Schulz v. QualxServ: Federal Court Certifies Class Based on Brinker

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In what appears to be the first class certification ruling to expressly invoke the California Supreme Court’s recent Brinker decision, Central District judge Anthony J. Battaglia has certified meal period, rest break, expense reimbursement, wage statement, untimely final paycheck, and off-the-clock claims. See Schulz v. QualxServ LLC, No. 09-CV-17-AJB (C.D. Cal. Apr. 26, 2012) (order granting motion for class certification), available here. Thus, although Brinker only addressed meal period, rest break, and off-the clock claims, the decision is also a strong endorsement of class action procedures to adjudicate wage-and-hour claims in general.

As to the often-pivotal commonality requirement, Judge Battaglia found it satisfied, citing the same authorities relied on in Brinker:

The Court finds that there are sufficient common questions under this standard because Plaintiffs’ challenge the Defendants’ common corporate policy of failing to relieve the technicians of all work during the rest and meal breaks. Adoma, 270 F.R.D. at 552-53 (noting unsettled California law but finding class issues predominate on meal periods); Dilts, 267 F.R.D. at 634-39 (certifying class of off-site truck drivers who worked through meal and rest breaks based on company-wide, common practice); Ortega, 258 F.R.D. at 366-70 (common questions predominate because focus on employer’s “compensation system, which applies in the same manner to all potential class members on all work days,” regardless of California Supreme Court’s decision on meaning of duty to “provide” rest and meal breaks); Cervantez, 253 F.R.D. at 576 (certifying class on common corporate policy concerning rest and meal breaks); see Jaimez v. DAIOHS USA, Inc., 181 Cal. App. 4th 1286, 1305 (2010) (certifying class under California rules).

Order at 11-12.

This action alleges that the class of field technicians, whose duties included driving to clients’ homes and businesses to repair and service computers, were paid only a flat rate for making repair calls and were not relieved of duty during meal and rest breaks (which were also not properly recorded). See id. at 2-4, 11-12. Defendants countered that, due to the nature of the job, the technicians were fully in control of their own breaks. See id. at 6. While Brinker struck a note for worker autonomy, Schulz suggests the limits of such autonomy, particularly where an employer cedes virtually all responsibility for supervising and administering breaks to workers.