California Appeals Court Reverses Its Previous Denial of Class Certification in Light of Brinker Decision

Plaintiffs brought a class action on behalf of approximately 4,000 current and former employees of Boyd & Associates, Inc. which provides security guard services.  Plaintiffs alleged that Boyd denied off-duty meal breaks and off-duty rest breaks and did not include certain reimbursements and an annual bonus payment in calculating the hourly rate of overtime pay.  Plaintiffs proposed three subclasses: (1) the Meal Break Class, (2) the Rest Break Class, and (3) the Overtime Class.  The appeals court initially issued an opinion affirming the denial of class certification of the Meal Break Class and the Rest Break Class and reversing the order denying certification of the Overtime Class.  After the court issued its opinion, the California Supreme Court issued its landmark decision Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, 53 Cal. 4th 1004 (2012).  Upon reconsideration, the appellate court concluded that all three subclasses should be certified.   The only class certification question in dispute before the appellate court was the predominance of common questions.  The court concluded that in light of Brinker common issues of fact predominate in determining whether Boyd was liable for not providing off-duty meal breaks.  The court explained that “Brinker teaches that we must focus on the policy itself and address the issue whether the legality of the policy can be resolved on a classwide basis.”  The court held that that plaintiffs’ claim, that Boyd’s meal policy is unlawful, is amendable to class treatment because “the evidence presented in connection with the motion for class certification established Boyd’s on-duty meal break policy was uniformly and consistently applied to all security guard employees.”  The court reached a similar conclusion for the Rest Break Class and held that common issues predominate explaining that “the lawfulness of Boyd’s lack of rest break policy and requirement that all security guard employees remain at their posts can be determined on a classwide basis.”  Finally, the court concluded that “whether the work uniform maintenance allowance and gasoline reimbursement must be included in calculating the overtime rate of pay can be decided on a classwide basis as a legal matter based on common proof” and that “[p]laintiffs also presented evidence that Boyd had uniform, companywide policies for determining entitlement to an annual bonus.” Abbey Spanier, LLP, located in New York City, is a well-recognized national class action and complex litigation law firm.