Bradley v. Networkers Int’l: California Court of Appeal Orders Certification of Meal/Rest Break Class Where Employer Has No Break Policy

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California’s Fourth Appellate District has reversed a trial court’s denial of class certification as to meal and rest break claims where the employer/defendant had no discernible policy governing employees’ breaks. See Bradley v. Networkers International, LLC, __ Cal. App. 4th __ (2012). In addition to substantial reliance on the California Supreme Court’s landmark Brinker decision, Bradley also substantially relied on Jaimez v. Daiohs USA, Inc., 181 Cal. App. 4th 1286 (2010), in which the trial court was found to have committed reversible error by “focusing on the potential conflicting issues of fact or law on an individual basis, rather than evaluating ‘whether the theory of recovery advanced by the plaintiff is likely to prove amenable to class treatment.’” Jaimez at 1299.

The Bradley analysis is notable in several respects, foremost its finding that plaintiffs’ theory that the defendant entirely lacked a meal or rest break policy necessarily presented a common issue suitable for class treatment. Slip op. at 28-31. Bradley is also notable in underscoring that the pertinent question for trial courts is whether a plaintiff’s meal and rest break theory of liability is amenable to classwide adjudication. See slip op. at 21. In so ruling, the Bradley panel noted that the issue of why breaks were missed is not properly a basis for finding a lack of predominant questions. See slip op. at 20-21. Rather, the reasons underlying a particular missed break and whether there is liability in a particular instance go only to damages. Id. Copious class action jurisprudence holds that individual variations in damages may not be a bar to class treatment.

The Court of Appeal recently denied defendants’ petition for rehearing and modified the opinion without altering the judgment. The order is available here.