Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Court Stands up for Brinker in Decertification Appeal

Hall v. Rite Aid Corp., D062909 (D4d1 May 16, 2016)

This is a class action against Rite Aid for not giving seats to cashiers. The trial court originally certified a class on the issue of whether the nature work performed by the cashiers while stationed at their registers reasonably permits the use of seats—the standard under the relevant Wage Order 7-2001.  But Rite Aid successfully moved to decertify the class right before trial, based on an argument that the Wage Order required an analysis of the nature the duties of the job as a whole. It successfully argued that individual issues predominated because there was a significant variety as to how much time its employees spent ringing up sales versus other duties that are clearly inconsistent with sitting down.

On appeal, like so many cases decided over the past year, the court reverses based on the California Supreme Court’s decision in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, 53 Cal. 4th 1004 (2012), which held that the class certification inquiry needs to focus on the plaintiff’s theory of liability without resolving the theory’s legal or factual merits.  Plaintiff’s theory here was that the employees’ duties while at their registers were consistent with their use of seats.  Under that theory, individual issues did not, in fact, predominate over classwide ones.  The trial court thus abused its discretion in decertifying the class. Under Brinker, whether or not the plaintiff’s theory was based on a correct reading of the Wage Order was not an issue that could be resolved on a class cert motion. Instead, Rite Aid could test the theory based on a motion for judgment on the pleadings or summary judgment.

Reversed.

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