McKenzie v. Federal Express: Central District Certifies Wage Statement Claim

RSS Feed

On June 16, 2011, Central District Judge Gary Allen Feess granted the plaintiffs’ certification motion in McKenzie v. Fed. Express Corp., No. 10-cv-02420, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65278 (C.D. Cal. June 16, 2011) (order granting class certification) (available here).  In McKenzie, the plaintiffs alleged violations of three of the nine Section 226(a) requirements: total hours worked (Cal. Lab. Code § 226(a)(2)), the pay period inclusive dates (Cal. Lab. Code § 226(a)(6)), and overtime rates (Cal. Lab. Code § 226(a)(9)).  Such claims are an archetype for class treatment, since wage statements or pay stubs tend to be identically formatted for all employees (and thus contain identical defects).

This ruling rebuffed the commonality defense most frequently offered by wage statement defendants (that Section 226(e)’s injury requirement gives rise to individual questions that destroy commonality and render class treatment inappropriate), situating the injury discussion as part of the damages phase, where it is well established that variation in damages among class members is not an impediment to class certification.  See McKenzie at *2, *25.  Moreover, although the ruling adhered to a California Court of Appeal holding in Price v. Starbucks Corp., 192 Cal. App. 4th 1136 (Ct. App. 2011) (stating that Section 226(e) requires an injury separate from but causally related to the violation of Section 226(a)(1)-(9)), Judge Feess adopted a minimalist approach, whereby the injury requirement is satisfied if the wage statement recipient must “engage ‘in discovery and mathematical computations’” to determine if wages were correctly paid.  McKenzie at *10 (citing Price at 1143).

Judge Feess noted that “even the declarations submitted by FedEx in opposition to McKenzie’s motion for class certification indicate that common issues predominate” because the declarations stated that employees use FedEx’s computer system and consult their own handwritten notes “to determine whether they have been paid correctly every pay period.”  McKenzie at *30-*31. In an apparent declaration–drafting blunder, “one employee even stated in his declaration that he initially found FedEx’s wage statements confusing and had to consult his manager to understand the paystub.”  Id. at *31.  As such, the declarations submitted by FedEx were directly responsive to the “confusion” threshold for satisfying the Section 226(e) injury requirement, and, as with most admissions against interest, were likely fatal to the FedEx certification opposition.