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Court ordered to reconsider denial of class action status to dairy drivers

Court ordered to reconsider denial of class action status to dairy drivers

A federal appeals court has overturned a lower court ruling and said the district court incorrectly analyzed whether a proposed class action by dairy delivery drivers should be certified.

Juan Perez was a delivery driver for Industry, California-based Alta Dena Certified Dairy L.L.C. from about 2005 to 2013, according to Monday’s ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in Juan Perez, on behalf of himself and those similarly situated v. Alta Dena Certified Dairy L.L.C.

He alleged in his putative class action that from 2008 to 2011 the dairy violated state wage and hour laws by subjecting him and a putative class to route-restriction and noncompliant meal and rest break policy/practices and a policy/practice of “auto-deducting” for meal breaks whether drivers took those breaks. 

The U.S. District Court in Pasadena denied Mr. Perez’s motion to certify a class and later granted the dairy summary judgment on his individual claims.

On appeal, a three-judge appeals court panel unanimously held that the district court had incorrectly analyzed whether under the rules of civil procedure there was a predominance of common class issues over individual ones, thus entitling the litigation to be considered a class action.

On the issue of meal breaks, for instance, the appeals court said, “at least three common issues predominate over individual issues; (1) whether Alta-Dena’s written policy was unlawful on its face; (2) whether supervisors permitted timely breaks; and (3) whether Alta-Dena’s route scheduling made timely breaks unavailable in practice.

“The district court erred by focusing on the drivers’ actions and preferences because the critical questions turn on what Alta-Dena did nor did not do,” said the ruling.

“We express no view on whether any of Perez’s proposed subclasses ultimately should be certified; we hold only that the district (court) erred in its assessment of predominance,” the ruling said, in remanding the case for further proceedings.

Insurers may be more willing to cover wage and hour employment risks following a U.S. Supreme Court decision in May that allows companies to require employees to sign away their ability to bring class action claims against management, an employment law attorney said.






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