Bickley v. Schneider: Federal Court Certifies Meal and Rest Break Class

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Over 4,000 California-based truckers will have their allegations of meal and rest break violations decided as a class, following the ruling by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White granting the truckers’ class certification motion. See Bickley v. Schneider National Carriers, Inc., No. 08-5806 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 7, 2012) (Order on Motion for Class Certification) (available here).

This ruling is both procedurally and substantively significant. Procedurally, Bickley adds to the growing body of authority demonstrating that the rigorous analysis mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Wal-Mart v. Dukes decision did not effectively end class actions, as many had predicted. Substantively, the Bickley decision applies the California Supreme Court’s Brinker v. Super. Ct., issued just this past spring.

In finding that common questions predominate as to the plaintiffs’ meal break claims, Judge White directly relied on Brinker’s holding that meal breaks must be 30 minutes long and that even an unwritten, informal policy of the employer that puts pressure on employees to forgo their breaks can be challenged using the class action mechanism. The defendant’s vague meal break policy, which stated that meal and rest breaks should be “not be less than ten (10) minutes nor more than two (2) hours in length”, proved decisive on the often-pivotal commonality issue. Order at 10. Judge White reasoned that, “[i]n light of Schneider’s failure to instruct its drivers regarding the timing of rest breaks and meal periods as required by California law and Schneider’s failure to keep records of its employees’ meal periods, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have sufficiently demonstrated common questions which are applicable class-wide.” Id.

The court also found that questions related to compensation for rest breaks and miles driven were common to the class. For the subclasses, the court concluded there were common questions over accrued vacation pay, itemized wage statements and rest and meal breaks. The defendant has petitioned for leave to file a motion for reconsideration of the certification order.