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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hernandez v. Chipotle: On Remand After Brinker, Court of Appeal Again Affirms Order Denying Certification of Meal and Rest Period Class

In Hernandez v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (2010) 189 Cal.App.4th 751 (discussed here) the Court of Appeal affirmed a trial court order denying certification of a meal and rest period action. The Supreme Court granted review and held pending its decision in Brinker v. Superior Court (4/12/12) 53 Cal.4th 1004 (discussed here).

On remand, the Court of Appeal again affirmed the trial court's order.  Hernandez v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (8/21/12) --- Cal.App.4th ---. 
The decision comes from the same panel (Second District, Division Eight, Justices Bigelow, Flier, and Grimes) that issued Lamps Plus Overtime Cases (8/20/12) --- Cal.App.4th --- (discussed here), and the two decisions parallel each other. 

First, the Court held that the trial court properly analyzed an employer's obligation to provide meal periods and to authorize and permit rest periods. Slip op. at 9-12. The Court again distinguished Cicairos v. Summit Logistics, Inc. (2005) 133 Cal.App.4th 949, on grounds that the employer in Cicairos "effectively deprived drivers of an opportunity to take breaks" and that the DLSE opinion letter upon which Cicairos relied has been withdrawn. Slip op. at 12-13. And in any case, Brinker held that employers must relieve their employees of duty during their meal periods, but need not ensure that they do no work. Slip op. at 13.

Second, the Court held that the law did not foreclose the trial court from considering meal and rest period standards on certification. Slip op. at 14. The Court again distinguished Jaimez v. Daiohs USA, Inc. (2010) 181 Cal.App.4th 1286, on grounds that the employer's practices there -- giving the employees more work than they could do if they took meal periods, auto-deducting 30 minutes per day whether employees took meal periods or not, and requiring employees to acknowledge that they received their meal periods in order to be paid their wages -- "presented the predominant common factual issues on the meal and rest break claims." Slip op. at 14-15.

Third, the Court held that substantial evidence supported the trial court's order. The evidence showed no "universal practice with regard to breaks" and Hernandez would have to do a restaurant-by-restaurant or manager-by-manager analysis. Slip op. at 16. Chipotle's time records would be of little help because Chipotle paid its employees for their breaks, and the trier of fact would have to determine whether people actually missed breaks or just failed to record them. Slip op. at 17. Introduction of sampled evidence would not be manageable, and Hernandez's expert did not show how sampling evidence would simplify the trial. Slip op. at 18-19. Finally, substantial evidence supported the determination that some putative class members had also worked as supervisors, and "some putative class members may accuse other putative class members of violating their meal and rest period rights," raising a conflict of interest. Slip op. at 19-20.

The opinion is available here.

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