Wednesday, December 30, 2015

No Class for Legal Lunch Policy

Palacia v. Jan & Gails Care Homes, Inc., No. F070861 (D5 Dec. 7, 2014)

Another meal break case where the question is, under Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, 53 Cal. 4th 1004 (2012), has the employee articulated a class-wide policy by the employer that violates the wage and hour laws? Here, plaintiff, a vocational nurse at a nursing home, was required to waive any uninterrupted unpaid lunch break in exchange for a paid lunch (with lunch provided) that she had to eat in the company of her patients. Plaintiff claims the employer was required to inform her, and the other nurses, that they had the right to revoke the waiver at any time. But the relevant wage order permits twenty-four-hour residential care facilities to require on-the-clock paid lunches, with or without the employee’s consent. Since the employer’s policy was legal as a matter of law, there’s no predominant common issue that merited class cert. While that sounds like an issue that should have been nipped in the bud on a demurrer, it’s good enough to deny class cert too. (The court notes elsewhere that that “[c]lass action requirements are often enmeshed with issues affecting the merits of the case, and courts must often peek into the merits for this reason.”) So class cert was properly denied. 

Affirmed.

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