Jimenez-Sanchez v. Dark Horse Exp., Inc., 2019 WL 626349 (Cal. Ct. App. 2019)

The trial court denied plaintiffs’ motion for class certification of a putative class consisting of employees who worked as drivers transporting milk within California. Plaintiffs allege failure to compensate for all hours worked; failure to schedule meal periods; failure to provide uninterrupted duty-free meal periods of at least 30 minutes; failure to pay premiums when rest or meal breaks were not provided, recordkeeping violations, etc. Dark Horse, the employer, independently secured settlement agreements and releases from 54 of the 76 putative class members and argued there was insufficient numerosity for the case to proceed as a class action and atypicality of the class representatives since they had not signed the releases. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s order denying certification on the ground that the trial court used improper criteria or erroneous legal assumptions of whether plaintiffs’ claims and one of defendant’s defenses presented predominantly common issues suitable for determination on a class basis. Specifically, the Court held the trial court based its decision on the certification motion in part on an erroneous legal assumption that the law applicable to compensation for rest periods is the same as that applicable to compensation for nonproductive time. The Court further held the claimed unconscionability issues (related to the releases) are predominantly individual and not subject to class treatment. See also Nisei Farmers League v. California Labor & Workforce Dev. Agency, 30 Cal. App. 5th 901 (2019) (Labor Code section 226.2 governing piece-rate compensation is not unconstitutionally vague).