Orozco, et al. v. Illinois Tool Works, Inc.

Filing 99

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER signed by District Judge Morrison C. England, Jr. on 2/16/2017 GRANTING 94 Motion for Class Certification. (Michel, G.)

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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 JUAN OROZCO and JUAN OROZCOBRISENO, on behalf of themselves and on behalf of all persons similarly situated, Plaintiffs, 14 17 MEMORANDUM AND ORDER v. 15 16 No. 14-cv-02113-MCE-EFB ILLINOIS TOOL WORKS INC., a corporation, and DOES 1 through 50 Inclusive, Defendant. 18 This putative class action proceeds on Plaintiffs Juan Orozco and Juan Orozco- 19 20 Briseno’s Complaint against their former employer Illinois Tool Works, Inc. (“ITW”). The 21 Court previously certified one of the Plaintiffs’ two proposed classes. Mem. & Order, 22 ECF No. 93. The motion was denied without prejudice as to the second proposed class. 23 Presently before the Court is a second Motion for Class Certification, ECF No. 94, in 24 which Plaintiffs seek to certify a modified version of the previously rejected class. For 25 the following reasons, Plaintiffs’ current Motion is GRANTED.1 26 /// 27 28 1 Because oral argument was not of material assistance, the Court ordered this matter submitted on the briefs. E.D. Cal. Local Rule 230(g). 1 BACKGROUND2 1 2 3 Plaintiffs are former material processors who worked for the ITW Rippey 4 Corporation (“Rippey”), one of ITW’s more than forty business facilities in California. The 5 Rippey facility is ITW’s only California facility that manufactures PVA brush rollers used 6 for cleaning semi-conductors. The manufacturing process for the PVA brush rollers 7 requires material processors at the Rippey facility to wear hazmat-type protective gear. 8 According to Plaintiffs, the hazards of the manufacturing process at the Rippey facility 9 sometimes prevent material processors from taking their scheduled meal and rest 10 breaks. Plaintiffs accordingly contend that the mealtime policy at the Rippey facility 11 violated California’s Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”), and these allegations form the 12 basis of Plaintiffs’ proposed UCL Class. 13 14 STANDARD 15 16 A court may certify a class if a plaintiff demonstrates that all of the prerequisites of 17 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) have been met, and that at least one of the 18 requirements of Rule 23(b) have been met. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 23; see also 19 Valentino v. Carter-Wallace, Inc., 97 F.3d 1227, 1234 (9th Cir. 1996). Before certifying a 20 class, the trial court must conduct a “rigorous analysis” to determine whether the party 21 seeking certification has met the prerequisites of Rule 23. Id. at 1233. While the trial 22 court has broad discretion to certify a class, its discretion must be exercised within the 23 framework of Rule 23. Zinser v. Accufix Research Inst., Inc., 253 F.3d 1180, 1186 (9th 24 Cir. 2001). 25 26 27 28 Rule 23(a) provides four prerequisites that must be satisfied for class certification: (1) the class must be so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable, 2 The following recitation of facts is taken from Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of the Motion for Class Certification and Defendant’s Opposition thereto. See ECF No. 94-1 (Plaintiffs’ memorandum); ECF No. 95 (Defendant’s opposition). 2 1 (2) questions of law or fact exist that are common to the class, (3) the claims or defenses 2 of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class, and 3 (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class. 4 See Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a). Rule 23(b) requires a plaintiff to establish one of the 5 following: (1) that there is a risk of substantial prejudice from separate actions; (2) that 6 declaratory or injunctive relief benefitting the class as a whole would be appropriate; or 7 (3) that common questions of law or fact predominate and the class action is superior to 8 other available methods of adjudication. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b). 9 10 ANALYSIS 11 12 Plaintiffs define the UCL Class as “[a]ll individuals who are or previously were 13 employed by Defendant Illinois Tool Works, Inc. . . . in California as non-exempt 14 employees during the period March 27, 2010 to the present who worked at Rippey as 15 Material Processors.” Mem. of P & A in Supp. of Mot. for Class Certification (“Mot. for 16 Class Cert.”) at 6. Plaintiffs allege a violation of the UCL based on ITW’s “unfair or 17 deceptive failure to pay [the] meal premium” required under California labor law. Mot. for 18 Class Cert. at 3. Plaintiffs “do not ask the Court to find that Defendant[s] violated the 19 meal period laws under the California Labor Code.” Id. at 2. Instead, Plaintiffs allege 20 that Defendant’s policies for providing mealtimes were unfair under the UCL. Id. 21 22 23 A. Rule 23(a) Requirements 1. Numerosity To meet the numerosity requirement of Rule 23(a), a class must be “so numerous 24 that joinder of all members is impracticable.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a)(1). “Courts have 25 routinely found the numerosity requirement satisfied when the class comprises 40 or 26 more members.” Collins v. Cargill Meat Sols. Corp., 274 F.R.D. 294, 300 (E.D. Cal. 27 2011). However, “[t]he numerosity requirement includes no specific numerical 28 threshold.” Andrews Farms v. Calcot, Ltd., 258 F.R.D. 640, 651 (E.D. Cal. 2009) order 3 1 clarified on reconsideration, 268 F.R.D. 380 (E.D. Cal. 2010). Rule 23(a)’s “requirement 2 that the class be so numerous that joinder of all members is impractical does not mean 3 that joinder must be impossible, but rather means only that the court must find that the 4 difficulty or inconvenience of joining all members of the class makes class litigation 5 desirable.” In re Itel Sec. Litig., 89 F.R.D. 104, 112 (N.D. Cal. 1981) (citing Harris v. 6 Palm Springs Alpine Estates, Inc., 329 F.2d 909, 913–14 (9th Cir. 1964)). Courts have 7 been inclined to certify classes of fairly modest size. See, e.g., Jordan v. Los Angeles 8 Cty., 669 F.2d 1311, 1319 (9th Cir. 1982) (willing to find numerosity for classes with 9 thirty-nine, sixty-four, and seventy-one people), vacated on other grounds, 459 U.S. 810 10 11 12 13 14 (1982). The Court finds, and the Defendant does not dispute, that numerosity is met for the UCL Class because it consists of 44 members. 2. Commonality Under Rule 23(a)(2), commonality is established if “there are questions of law or 15 fact common to the class.” This requirement is construed permissively and can be 16 satisfied upon a finding of “shared legal issues with divergent factual predicates.” 17 Hanlon v. Chrysler Corp., 150 F.3d 1011, 1019 (9th Cir. 1998). In Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. 18 v. Dukes, the Supreme Court clarified: “What matters to class certification . . . is not the 19 raising of common ‘questions'—even in droves—but, rather the capacity of a classwide 20 proceeding to generate common answers apt to drive the resolution of the litigation.” 21 131 S. Ct. 2541, 2551 (2011) (alteration in original). Even a single common question 22 that meets this criteria satisfies Rule 23(a)(2). Id. at 2556 n.9. 23 Plaintiffs claim there are common questions as to whether Defendant had a 24 “policy of failing to specify a timing requirement for meal periods, failing to provide for a 25 second meal period, and failing to pay premium wages for these violations.” Mot. for 26 Class Cert. at 8. Conversely, Defendant contends that Plaintiffs’ UCL cause of action 27 presents no single question, but instead a multitude of questions about why a particular 28 employee took a meal break when he or she did on any given day. See Def.’s Opp’n, at 4 1 7–8. Thus, they argue, Plaintiffs’ UCL cause of action lacks the commonality required 2 under Rule 23(a)(2). See id. 3 However, the particular reasons why any one meal break was delayed are not at 4 issue. Instead, Plaintiffs claim that Defendant had an unlawful meal break policy, 5 subverting employees’ statutory rights to the dictates of the manufacturing process at the 6 Rippey facility. See Safeway, Inc. v. Superior Court, 238 Cal. App. 4th 1138, 1161 7 (2015) (“[A] theory predicat[ing] liability on [employer’s] alleged practice of never paying 8 meal break premium wages when required, and seek[ing] restitution for the class-wide 9 loss of the statutory benefits implemented by section 226.7 . . . does not necessitate 10 excessive individualized assessments of time punch data or similar inquiries.”). 11 While the reasons for any one delayed meal break may vary, there is a common, 12 predominant question among the Rippey workers as to whether Defendant had a policy 13 or practice that deprived them of their statutory right to opt for a meal break within the 14 first five hours of work. Defendant’s policy required team decisions, made in 15 consultation with their supervisor. See Def.’s Opp’n, at 8. Class-wide litigation is apt to 16 generate a common answer of whether that scheme unfairly pressured employees into 17 forgoing their statutory right to a meal break. 18 3. 19 Typicality “The [Rule 23(a)(3)] test of typicality is whether other members have the same or 20 similar injury, whether the action is based on conduct which is not unique to the named 21 plaintiffs, and whether other class members have been injured by the same course of 22 conduct.” Hanon v. Dataprods. Corp., 976 F.2d 497, 508 (9th Cir. 1992) (citation 23 omitted). “Under the rule's permissive standards, representative claims are ‘typical’ if 24 they are reasonably co-extensive with those of absent class members; they need not be 25 substantially identical.” Hanlon, 150 F.3d at 1020. The Ninth Circuit has found typicality 26 if the requisite claims “share a common issue of law or fact and are sufficiently parallel to 27 insure a vigorous and full presentation of all claims for relief.” Cal. Rural Legal 28 /// 5 1 Assistance, Inc. v. Legal Servs. Corp., 917 F.2d 1171, 1175 (9th Cir. 1990) (citation 2 omitted), amended, 937 F.2d 465 (9th Cir. 1991). 3 Defendant challenges the named plaintiffs typicality based on them having 4 “work[ed] solely on Rippey’s 12-hour weekend shift” and reported only to one particular 5 supervisor. Def.’s Opp’n, at 11–12. This is in contrast to the weekday shifts, which are 6 10 hours. Id. at 12. Furthermore, Defendant points to evidence that the weekday shift 7 supervisor placed the timing of meal breaks wholly within the employees’ hands. Id. at 8 12. All material processors at Rippeys were subject to the same policy, though, 9 regardless of whether that policy deprived any particular shift of their statutory rights. 10 Defendant’s arguments address the merits of Plaintiffs’ claims, not their typicality. 11 Cf. Stockwell v. City & County of San Francisco, 749 F.3d 1107, 1112 (9th Cir. 2014) 12 (finding analysis of the merits of the plaintiff’s claims to be “not a proper inquiry” at the 13 class certification stage). If Plaintiffs were deprived of their statutory right to meal 14 breaks, perhaps it was not because of Defendant’s policy, but instead attributable to 15 specific circumstances on the weekend shift. But Plaintiffs are here challenging the meal 16 break policy. And because all material processors were subject to the same meal break 17 policy, named Plaintiffs are sufficiently typical of the class to satisfy the requirements of 18 Rule 23(a)(3). 19 20 4. Adequacy of Representation “The final hurdle interposed by Rule 23(a) is that ‘the representative parties will 21 fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.’” Hanlon, 150 F.3d at 1020 22 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a)(4)). “To satisfy constitutional due process concerns, 23 absent class members must be afforded adequate representation before entry of a 24 judgment which binds them.” Id. (citing Hansberry v. Lee, 311 U.S. 32, 42–43 (1940)). 25 “Resolution of two questions determines legal adequacy: (1) do the named plaintiffs and 26 their counsel have any conflicts of interest with other class members and (2) will the 27 named plaintiffs and their counsel prosecute the action vigorously on behalf of the 28 class?” Id. 6 1 Defendant does not challenge adequacy of representation, and there is no 2 indication that Plaintiffs or their counsel have a conflict of interest. Plaintiffs have 3 committed to seeing the litigation to its conclusion, and Plaintiffs’ counsel has already 4 been found qualified by this Court. See Mem. & Order, at 9–10. 5 6 7 B. Rule 23(b) Requirements 1. Predominance “The Rule 23(b)(3) predominance inquiry tests whether proposed classes are 8 sufficiently cohesive to warrant adjudication by representation.” Amchem Prods., Inc. v. 9 Windsor, 521 U.S. 591, 623 (1997). “This calls upon courts to give careful scrutiny to the 10 relation between common and individual questions in a case.” Tyson Foods, Inc. v. 11 Bouaphakeo, 136 S. Ct. 1036, 1045 (2016). 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 An individual question is one where members of a proposed class will need to present evidence that varies from member to member, while a common question is one where the same evidence will suffice for each member to make a prima facie showing [or] the issue is susceptible to generalized, classwide proof. The predominance inquiry asks whether the common, aggregation-enabling, issues in the case are more prevalent or important than the non-common, aggregationdefeating, individual issues. Id. (alteration in original) (citation omitted). As discussed above in analyzing commonality, Defendant argues that individual 19 questions of why a particular employee took a meal break at a particular time 20 predominate and that class certification is therefore inappropriate. However, Plaintiffs 21 have challenged Defendant’s meal policy, which requires no such individualized 22 determination. Plaintiffs need only provide evidence of undue pressure resulting from 23 the team-based, manufacturing-process-informed approach to determining when meal 24 breaks are taken, not individualized evidence as to why any one meal break was taken 25 at any particular time. Thus, Plaintiffs have satisfied the predominance requirement. 26 27 28 2. Superiority of Class Action Plaintiffs must also establish that the proposed class action is the superior method of resolving the dispute in comparison to available alternatives. “A class action is the 7 1 superior method for managing litigation if no realistic alternative exists.” Valentino, 2 97 F.3d at 1234–35. The Ninth Circuit has recognized that a class action is a plaintiff's 3 only realistic method for recovery if there are multiple claims against the same defendant 4 for relatively small sums. Local Joint Exec. Bd. Culinary/Bartender Trust Fund v. Las 5 Vegas Sands, Inc., 244 F.3d 1152, 1163 (9th Cir. 2001). 6 The Court finds that a class action on behalf of the UCL Class is superior to 7 alternative methods of adjudication. Individuals likely have little interest in pursuing 8 litigation themselves, especially given potential fears of employment retaliation. 9 Furthermore, neither the parties nor the Court is aware of any other similar suit pending 10 elsewhere. There also appears to be no reason why concentrating the litigation in this 11 Court would be undesirable. The proposed class action is thus the superior method of 12 resolving the dispute, and the requirements of Rule 23(b)(3) are met. 13 14 CONCLUSION 15 16 For the reasons stated above, Plaintiffs’ Motion for Class Certification of the UCL 17 Class, ECF No. 94, is GRANTED. 18 IT IS SO ORDERED. 19 Dated: February 16, 2017 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 8

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