Thursday, September 16, 2010

Southern District Certifies "Vacation/Uniform/Paycheck/Wages/Breach of Contract" Class in Lopez v. G.A.T. Airline Ground Support

On September 13, 2010, Southern District Judge Irma E. Gonzalez, issued an order granting (in part) plaintiffs’ motion for certification of multiple wage claims in Lopez v. G.A.T. Airline Ground Support, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95636, 22-23 (S.D. Cal. Sept. 13, 2010).  As discussed previously in a post here, the Court granted a plaintiff-side summary judgment as to two of the claims at issue (i.e. the vacation claim and the wage statement clam).

Over the defendant’s objection that the sheer number of distinct wage violations at issue should itself compel the denial of certification, the concluded that common issues predominated, based in large part, on evidence that company policies applied uniformly at all locations:
Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' proposed "Vacation/Uniform/Paycheck/Wages/Breach of Contract" Class requires individual inquiries of fact and the application of five different areas of law, such that the proposed class fails the predominance inquiry under Rule 23(b)(3). As explained below, however, each of the claims asserted by this proposed class are based upon company policies which were consistently applied to all of GAT's employees at the four designated airports. Although individual inquiries would be necessary to determine whether the class members were damaged by the policies, the Court believes most of these individual inquiries are manageable in light of the size of the class.
See Lopez v. G.A.T. Airline Ground Support, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95636, at 22-23.

The thrust of the Court’s predominance analysis on each of these claims is as follows:
  • Vacation Pay Claim: “Plaintiffs challenge GAT's policy of denying accrued and vested vacation benefits to those employees who leave the company before their one year anniversary. The Court has already found that the policy required employees to forfeit vested vacation pay in violation of Labor Code § 227.3. … Where, as here, the claim asserted by a proposed class is based upon a consistent employer practice, class certification is usually appropriate.” See id., at 24.
  • Uniforms Claim: “Although Plaintiffs' uniform deposit/refund claim presents more questions of individual fact than their unpaid vacation benefits claim, it also stems from a consistently applied company-wide policy.” See id., at 23-24.
  •  Paycheck Claim: “Plaintiffs' paycheck claim also stems from a consistently applied company-wide policy of issuing payroll checks to California employees from an out-of-state bank, without indicating on the face of the check where it could be cashed on demand and without discount. The Court has already determined this practice violated Labor Code § 212, regardless of whether any individual plaintiff suffered actual injury. If a putative class member incurred a fee or delay in cashing the check, that plaintiff may be entitled to damages. However, those individual issues do not predominate over the common issue of law regarding whether GAT's consistently applied policy was unlawful.” See id., at 24-25.
  • Section 203/Late Wage Claim: “Plaintiffs' claim that GAT failed to pay its employees all wages due within the required time upon separation of employment arises out of the same nucleus of facts as its Vacation claim and Uniform claim. Plaintiffs allege GAT's practice of not paying vested vacation time to those employees who separated from employment before their one-year anniversary, and GAT's practice of mailing deposit checks to separated employees, both result in wages not being paid when due. Both of these claims are predicated on common legal issues.” See id., at 25.
  • Unpaid Compelled “Shuttle” Time: “As to each of the three airports subject to this claim, Plaintiffs allege GAT has designated employee parking lots far from the work area and requires employees to park in those lots and take a shuttle bus to the site.… Based upon GAT's alleged policy of requiring employees to use these shuttles, there is a common question of law as to whether GAT is required to compensate its employees for that travel time. Although Defendants argue there are individual inquiries regarding whether employees could have utilized other methods of transportation or were required to park in the employee lots and travel to the site on the employee shuttle, these inquiries go directly to the common legal question of whether GAT should have compensated employees for their travel time.” See id., at 26-27.

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