Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Few More Points on the Second District’s Opinion in Jaimez v. DAIOHS USA, Inc.

In a previous post (here) I focused on the Court's overarching analysis regarding predominance and the propriety of focusing individualized merits-based declaration testimony rather than plaintiff’s theory of recovery. However, there are a few other aspects of the Jaimez opinion worth noting.

In holding that the trial court applied improper criteria with regard to plaintiff’s rest period claims, the Court concluded that plaintiff’s theory of liability – which alleged that common policies and practices created a “barrier” to employees’ ability to access breaks – created a predominate issue supporting certification notwithstanding declaration evidence that employees sometimes received their breaks. See Slip Opinion, at 20 (concluding that “the predominant common factual issue is whether RSR’s missed meal [sic] breaks because First Choice’s policy and practice of designating delivery schedules and routes precluded RSR’s from timely completing their routes and taking the legally required rest breaks.”) (emphasis added). As the Court’s opinion highlights, a rest period claim based on the theory of a common barrier is distinct from the issue presently pending before the California Supreme Court in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court and Brinkley v. Public Storage, Inc. – both of which concern whether an employer's obligation ends with making meal/rest periods available. Slip Opinion, at 18-19.

With regard to paystub claims, the Court rejected the trial court’s conclusion that individual issues arising from Labor Code § 226(e)’s “injury” requirement defeated a finding of predominance. As explained by the Court, “an employee has a statutory right to an accurate paystub” [See id., at 21], and “[w]hile there must be some injury in order to recover damages, a very modest showing will suffice.” See id., at 22. As reasoned by the Court, injury could be predicated on difficulties reconstructing employee time or pay in the context of the lawsuit itself, but in any event, this was a damages issue that would not overcome a finding of predominance:
As in Wang, supra, 435 F.Supp.2d at p. 1050 “this lawsuit, and the difficulty and expense [Jaimez has] encountered in attempting to reconstruct time and pay records,” may well be “further evidence of the injury” he has suffered. First Choice is correct that, at this point, there does not appear to be any evidence in the record of Jaimez’s injury resulting from inaccurate paystubs. The fact that individualized proof of damages may ultimately be necessary does not mean, however, that Jaimez’s theory of recovery is not amenable to class treatment. A common legal issue predominates the claim, and it makes no sense to resolve it in a piecemeal fashion.
Slip Opinion, at 22-23.

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