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Weigele v. Fedex Ground Package System

April 5, 2010

MICHAEL WEIGELE, TESSA BISHOP, JOSE VALLADARES PLAINTIFF,
v.
FEDEX GROUND PACKAGE SYSTEM, INC.; ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge

ORDER: GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DECERTIFY (Doc. Nos. 210, 211, 212, 214)

Presently before the Court are Defendant' motions to decertify classes 2, 3, 4, and 5.*fn1 (Doc. Nos. 210 (2(c) & 5(c) Decert.), 211 (2(a) & 5(a) Decert.), 212 (2(b) & 5(b) Decert.), & 214 (3 & 4 Decert.) Plaintiffs have filed an omnibus opposition. (Doc. No. 231.) Defendant has filed four reply briefs. (Doc. Nos. 240--43.) After full consideration of this matter, the Court GRANTS Defendants motions to decertify.

BACKGROUND

This Court's Certification Order described the relevant factual background. As such, it is repeated here in relevant part.

Defendant FedEx ("FedEx") operates a ground package delivery system throughout the United States. Plaintiffs, former FedEx managers, allege that Defendants improperly classified them as exempt from overtime pay because they spent the majority of their time conducting non-managerial (non-exempt) tasks, including package handling. Plaintiffs also argue that since they were in fact non-exempt employees, they were improperly denied meal and rest breaks during their tenure. FedEx's operations involve unloading inbound packages, sorting, moving to outbound docks and ports, and loading onto vans and trailers for delivery. There are two divisions at FedEx: the Ground Division, consisting of Satellite and Hub facilities, and the Home Delivery division, which are either stand-alone facilities, or are co-located with Ground Division Satellites.

At both Ground Satellite and Ground Hub facilities there are Senior Managers who are in charge of the entire operation. There are also Sort Managers that serve as assistant managers for the Senior Manager. Next, there are Dock Service Managers, that serve essentially as assistants to the Sort Mangers, and work directly with hourly-paid Package Handler employees. At the Home Delivery facilities, there are no Sort Managers, but there are Dock Service Managers that report directly to the Senior Managers.

As of March 2005, FedEx handled 2.66 million packages per day and had grown 16% year over year. Given this large volume, Defendants have created standardized policies, procedures, standards, manuals, task lists, work flow processes and engineering for many of the elements of their operation. For example, Defendants have created training manuals on handling packages, loading vans, increasing production and handling time cards. Defendants have conducted studies on their operations that have concluded "Too much of our management's time is spent loading" and "Focus is to free up Managers from loading." Defendants have also uniformly classified management positions, including . . . Dock Service Managers, as exempt from overtime compensation.

Plaintiffs allege that due to corporate's productivity goals, understaffing, tight hourly budgets allocated towards package handlers, high turnover of hourly employees, absenteeism, and equipment failures, their primary duty was package handling--a non-exempt activity. Plaintiffs also allege that they were forced to miss meal and rest breaks in violation of California law. (Doc. No. 111 (Certification Order) at 1--3.)

At present, four classes remain in this matter, all brought on behalf of Defendant's California-based Dock Service Managers.*fn2 First, Class 2 advances overtime claims. This class is divided into three subclasses: (a) "hub" facility Dock Service Managers; (b) "satellite" facility Dock Service Managers; and (c) "home delivery" facility Dock Service Managers. (First Amended Complaint (FAC) ¶¶ 24--25.) Class 3 involves claims that the class members were not provided a 30-minute uninterrupted meal period. (Id. ¶ 24.) Class 4 seeks recovery for failure to provide two 10-minute rest breaks. (Id.) Finally, Class 5 seeks recovery of "waiting time penalties." This class includes identical subclasses to Class 2. (Id. ¶¶ 24--25.)

LEGAL STANDARDS

I. MOTION TO DECERTIFY

"A district court's order respecting class certification is 'inherently tentative' prior to final judgment on the merits." Officers for Justice v. Civil Serv. Comm'n, 688 F.2d 615, 633 (9th Cir. 1982); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(c)(1)(C). Thus, if the Court determines that a class was not properly certified it may modify or decertify that class. See Gen. Tel. Co. of Sw. v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 160 (1982).

In reviewing whether certification remains proper, the Court again applies the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. O'Connor v. Boeing N. Am., Inc., 197 F.R.D. 404, 410 (C.D. Cal. 2000). That is, the classes must meet all four requirements set forth in Rule 23(a) and at least one subdivision of Rule 23(b).

The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating that class certification is no longer proper. Gonzales v. Arrow Fin. Servs. LLC, 489 F.Supp.2d 1140, 1153 (S.D. Cal. 2007); Slaven v. BP Am., Inc., 190 F.R.D. 649, 651 (C.D. Cal. 2000). However, the decision on whether to decertify lies within the Court's sound discretion. Knight v. Kenai Peninsula Borough Sch. Dist., 131 F.3d 807, 816 (9th Cir. 1997).

In deciding this motion, the Court "is bound to take the substantive allegations of the complaint as true." Blackie v Barrack, 524 F.2d 891, 901 n.17 (9th Cir. 1975). Nonetheless, the Court may "consider evidence which goes to the requirements of Rule 23 even though the evidence may also relate to the underlying merits of the case." Hanon v Dataproducts Corp., 976 F 2d 497, 509 (9th Cir 1992). However, weighing of competing evidence is inappropriate. Wang v. Chinese Daily News, Inc., 231 F.R.D. 602, 605 (C.D. Cal. 2005) (citing Staton v. Boeing Co., 327 F.3d 938, 954 (9th Cir. 2003)) (abrogated on other grounds by Vinole v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 571 F.3d 935 (9th Cir. 2009)).

II. CALIFORNIA OVERTIME LAWS

California's overtime law is codified in California Labor Code section 510.

Eight hours of labor constitutes a day's work. Any work in excess of eight hours in one workday and any work in excess of 40 hours in any one workweek and the first eight hours worked on the seventh day of work in any one workweek shall be compensated at the rate of no less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay for an employee. Any work in excess of 12 hours in one day shall be compensated at the rate of no less than twice the regular rate of pay for an employee. In addition, any work in excess of eight hours on any seventh day of a workweek shall be compensated at the rate of no less than twice the regular rate of pay of an employee.

Cal. Lab. Code § 510(a); see also Cal. Lab. Code § 500 (defining, inter alia, "workday," "day," and "workweek").

III. CALIFORNIA MEAL & REST PERIOD REQUIREMENTS

Similarly, California law precludes an employer from "employ[ing] any person for a work period of more than five (5) hours without a meal period of not less than 30 minutes, except that when a work period of not more than six (6) hours will complete the day's work the meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and the employee." Cal. Code Regs. tit. 8, ยง 11070(11)(A). "If an employer fails to provide an employee a meal period in accordance with the applicable provisions of this order, the employer shall pay the employee one ...


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