Wednesday, June 28, 2017

On Call Claims Merit Class Cert

Bartoni v. Am. Med. Response W., No. A143784 (D1d May 24, 2017) 

For a while, it seemed like there was an opinion on class cert in a wage and hour case—usually reversing a denial—every week. But it’s been a dry spell of late. 

This case addresses meal and rest break claims from an ambulance company’s unionized employees, who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement. The Court of Appeal starts off by sidestepping the issue in the Munoz case, which held that a class cert denial isn’t appealable under the death knell doctrine when the plaintiff has un-dismissed representative claims under PAGA pending before the trial court. Plaintiff has such claims here, but the court finds that it doesn’t need to wade into the Munoz issue because the appeal of the cert denial presents a weighty enough issue that is also common to the PAGA claims that it makes sense nonetheless to treat the appeal as a writ.

And that issue is the fact that, while the appeal was pending, the Supreme Court held that “on call” rest breaks don’t count as breaks because employees need to be relieved from any duties during their breaks. See Augustus v. ABM Security Servs., Inc., 2 Cal. 5th 257, 264 (2015). Which doesn’t mean that on-call rest breaks are illegal—just that the employer needs to give the employee an hours’ pay to for him to take a break where he isn’t fully relieved of duties. In ruling otherwise, the trial court relied on some law about meal breaks, but Augustus specifically held that meal and rest breaks weren’t governed by the same rule. So the trial court’s denial of class cert for the rest break claims was grounded in an incorrect legal premise.

Plaintiffs also made some other arguments about why a class should be certified on their meal break claims, but those didn’t have any merit.

Reversed in part.

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