ITW, [defendant] Hobart’s parent company, designs and manufactures commercial food equipment. Hobart provides after-sale maintenance and repair services to ITW’s customers. [Plaintiff] Alcantar works for Hobart as a service technician.
Alcantar and other service technicians provide most services on-site. They drive to and from customer locations in vehicles Hobart provides, carrying the tools and replacement parts necessary to make repairs. Although they spend most of their time at customer locations, each technician is assigned to one of Hobart’s thirteen California branch offices.
As hourly employees, the technicians are compensated for the time they spend fixing equipment and the time they spend driving to and from different assignments. If they commute in the service vehicles, they are also compensated for the time spent driving from their homes to their first assignments and from their last assignments back home, but only to the extent it falls outside their "normal commute" [the time employees normally spend commuting from their homes to their assigned branch offices].Alcantar sued, alleging that employees commuting in Hobart vehicles were subject to Hobart's control and should be paid overtime compensation for all commute time. Alcantar also alleged that Hobart failed to provide the required meal and rest periods.
The district court denied Alcantar's motion for class certification of the overtime claim. It held that Alcantar had not shown that Hobart had a uniform policy requiring technicians to commute in its vehicles and that this precluded a finding of commonality under FRCP 23(a)(2).
The district court also denied certification of the meal and rest period claims, holding that individual questions as to why employees missed their meal and rest periods would predominate, and that the plaintiff could not meet the predominance requirement of FRCP 23(b)(3).
On a separate motion for summary judgment, the court held that Hobart did not owe the plaintiff for the commute time, but held that Alcantar had raised triable issues of fact as to the meal and rest period claims.
On a second motion for summary judgment, the court held that Alcantar had not complied with PAGA's notice requirement.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding as follows:
The district court erred in denying certification of the overtime claim. First, "there is a question of fact as to whether Hobart requires technicians to use its vehicles for their commute." Second, Alcantar raised a common issue as to whether Hobart exercised control over its employees while driving company vehicles, such that their commute time should be compensated. Third, the district court erred in considering the merits of this common question. Whether the plaintiff would prevail on the merits or not does not impact the commonality analysis under FRCP 23(a)(2).
The district court did not err in denying certification of the meal and rest period claims. Common questions did not predominate under FRCP 23(b)(3). Instead, individual questions as to why employees missed their meal and rest periods would predominate.
The district court erred in granting summary judgment for Hobart on the commuting time claim. Although Hobart argued that technicians could choose not to use Hobart's vehicles, Alcantar argued that the choice was illusory because the branch offices did not have secured parking available for the vehicles, and the technicians were responsible for the tools and parts inside the vehicles. Alcantar thus raised a question of fact as to whether Hobart required its technicians to use its vehicles for their commute.
The district court did not err in granting summary judgment for Hobart on Alcantar's PAGA claims. Alcantar's notice to the Labor and Workforce Development Agency contained only a series of legal conclusions, rather than the facts and theories supporting the claim.
Plaintiff’s letter—a string of legal conclusions with no factual allegations or theories of liability to support them—is insufficient to allow the Labor and Workforce Development Agency to intelligently assess the seriousness of the alleged violations. Neither does it provide sufficient information to permit the employer to determine what policies or practices are being complained of so as to know whether to fold or fight.
The opinion is available here.