Augustus v. American Commercial Security: Grant of MSJ Means $90 Million Award for Rest Break Class

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Last week, in one fell swoop, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge denied a defendant’s motion for summary adjudication and motion to decertify the plaintiffs’ rest break class, granted plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment, and issued a $90 million award to a class of 15,000 plaintiffs, while following the California Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Brinker v. Super. Ct., 42 Cal. 4th 1004 (2012).  See Augustus v. Amer. Commercial Sec. Servs., No. BC336416 (Los Angeles Super. Ct. Jul. 6, 2012) (order granting summary judgment) (available here).  The Brinker decision, initially touted as a win for defendants, continues to favor plaintiffs alleging meal and rest break violations.

Here, the plaintiff class, made up of security guards, sought damages for missed rest periods, claiming that they were “on call” during their breaks and therefore not “relieved of all duty” as required under Brinker.  Defendants contended that, because plaintiffs were not required to carry radios during rest breaks, they were per se off duty.  See Order at 2-3.  Judge John Shepard Wiley, Jr. countered defendant’s argument, pointing out that “[t]here are many alternatives to the radio for hailing a person back to work,” and categorically agreed with plaintiffs, stating, “[p]ut simply, if you are on call, you are not on break” and “these on-call breaks are all legally invalid.”  Id. at 2-3.

Judge Wiley took the defendant to task several times in the order (to great comic effect), for citing to an unpublished opinion (id. at 2); for being critical of the length of plaintiffs’ reply brief despite having submitted an opposition brief that “included 21 small font footnotes” (id. at 3); and for arguing a due process violation despite having “had an opportunity to be heard — repeatedly, and at length” (id. at 4).