Our meal and rest period class action against Main Street and Main, Inc., the largest franchisee of T.G.I.Friday's restaurants in California, was certified this afternoon by the Orange County Superior Court. Judge Jonathan Cannon certified the two subclasses for meal period violations and rest period violations. However, because class representative April Hernandez testified that she couldn't recall her purchases of uniforms and equipment -- towels and aprons, primarily -- the court conditioned its certification of the uniform and equipment subclasses upon the amendment of the complaint to include a new representative for those subclasses.
This was one of the few rest period class actions to proceed to a contested certification hearing. Several have been denied. We're trying to confirm how many others have been certified.
The court's ruling was as follows:
"To obtain certification, a party must establish the existence of both an ascertainable class and a well defined community of interest among class members. [ citation.] the community of interest requirement involves three factors: "(1) predominant questions of law or fact; (2) class representatives with claims or defenses typical of the class; and (3) class representatives who can adequately represent the class." Linder v Thrify Oil Co. (2000) 23 CA4th 429. Here, Plaintiff has met the above requirements.
Each of the defined subclasses demonstrate a predominant question of law or fact necessary for certification. Plaintiff has presented substantial evidence the employees where denied rest and meal breaks. Defendant presented evidence some employees waived their right to a meal break when they accepted employment. The effectiveness of that waiver cannot be determined at this point.
Defendant has pointed to circumstantial evidence of employees enjoying meal and rest breaks. Defendant has attached photographs of employee break areas, provided evidence of its 50% off on food policy for employees and some testimony of employees that they did indeed take a break to eat or saw other employees taking a break to eat. However, Defendant has not produced any evidence to contradict the 200+ declarations submitted by Plaintiff, that employees were not allowed an uninterrupted, 30 minute meal break for shifts more than five (5) hours. It may be true some of the employees used the meal discount and ate in the employee break areas, but there is nothing showing the employees did that during their shift or that the meal break was for 30 uninterrupted minutes.
Because Plaintiff has provided substantial evidence of meal and rest break violations, she has claims typical of those subclasses and she can adequately represent the class on those issues, the class will be certified as to subclasses "a" through "d".
Certification is a little more problematic with regard to the uniform and equipment subclasses. Plaintiff has provided the required substantial evidence of violations of the Labor Code with respect to uniform and equipment requirements, however it does not appear Plaintiff's claims are typical of the claims of the members of those subclasses. Plaintiff testified she never purchased a uniform or equipment from Defendant. Therefore, she is not a suitable class representative with regard to those claims. Plaintiff will have to find another class member to represent the uniform issues.
The Motion for Certification is granted as to subclasses " a" though "d". Certification is granted as to subclasses "e" and "f" on the condition Plaintiff finds a suitable class representative within the next fifteen (15) days.