Search This Blog

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Benton v. Telecom Network Specialists: Court Reverses Order Denying Meal, Rest, and Overtime Certification

In Benton v. Telecom Network Specialists, Inc. (10/16/13) --- Cal.App.4th ---, the Court of Appeal reversed a trial court order denying certification of an action alleging failure to provide meal and rest periods and failure to pay overtime compensation. 

The proposed class consisted of approximately 750 cell-phone tower technicians, most of whom were hired and paid by staffing companies that contracted with the defendant, TNS. The remainder of the putative class members were hired and paid by TNS directly. The plaintiffs alleged that TNS was a joint employer of all of the technicians and that TNS failed to adopt policies to pay overtime compensation or to provide meal or rest periods. 

The trial court denied the motion to certify, holding that, even if the court assumed that TNS jointly employed all of the putative class members, the class was too diverse to certify because: (1) some of the staffing companies who were joint employers had adopted a variety of different meal and rest period policies; and (2) the physical locations at which the technicians worked differed, and some of the putative class members were free to take meal and rest periods if they wished. Slip op. at 12-14. 

The Court of Appeal reversed. After reviewing class certification principals and the holdings in Brinker v. Superior Court (4/12/12) 53 Cal.4th 1004 (discussed here), Bradley v. Networkers Internat., LLC (2012) 211 Cal.App.4th 1129 (discussed here), and Faulkinbury v. Boyd & Associates (2013) 216 Cal.App.4th 220 (discussed here), the Court held that the trial court erred in denying certification. 

As in Faulkinbury, the plaintiffs' "theory of legal liability" -- that TNS violated the law by failing to adopt compliant meal and rest period policies -- was susceptible to class treatment. Slip op. at 25-32. Neither evidence that some putative class members worked under conditions that permitted them to take meal and rest periods, nor evidence that the staffing companies had diverse meal and rest period policies constituted a sufficient basis on which to deny certification. 

The trial court did not identify a proper basis on which to deny certification of the plaintiffs' overtime claims, but assuming that it applied the same reasoning above, it erred in doing so. Slip op. at 32-34. 

The opinion is available here

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.