Monday, May 7, 2018

Sali v. Corona Regional Med. Ctr.

Sali v. Corona Regional Med. Ctr. (9th Cir. 15-56460 5/3/18) Wage and Hour/Class Certification

The panel reversed the district court’s denial of class certification in a putative class action alleging employment claims against Corona Medical Center and UHS of Delaware, Inc; and remanded.

Plaintiffs Marlyn Sali and Deborah Spriggs moved for certification of seven classes of Registered Nurses, alleging they were underpaid by Corona as a result of certain employment policies and practices. The district court denied certification under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23 of each of the proposed classes on multiple grounds. The panel held that the district court’s determination, that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate their injuries were typical of the proposed classes, was premised on an error of law.

The panel held that the district court erred by striking a declaration at this preliminary stage, and the district court may not decline to consider evidence solely on the basis that the evidence is inadmissible at trial. The panel agreed with the district court’s conclusion that plaintiff Spriggs was not an adequate class representative because she was not a member of any class she sought to represent.

The panel held, however, that plaintiff Sali was an adequate class representative, and Spriggs’s inadequacy was not a valid basis to deny class certification. The panel held that the district court abused its discretion by concluding that attorneys from the law firm Bisnar Chase could not serve as adequate class counsel. The panel also held that at this early stage of the litigation, the district court’s decision on this issue was premature, but the district court was not precluded from considering counsel’s prior sanctions as evidence of inadequacy if they continue to neglect their duties.

The panel held that the district court erred by denying certification of the proposed rounding-time and wage statement classes on the basis that they failed Rule 23(b)(3)’s predominance requirement. First, the panel held that the district court’s determination that individual questions predominated in the claims of the proposed rounding-time class was based on an error of law. Under California law, the district court erred by interpreting time “actually worked” to mean only time spent engaged in work-related activities because time is compensable when an employee is working or under the control of his or her employer. Second, the panel held that the district court’s determination - that individual questions predominate in the claims of the proposed wage-statement class - was premised on legal error. The district court erred by concluding that damages for members of the wage statement class would require an individualized determination because California Labor Code specifies that a violation of § 226 is a per se injury.

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