Thursday, December 5, 2013

Same Song. Different Band.

Martinez v. Joe’s Crab Shack Holdings, No. B242807 (D2d7 Dec. 4, 2013)

This is yet another reversal of a denial of class certification in a wage-and-hour class action. As in the October decision in the Benton case, which was decided by the same division and is cited in the opinion, as well as last week’s Jones case, the court here holds that the class cert decision is governed by the California Supreme Court’s decision in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, 53 Cal. 4th 1004 (2012), which the court reads as encouraging the use of the class action vehicle in wage and hour disputes. Under Brinker, when deciding whether common issues predominate so as to merit class treatment, the court must direct its inquiry to the plaintiff’s theory of liability and not to idiosyncratic concerns often raised by defendants, which generally go only to individualized damages. Plaintiff’s theory here is that Joe’s Crab Shack had a policy of classifying assistant managers as exempt executive employees, even though the bulk of their duties had all the indicia of non-exempt work. Because that is the kind of question that can be decided on a class-wide basis, the trial court erred in declining to certify a class. That said, the court also suggests that the class maybe shouldn’t be as broad as the one plaintiff defined because the definition included some more senior managers who have more concrete management responsibilities. But the trial court could deal with that on remand.

Reversed and remanded.

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