New Court of Appeal Decision Might Make Class Certification Easier In Wage and Hour Cases

In Jaimez v. DAIOHS USA, Inc., a decision we think is wrongly decided in many ways, the California Court of Appeal might have made it significantly easier for plaintiffs to obtain class certification in wage and hour cases.

Alex Jaimez was employed by DAIOHS USA, Inc., as a Sales Route Representative, and filed suit alleging he was misclassified as an exempt employee during part of his employment, that he was not paid for all hours worked, that the did not receive all required meal and rest periods, and that his wage statements were not accurate.

The trial court denied Jaimez' motion for class certification, finding, among other things, that common issues of law and fact did not predominate and that Jaimez was not an adequate class representative.

In a wide-ranging opinion, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's decision to deny class certification. According to this Court of Appeal, the trial court erred when it found based on the evidence submitted in support of and in opposition to the motion for class certification that individual issues would predominate over common questions of law and fact. According to this Court of Appeal, in determining whether common issues of law and fact predominate, the inquiry is whether the plaintiff's "theory of recovery" is likely to prove amenable to class treatment.

The court's opinion might be read by some to mean that a trial court cannot consider the merits of evidence offered to rebut a plaintiff's "theory of recovery" (i.e., the plaintiff's allegations of wrongdoing) when ruling on a motion for class certification.

The court's opinion contains also statements that might be read by some to mean that meal periods cannot be waived, that employers must ensure that employees take their meal periods, and that an employee who alleges he or she received inaccurate wage statements meets the requirement of showing actual injury if the statements are inaccurate and if he or she was confused about whether he or she was compensated for all hours worked.

In one bright spot for employers, the court affirmed the trial court's finding that plaintiff Jaimez was not an adequate class representative because, among other things, Jaimez lied on his employment application about his felony conviction and admitted in deposition his view that it is acceptable to lie in order to obtain or maintain employment

We note that the Court of Appeal initially did not certify the opinion for publication. However, in response to requests by a number of plaintiffs' attorneys and associations of plaintiffs' attorneys, the Court of Appeal certified the opinion for publication on February 8, 2010. As a result, unless it is decertified or overruled, plaintiffs' attorneys can now cite to the opinion as precedent in pending and future cases.

We are submitting to the California Supreme Court a request that the Court of Appeal's opinion in be decertified.

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