Ayala v. Antelope Valley Newspapers, Inc., 2014 WL 2924954 (Cal. S. Ct. 2014)

Plaintiffs Maria Ayala, Rosa Duran and Osman Nuñez sought to certify a class of newspaper home delivery carriers in a lawsuit brought against Antelope Valley Newspapers, Inc. (“AVN”), alleging that AVN had improperly classified the carriers as independent contractors rather than employees in violation of California labor laws. The trial court denied class certification on the ground that there were numerous variations in how the carriers performed their jobs and, therefore, common issues did not predominate. The court of appeal reversed in part and held that because all of the carriers perform the same job under virtually identical contracts, the variations constituted common evidence that tended to show AVN’s lack of control over certain aspects of the carriers’ work – and that the carriers were entitled to class certification on the independent contractor/employee issue. However, the court affirmed denial of class certification of the carriers’ claims for missed meal and rest breaks and unpaid overtime. In this opinion, the California Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal, holding that “whether the hirer’s right to control can be shown on a classwide basis will depend on the extent to which individual variations in the hirer’s rights vis-à-vis each putative class member exist, and whether such variations, if any, are manageable.” See also Ruiz v. Affinity Logistics Corp., 2014 WL 2695534 (9th Cir. 2014) (home delivery drivers were employees and not independent contractors under California law); Laguna v. Coverall N. Am., Inc., 2014 WL 2465049 (9th Cir. 2014) (settlement of class action involving misclassification of franchisees as independent contractors was fair, reasonable and adequate).