Bell et al v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc.

Filing 158

ORDER signed by District Judge John A. Mendez on 9/7/2017 ORDERING #146 the Court GRANTS Home Depot's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Reader, L)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 12 13 14 SANDY BELL and MARTIN GAMA, individually, and on behalf of other members of the general public similarly situated, and as aggrieved employees pursuant to the Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”), 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Plaintiffs, v. HOME DEPOT U.S.A., a Delaware corporation, et al., Defendants. MICHAEL HENRY, on behalf of himself, all others similarly situated, and the general public, Plaintiff, 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 v. HOME DEPOT U.S.A., INC., a Delaware corporation; and DOES 1-50, inclusive, Defendants. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) Case No. 2:12-CV-02499 JAM-CKD ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT This matter is back before the Court on Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., and John Brooks’ (“Home Depot”) motion for partial summary 1 1 judgment on Plaintiffs’ derivative claims for penalties under 2 California Labor Code sections 203 and 226. 1 3 forth below, Home Depot’s motion for partial summary judgment is 4 granted. For the reasons set 5 6 I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND 7 Home Depot previously sought, and obtained, summary 8 adjudication on several of Plaintiffs’ claims in this action. 9 for Partial Summ. J., ECF No. 72; Order re Summ. J., ECF No. 113. Mot. 10 However, the Court denied the motion for summary judgment on 11 Plaintiffs’ claim that Home Depot failed to pay all required 12 overtime to employees who worked shifts over eight hours that 13 spanned two workdays. 14 granted class certification for “[a]ll persons who worked for 15 Defendant Home Depot U.S.A., Inc. in California as a non-exempt, 16 hourly paid supervisor at any time from August 14, 2009 until the 17 date of [the class certification] order who worked at least one 18 overnight shift that crossed midnight of more than eight hours, and 19 who, as a result, was not paid overtime for the hours worked over 20 eight hours during such overnight shift.” 21 Certification, ECF No. 110. 22 derivative claims under the UCL and California Labor Code, to which 23 Home Depot had not objected. 24 Plaintiffs’ derivative claim under section 226(e). 25 Class Certification, ECF No. 105, at 57–58. 26 Order re Summ. J. The Court subsequently Order re Class The Court also certified most of the The Court denied certification of Transcript re On September 12, 2016, the Court consolidated Henry v. Home 27 1 28 This motion was determined to be suitable for decision without oral argument. E.D. Cal. L.R. 230(g). The hearing was scheduled for July 25, 2017. 2 1 Depot U.S.A., Inc., No. 2:16-cv-02102-MCE-AC (“Henry”)—which had 2 been transferred to the Eastern District from the Northern District 3 of California—with this action, Bell v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 4 No. 2:12-cv-02499-JAM-CKD. 5 Home Depot now seeks summary adjudication on Plaintiffs’ 6 derivative claims for penalties under sections 203 and 226 of the 7 California Labor Code. 2 8 9 II. OPINION 10 A. Underlying Claim 11 It is undisputed that Home Depot defines its workday as the 12 calendar day beginning at 12:00AM and ending at 11:59PM. 13 Plaintiffs claim that Home Depot’s failure to pay class members 14 overtime wages for overnight shifts that exceeded eight hours 15 violates section 510’s daily overtime rules. 16 In denying Home Depot’s motion for summary judgment on the 17 midnight overtime claim, the Court adopted the Henry court’s 18 reasons for denying summary judgment on the same issue. 19 re Summ. J., Exh. A at 19 & 28–29; Def. Exh. E, “Order Denying 20 Defendant’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment” in Henry (“Henry 21 SJ Order”), ECF No. 147-5. 22 follows: 23 See Order The Henry court summarized the law as The California Labor Code affords an employer significant flexibility in the designation of a workweek and workday. However, the employer’s designation must not be designed to evade paying overtime. An employer may not engage in subterfuge or artifice designed to evade the overtime laws. 24 25 26 27 28 2 All further section references are to the California Labor Code unless otherwise indicated. 3 1 Henry SJ Order at 3 (citing Cummings v. Starbucks Corp., No. cv 12- 2 06345-MWF FFMX, 2013 WL 2096435, at *4 (C.D. Cal. May 14, 2013); 3 Seymore v. Metson Marine, Inc., 194 Cal. App 4th 361, 370 (2011); 4 Jakosalem v. Air Serv Corp., No. 13-cv-05944-SI, 2014 WL 7146672, 5 at *4 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 15, 2014); Huntington Mem’l Hosp. v. Super. 6 Ct., 131 Cal. App. 4th 893, 910 (2005)) (quotation marks omitted). 7 It then adopted and applied the Jakosalem court’s holding that 8 although employers are not “required in all instances to define 9 each employee’s workday to begin with that employee’s shift,” an 10 employer may not implement a workday “designed primarily to evade 11 overtime compensation.” 12 In deciding Home Depot’s initial motion for summary judgment, this 13 Court followed Henry and held it could “not conclude as a matter of 14 law that [Home Depot’s] workday designation was not designed to 15 evade overtime law since there [were] disputed issues of material 16 fact, and the evidence before the Court [gave] rise to competing 17 inferences.” 18 and derivative claims thus remain in dispute. Id. (citing Jakosalem, 2014 WL 7146672). Order re Summ. J., Exh. A at 29. The overtime claim 19 B. Applicable Law 20 Home Depot argues that a good faith dispute with respect to 21 the overtime claim precludes imposition of penalties under section 22 203 and 226(e). 23 Section 203 imposes penalties on an employer that willfully 24 fails to pay an employee wages due at the time the employee quits 25 or is discharged. 26 intentionally fails to pay wages to an employee when those wages 27 are due.” 28 dispute that any wages are due will preclude imposition of waiting “A willful failure . . . occurs when an employer Cal. Code Reg. tit.8, § 13520. 4 “However, a good faith 1 time penalties under Section 203.” 2 Id. A “good faith dispute” that any wages are due occurs when an employer presents a defense, based in law or fact which, if successful, would preclude any recover[y] on the part of the employee. The fact that a defense is ultimately unsuccessful will not preclude a finding that a good faith dispute did exist. Defenses presented which, under all the circumstances, are unsupported by any evidence, are unreasonable, or are presented in bad faith, will preclude a finding of a “good faith dispute.” 3 4 5 6 7 8 Id. Similarly, Section 226(e) imposes penalties when an employee 9 suffers injury due to the “knowing and intentional failure” of an 10 employer to provide accurate wage statements. Courts have extended 11 the “good faith dispute” rule to Section 226, “even though Section 12 226 contains a ‘knowing and intentional’ standard rather than the 13 ‘willfully’ standard of Section 203.” 14 No. C-14-0264 EMC, 2015 WL 2453202, at *3 (N.D. Cal. May 22, 2015). 15 Thus, penalties under either section are precluded if there is a 16 good faith dispute over whether wages are due. Woods v. Vector Mktg. Corp., 17 C. Good Faith Dispute 18 The Court finds there is a good faith dispute warranting 19 summary judgment on the section 203 and 226 derivative claims. 20 The factual disputes and proffered evidence regarding the overtime 21 claim are sufficient for determining the instant motion. However, 22 the Court does not express an opinion on Home Depot’s asserted 23 legal defenses to the underlying claim and this Order should not be 24 read as such. 25 The Court denied summary judgment on the midnight overtime 26 claim because triable issues of fact remained for a jury to 27 determine. 28 conclusion that Home Depot, at minimum, has a good faith factual The evidence now before the Court supports the 5 1 defense to the overtime wages claim. In contrast, Plaintiffs have 2 failed to show that this defense is unsupported, unreasonable, or 3 presented in bad faith. 4 Although Home Depot has not submitted direct evidence of a 5 bona fide business purpose for its initial workday designation, 6 Home Depot has presented circumstantial evidence tending to show 7 the company did not design the workday for the purpose of evading 8 overtime wages. 9 Director of Human Resources, attests that Home Depot established Home Depot’s declarant, Christina Barnaby, 10 its workday in the 1980s, that this designation has never changed, 11 that this designation has always applied on a company-wide basis, 12 that the first California store opened in 1985, and that Home Depot 13 had never, prior to this litigation, analyzed the impact that its 14 workday definition has on the overtime the company saved or paid. 15 Barnaby Decl., ECF No. 146-1; see also Barnaby Depo. III at 18:5–7, 16 19:16–19 (“A: [The workday] was established when we were the 17 company opened its first store doors, which was prior to 18 1981. . . . Q: When did Home Depot first have stores in a state 19 that paid overtime on a daily basis? A: When we opened stores in 20 California.”); Jakosalem, 2014 WL 7146672, at *6 (“FLSA has no 21 provision requiring daily overtime pay.”). 22 company-wide practice is relevant because it shows Home Depot 23 defined the workday before it was subject to daily overtime laws in 24 California and maintains the same workday in places that do not 25 regulate daily overtime. 26 the impact of the workday definition on overtime savings or 27 payments further indicates a lack of purposeful design. 28 Additionally, Home Depot’s workday lines up with the default This history of The fact that Home Depot had not analyzed 6 1 workday in the California DLSE Manual (§, which also 2 suggests neutrality. 3 in support of Home Depot’s defense that the company did not define 4 the workday for the purpose of evading its daily overtime 5 obligations. 6 These facts constitute substantial evidence Plaintiffs have not shown that Home Depot’s defense is 7 unsupported, unreasonable, or presented in bad faith. See Cal. 8 Code Reg. tit.8, § 13520; Woods, 2015 WL 2453202, at *4 (“Here, 9 this Court has already found that the classification issue raises 10 genuine disputes of material fact. 11 pointed to no cognizable evidence that raises a genuine material 12 dispute of fact regarding whether Vector’s defenses are unsupported 13 by any evidence, unreasonable, or presented in bad faith so as to 14 preclude a finding of a good faith dispute.”) (citations and 15 quotation marks omitted). 16 evidence are also insufficient to defeat summary judgment. 17 In turn, Plaintiffs have Plaintiffs’ objections to Home Depot’s On a motion for summary judgment, the Court looks to the facts 18 contained in the cited evidence, not the form of that evidence. 19 Norse v. City of Santa Cruz, 629 F.3d 966, 973 (9th Cir. 2010). 20 the content would be admissible at trial, the Court may consider it 21 for the summary judgment motion. 22 1036–37 (9th Cir. 2003). 23 If Fraser v. Goodale, 342 F.3d 1032, Plaintiffs’ objections to Ms. Barnaby’s Declaration based on 24 hearsay and lack personal knowledge do not preclude the Court’s 25 consideration of her statements. 26 Decl., ECF No. 153-3. 27 Director of Human Resources Operations and her declaration “is 28 based on her personal knowledge and/or review of pertinent Home See Pls.’ Objections to Barnaby Home Depot’s declarant, Ms. Barnaby, is the 7 1 Depot documents and records.” See Barnaby Decl. ¶ 1. Although her 2 statements concerning the history of the company’s workday 3 definition are based, in part, on hearsay, they are also based on 4 her personal knowledge of company policies and practices. 5 Barnaby Depo. III at 16:21–18:7, 40:1–22; Def. Rep. to Pls.’ Resp. 6 to Statement of Undisputed Facts, ECF No. 156-2. 7 she cannot testify to those facts at trial, the facts still appear 8 to be subject to other forms of proof—i.e. testimony from her 9 predecessors—that would be admissible. See Additionally, if The Court otherwise finds, 10 contrary to Plaintiffs’ assertions, Ms. Barnaby’s declaration is 11 consistent with the deposition testimony Plaintiffs submitted. 12 Pls.’ Objections to Barnaby Decl; Barnaby Depo. III. 13 attested to are thus proper grounds for granting summary judgment. 14 See The facts In sum, although a jury presented with the totality of the 15 evidence may still find Home Depot liable on the overtime claim— 16 hence, the reason the Court denied summary judgment—Home Depot has 17 presented a good faith defense to such liability. 18 on the section 203 and 226 penalties claims is thus appropriate. Summary judgment 19 20 21 III. ORDER For the reasons set forth above, the Court GRANTS Home Depot’s 22 Motion for Summary Judgment. 23 IT IS SO ORDERED. 24 Dated: September 7, 2017 25 26 27 28 8

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