Justia Class Action Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of California
Raines v. U.S. Healthworks Medical Group
The Supreme Court held that an employer's business entity agents can be held directly liable under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Cal. Gov. Code 12900 et seq., for employment discrimination in appropriate circumstances when the business entity agent has at least five employees and carries out activities regulated by FEHA on behalf of an employer.Plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and an alleged class, brought this action alleging claims under the FEHA, the Unruh Civil Rights Act, unfair competition law, and the common law right of privacy. Plaintiffs named as a defendant U.S. Healthworks Medical Group (USHW), who was acting as an agent of Plaintiffs' prospective employers. The district court dismissed all claims, concluding, as relevant to this appeal, that the FEHA does not impose liability on the agents of a plaintiff's employer. The federal district court of appeals certified a question of law to the Supreme Court, which answered that FEHA permits a business entity acting as an agent of an employer to be held directly liable as an employer for employment discrimination, in violation of FEHA, when the business entity has at least five employees and carries out FEHA-regulated activities on behalf of an employer. View "Raines v. U.S. Healthworks Medical Group" 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
Frlekin v. Apple Inc.
The Supreme Court granted the request of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to decide a question of California law regarding Industrial Welfare Commission wage order No. 7-2001 (Wage Order 7), which requires employers to pay their employees a minimum wage for all "hours worked," concluding that time spent on the employer's premises waiting for, and undergoing, mandatory exit searches of bags, packages, or personal technology devices voluntarily brought to work purely for personal convenience by employees is compensable as "hours worked" within the meaning of Wage Order 7.Employees filed a class action complaint against Employer, Apple Inc., alleging that Employer failed to pay them minimum and overtime wages for time spent waiting for and undergoing Employer's exit searches in violation of California law. A federal district court granted summary judgment for Employer. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit asked the Supreme Court to address the state law issue. The Supreme Court concluded that, in the instant case, Employees' time spent on Employer's premises waiting for, and undergoing, required exit searches of packages, bags, or personal technology devices, such as iPhones, brought to work purely for personal convenience, is compensable as "hours worked" within the meaning of Wage Order 7. View "Frlekin v. Apple Inc." on Justia Law
Noel v. Thrifty Payless, Inc.
In this putative class action brought on behalf of retail purchasers of an inflatable outdoor pool the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal upholding the ruling of the trial court denying the representative plaintiff's motion for class certification, holding that the trial court erred in determining that the class proposed by the plaintiff was not ascertainable.The claims in this case arose out of the plaintiff's purchase out of an inflatable pool sold in packaging that allegedly misled buyers about the pool's size. The trial court denied the plaintiff's motion for class certification in its entirety on ascertainability grounds. The court of appeal found no abuse of discretion in the denial of class certification. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred in demanding that the plaintiff offer evidence showing how class members might be individually identified when that identification became necessary. Specifically, the Court held (1) an ascertainable class is one defined in objective terms that make the eventual identification of class members possible; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion when it found no ascertainable class existed. View "Noel v. Thrifty Payless, Inc." on Justia Law
Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County
At issue was what standard applies in determining whether workers should be classified as employees or as independent contract for purposes of California wage orders.Two drivers filed this purported class action alleging that Dynamex Operations West, Inc. had misclassified its delivery drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. The trial court ultimately certified a class action embodying a class of Dynamex drivers who, during a pay period, did not themselves employ other drivers and did not do delivery work for other delivery businesses or for the drivers’ own personal customers. The court of appeal upheld the trial court’s class certification order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court properly concluded that the “suffer or permit to work” definition of “employ” contained in the wage order may be relied upon in evaluating whether a worker is an independent contractor; (2) in determining whether, under the suffer or permit to work definition, a worker is properly considered the type of independent contractor to whom the wage order does not apply, it is appropriate to look to the so-called “ABC” test utilized in other jurisdictions; and (3) the trial court’s certification order was correct as a matter of law under a proper understanding of the suffer or permit to work standard. View "Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law
Hernandez v. Restoration Hardware, Inc.
In this class action lawsuit, the court of appeal correctly relied on Eggert v. Pacific States S. & L. Co., 20 Cal. 2d, 199 (Cal. 1942) in ruling that unnamed class members may not appeal a class judgment, settlement, or attorney fees award unless they intervene in the action.In the instant case, Class Representatives alleged that Restoration Hardware, Inc. (RHI) committed violations of the Song-Beverly Credit Card Act. The trial court found RHI liable for violations of the Act and awarded Representatives attorney fees. Appellant, an unnamed class member who never exercised her right to intervene during the class action by filing a complaint in intervention, filed a notice of appeal, challenging the award of attorney fees. The court of appeal dismissing Muller’s appeal for lack of standing, concluding that it was bound to follow Eggert. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, where Muller failed to intervene in the class action or file a motion to vacate the judgment and offered no persuasive reason why the court should create an exception to its long-standing rule, or overrule or distinguish Eggert, Muller was not entitled to relief. View "Hernandez v. Restoration Hardware, Inc." on Justia Law
Williams v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County
The Supreme Court granted reviewing this PAGA action to consider the scope of discovery available in PAGA actions. The court held that, in non-PAGA class actions, the contact information of those a plaintiff purports to represent is routinely discoverable without any requirement that the plaintiff first show good cause, and nothing in the characteristics of a PAGA suit affords a basis for restricting discovery more narrowly. The court thus reversed the trial court’s discovery order denying Plaintiff’s motion seeking contact information for fellow California employees in other state Marshalls of CA, LLC stores in this representative action seeking civil penalties on behalf of the State and aggrieved employees statewide for alleged wage and hour violations. The court held that Marshalls did not meet its burden of establishing cause to refuse Plaintiff an answer to his interrogatory seeking the identity and contact information of his fellow Marshalls employees. View "Williams v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law
Laffitte v. Robert Half Int’l, Inc.
A class action employment lawsuit filed against a staffing firm and related companies settled for $19 million. Under the settlement agreement it was agreed that class counsel would request attorney fees of not more than one-third of the gross settlement amount. In seeking the trial court’s approval of the settlement, class counsel sought the maximum fee amount. One class member objected to the proposed settlement, arguing that the projected attorney fee was excessive and class counsel had not provided enough information to evaluate it. The trial court approved the settlement and awarded counsel the requested fee. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a trial court is permitted to calculate an attorney fee award from a class action common fund as a percentage of the fund, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion using the percentage of fund method to approve the fee request in this class action; and (2) trial courts have discretion to conduct a lodestar cross-check on a percentage fee, as the court did in this case. View "Laffitte v. Robert Half Int’l, Inc." on Justia Law
Sandquist v. Lebo Automotive, Inc.
When Plaintiff was hired by Defendants, he signed multiple arbitration agreements as a condition of employment. Plaintiff later sued Defendant, alleging racial discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. The complaint sought to bring claims on behalf of a “class of current and former employees of color.” Defendants filed a motion to compel individual arbitration based on the arbitration agreements. The trial court granted the motion but struck the class allegations, concluding that the agreements did not permit class arbitration. The court of appeal reversed in part, ruling (1) the trial court erred in concluding that existing precedent compelled the court to determine whether class arbitration was available; and (2) the availability of class proceedings under an arbitration agreement is for an arbitrator to decide in the first instance. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there is no universal rule allocating the decision of whether an arbitration agreement permits or prohibits classwide arbitration to a court or an arbitrator, but rather, who decides is in the first instance a matter of agreement with the parties’ agreement subject to interpretation under state contract law; and (2) under state law, the arbitration agreement in this case allocates the decision to the arbitrator. View "Sandquist v. Lebo Automotive, Inc." on Justia Law