Dunbar v. Albertson’s, Inc., 141 Cal. App. 4th 1422 (2006)

Maurice Dunbar, a grocery manager for Albertson’s, filed this class action in which he asserted that he and other similarly situated Albertson’s employees were misclassified as executive employees exempt from overtime. The putative class consisted of approximately 900 individuals who had worked as grocery managers for Albertson’s since 2000. In support of his motion to certify the class, Dunbar argued that common issues of classification would predominate, while Albertson’s argued that individualized issues of liability and damages – including which specific tasks each manager performed and for how long – would predominate, given the variation in the work performed by the different managers. The trial court denied Dunbar’s motion to certify the class, concluding that plaintiffs could not satisfy the commonality requirement of the law simply by making reference to an employer’s common policy to classify a certain group of employees as exempt. The trial court further concluded that in determining whether an employee is exempt or non-exempt, the court should focus on the evidence concerning the actual experiences of the class members rather than on the formal job descriptions and policies. The Court of Appeal affirmed the order denying the class certification motion. Cf. Dunlap v. Superior Court, 142 Cal. App. 4th 330 (2006) (trial court erred in granting employer’s motion to strike Private Attorneys General Act class action claims for plaintiffs’ failure to exhaust administrative remedies).