Labor Law Class Action Alleging Failure to Provide Meal and Rest Breaks not Entitled to Class Action Treatment but Questions of Fact Defeat Employer’s Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff’s Individual Claims California Federal Court Holds
Plaintiff filed a class action complaint in California state court against her former employer, McDonald’s, on behalf of hourly, non-exempt employees; the class action alleged that she did not receive all of her meal or rest breaks. Kimoto v. McDonald’s Corp., ___ F.Supp.2d ___ (C.D. Cal. August 28, 2008) [Slip Opn., at 1-2]. Defense attorneys removed the class action to federal court, id., at 2. Plaintiff filed a motion to certify the litigation as a class action; the district court denied class action treatment on August 21, 2008. Id., at 4. Defense attorneys moved for summary judgment as to each of the now-individual claims in the putative class action complaint, id., at 2. The district court granted the motion as to a records retention claim, but denied the motion as to the substantive claims.
Plaintiff argued that she is entitled to compensation for missed meal and rest periods that McDonald’s was required to provide to her under California law. Kimoto, at 3. Defense attorneys argued that “an employer is required to make meal and rest periods available to employees if he or she wants to take advantage of them, but not that the employer must ensure that such periods are taken.” Id., at 4. (A California appellate court recently affirmed the defense interpretation of California law in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, 165 Cal.App.4th 25 (Cal.App. 2008), our summary of which may be found here.) The issue, then, was whether a genuine issue of material fact exists “as to whether McDonald’s provided or authorized Plaintiff to take all meal and rest breaks to which she was entitled.” Id. With respect to missed rest periods, the federal court found genuine issues of fact as to whether McDonald’s refused to allow her to take a rest period within the first 4 hours of her shift as required by California law. See id., at 5-6. And with respect to her claimed missed meal periods, the district court concluded that a genuine issue of fact existed as to whether, on at least one occasion, McDonald’s failed to provide plaintiff with an “uninterrupted meal period.” Id., at 6-7. These main findings largely dictated the district court denial of the summary judgment on plaintiff’s other substantive claims. The only claim McDonald’s won involved an allegation that it failed to retain records as required by California law, and on that point the court found no genuine issue of material fact that disputed defendant’s evidence concerning its records retention policies. See id., at 10.