In Bradley v. Networkers International LLC, 211 Cal.App.4th 1129 (Dec. 12, 2012, modified Jan. 8, 2013), the Court of Appeal (Fourth Appellate District, Division One) reversed an order denying class certification of wage and hour claims, including meal period and rest break claims, and remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.
The opinion's discussion of predominance is of interest:
Brinker instructs that in determining whether common or individual issues predominate, a court must focus on the plaintiff's theory of recovery and assess the nature of the legal and factual disputes likely to be presented under this theory. Applying this analysis, we again determine that the trial court erred in concluding that individual issues are likely to predominate on the independent contractor/employee issue.
.... The undisputed evidence showed Networkers had consistent companywide policies applicable to all employees regarding work scheduling, payments, and work requirements. Whether those policies created an employer-employee relationship, as opposed to an independent contractor relationship, is not before us. The critical fact is that the evidence likely to be relied upon by the parties would be largely uniform throughout the class.
Networkers argues, and we agreed in our initial opinion, that the issue of which employees had missed breaks and how many breaks were missed and whether those missed breaks were the result of Networkers' lack of a break policy was highly dependent on the testimony of each plaintiff, essentially requiring a mini-trial on each class member's case to determine the eligibility for recovery and the amount of damages to which each plaintiff would be entitled.
However, this argument conflicts with Brinker's clear holdings that for meal breaks, an employer has an obligation to relieve its employee of all duty, permit the employee to take an uninterrupted 30-minute break, and to not impede or discourage the employee from doing so. (Brinker, supra, 53 Cal.4th at p. 1040.) Similarly, an employer has an obligation to provide a rest break, and if the employer fails to do so, the employer cannot claim the employee waived the break. (Id. at p. 1033.) Under the logic of these holdings, when an employer has not authorized and not provided legally-required meal and/or rest breaks, the employer has violated the law and the fact that an employee may have actually taken a break or was able to eat food during the work day does not show that individual issues will predominate in the litigation.
Slip op. at 21, 24-25, 30-31 (footnote omitted). Bradley is one of the Brinker "grant and hold" cases, so its discussion of Brinker is of particular interest to those following the post-Brinker opinions.
UPDATE: On March 20, 2013, the Supreme Court denied the employer's petition for review in this case. Therefore, unlike three other post-Brinker opinions, in which denial of class certification was affirmed rather than reversed, Bradley remains a published, citable precedent.