Class Must Be Certified in Challenge to Ban on Employees Leaving Premises During Breaks
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday ordered class certification in an action against a chain of home décor stores that allegedly required employees to remain on the premises during breaks in violation of California law.
However, a three-judge panel held that certification was properly denied as to the claim that Kirkland stores unlawfully checked employees’ bags as they exited at the end of their shifts.
Judge Kenneth K. Lee wrote:
“When an employee challenges a company’s policy in a class action lawsuit, it may appear at first blush that liability can be determined on a class-wide basis if that policy applies to all employees. But like with so many facets of the law. the answer is—it depends. And this case provides two dueling and instructive examples of when a claim challenging a company’s policy can—and cannot—be certified.”
“For the Rest Break Claim, the evidence shows that Kirkland’s applied its rest break policy uniformly across its stores. A few outlier examples of employees not following the policy generally cannot by themselves defeat class certification. But for the Bag Check Claim, the record suggests that many employees did not abide by the bag check policy and that Kirkland’s did not consistently enforce it. And the very nature of Kirkland’s bag check policy—with the inherent variations in employees’ circumstances—may require highly individualized inquiries.”
Lee said, with respect to the rest break claim:
“[T]the district court erred in holding that individual issues would predominate over common ones for the Rest Break Claim—at least based on the record before us—because the evidence shows that (i) Kirkland’s written policy expressly forbid employees from taking breaks away from the store and (ii) Kirkland’s consistently enforced that policy across its stores from at least May 2014 to sometime in 2018.”
The panel partially affirmed and partially reversed an order by District Court Judge John W. Holcomb of the Central District of California.
The case is Miles v. Kirkland’s Stores, Inc., 22-55522.
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