- Written by Carl Larson
A California Court of Appeal upheld a lower court’s refusal to grant class action certification in a lawsuit regarding on-duty meal periods and the propriety of the employer’s meal period waivers. Palacio v. Jan & Gail’s Care Homes, Inc. concerned a purported class of home care workers who were charged with operating a 24-hour residential care facility for developmentally disabled clients. Due to the nature of the work, it was difficult for employee to be completely relieved of all duty during the lunch period. Accordingly as permitted by IWC Wage Order 5, employees took on-duty meal periods where they ate with their clients. The meal period was compensated, and the meal itself was provided by the employer. All employees signed waivers of their rights to an off-duty meal period.
One employee filed suit after she was terminated. The plaintiff, Palacio, brought suit on behalf of 102 current and former employees, alleging class members were not provided with off-duty meal periods. Palacio also alleged that the employer should have informed employees of their right to revoke the meal period waivers, but this was quickly shot down by the Court, which held an employer is not required to notify employees of their ability to withdraw the meal period waiver.
- Written by Greg Blueford
Recently, the Eighth Circuit threw out two donning and doffing class action verdicts won by Nebraska workers against Tyson Foods Inc. (“Tyson”) totaling $24 million, ruling the claims under Nebraska’s payment and collection law were not properly supported and failed as a matter of law.
The two cases filed in 2008, Manuel Acosta, et al. v. Tyson Foods, Inc., and Jose A. Gomez et al. v. Tyson Foods, Inc., alleged Tyson’s compensation system paid employees for only the time they were present and working on the actual production assembly line. Although plaintiffs in both cases alleged similar causes of action, the facts were slightly different. Acosta worked at a pork plant where the number of minutes paid for non-productive time varied by job and changed over time. Gomez worked at a beef plant which was unionized and paid its workers a flat rate for four extra minutes for dressing and washing. Nonetheless, both cases alleged Tyson was not adequately compensating its employees for all non-productive time, including putting on and taking off protective gear.
The court ruled against both plaintiffs based on multiple theories. First, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), no employee shall be a party plaintiff to a class action unless he gives his consent in writing and such consent is filed with the court. Both complaints were styled as a “Class Action and Collective Action Complaint” by themselves and on behalf of other similarly situated individuals. Neither plaintiff amended their complaint to assert an individual action. Despite their pleadings, none of the named plaintiffs ever filed the requisite consents nor moved for conditional certification. Therefore, the court dismissed the FLSA claims.
Second, the Nebraska Collection Act creates a cause of action to recover only those wages that an employer previously agreed to pay when all stipulated conditions have been met. The Acosta court ruled that the plaintiffs failed to present sufficient evidence of unpaid wages that Tyson had agreed to pay.