General Act was not subject to arbitration citing Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC, 59 Cal.4th 348 (2014). Defendants appealed the trial court’s order. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Leshane v. Tracy VW, Inc." on Justia Law
Ria Schumacher v. SC Data Center, Inc.
Plaintiff commenced a class-action lawsuit alleging that SC Data Center, Inc. (“SC Data”) committed three violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”). The parties reached a settlement agreement. Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 578 U.S. 330 (2016), SC Data moved to dismiss the action. The plaintiff first alleged that SC Data took an adverse employment action based on her consumer report without first showing her the report. The court reasoned that the right to pre-action explanation to the employer is not unambiguously stated in the statute’s text. Next, the plaintiff asserts that SC Data obtained her consumer report without first obtaining an FCRA compliant disclosure form. The court found that plaintiff has not established that she suffered a concrete injury due to the improper disclosure. Finally, the plaintiff’s last claim asserts that she did not authorize SC Data to obtain a consumer report. She did authorize a company to conduct a criminal background search. The court found that plaintiff has not pleaded any facts demonstrating concrete harm—a prerequisite for Article III standing. As such, she lacks standing to pursue her failure-to-authorize claim. The court vacated the district court's orders. View "Ria Schumacher v. SC Data Center, Inc." on Justia Law
Kingara v. Secure Home Health Care Inc.
The Supreme Judicial Court answered two questions of law concerning the authority of counsel or the courts to protect the interests of putative class members when the named plaintiff has died, no party has been substituted for the named plaintiff and no motion has been made to certify the putative class.Charles Kingara brought this lawsuit alleging both class and individual causes of action arising under the wage act, the minimum fair wage law, and the overtime law. Before Kingara's counsel had filed for class certification Kingara died. Thereafter, Plaintiff's counsel filed a motion to order notice to putative class members informing them of Kingara's death and inviting them to join the action. After the motion was granted, Defendants filed a petition for interlocutory relief, which resulted in the questions of law before this Court. The Supreme Judicial Court held that, under the circumstances, counsel had no authority to act on behalf of Kingara or the putative class, but the courts may act to protect the interests of the putative class members when those individuals would face significant prejudice without notice. View "Kingara v. Secure Home Health Care Inc." on Justia Law