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Margarita Rosales and Angelica Rosales, On Behalf of Themselves and All Others Similarly Situated v. El Rancho Farms and Does 1-20

August 29, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jennifer L. Thurston United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiffs Margarita Rosales and Angelica Rosales*fn1 ("Plaintiffs") seek class certification pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. 96). On August 14, 2012, Defendant El Rancho Farms ("Defendant" or "El Rancho") filed its opposition to the motion (Doc. 99), to which Plaintiffs filed a reply on August 21, 2012 (Doc. 104).

The Court has read and considered the pleadings and supporting documents, and heard oral arguments by counsel on August 28, 2012. For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends Plaintiffs‟ motion for class certification be GRANTED.


On November 9, 2005, Plaintiffs‟ counsel initiated an action against table grape growers based 3 in Kern County, including D.M. Camp & Sons; Marko Zaninovich, Inc.; Sunview Vineyards of 4 California, Inc.; and Giumarra Vineyards Corporation.*fn2 (Doe v. D.M. Camp & Sons, Case No. 1:05-5 cv-1417-AWI-SMS, Doc. 2). At the time the complaint was filed, the plaintiffs were unnamed former 6 and current employees of the defendants. See id. On December 6, 2005, Plaintiffs filed their First 7 Amended Complaint, identifying additional defendants, including El Rancho Farms. (Doe, Doc. 9). 8

The Court acknowledged the Doe matter was related to several other cases initiated against grape 9 growers. See Doe v. D.M. Camp & Sons, 624 F.Supp.2d 1153 (E.D. Cal. 2008).

Defendants in Doe, including El Rancho Farms, filed motions to dismiss, which were granted by the Court on March 31, 2008. (Doe, Docs. 81, 168). In addition, the Court granted motions to sever the action, and the Court ordered the plaintiffs to file amended pleadings against each defendant. Id. On May 29, 2008, "Angelica Rosales" and Margarita Rosales were identified as plaintiffs in the Third Amended Complaint against El Rancho Farms. (Doe, Doc. 173). On March 31, 2009, the Court ordered Plaintiffs to re-file in a new action within twenty days to finalize severance. (Doe, Doc. 241).

On April 20, 2009, Plaintiffs filed their complaint against El Rancho Farms, alleging the following: violation of the Agricultural Workers Protection Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1801; failure to pay wages; failure to pay reporting time wages; failure to provide meal and rest periods; failure to pay wages of terminated or resigned employees; knowing and intentional failure to comply with itemized employee wage statement provisions; penalties under Labor Code § 2699, et seq.; breach of contract; and violation of unfair competition law. (Doc. 1). Plaintiffs brought the action "on behalf of Plaintiffs and members of the Plaintiff Class comprising all non-exempt agricultural, packing shed, and storage cooler employees employed, or formerly employed, by each of the Defendants within the State of California." Id. at 4.

In compliance with the Court‟s deadline for seeking class certification, Plaintiffs filed their 2 motion on September 9, 2011. (Doc. 33). Plaintiffs sought certification of classes for unpaid rest 3 breaks, untimely rest and meal breaks, off-the-clock work, and tool reimbursement. Each of these 4 classes included "fieldworkers employed or jointly employed by El Rancho." However, Plaintiffs 5 failed to show Defendant was a joint employer of the fieldworkers, as required by the class definitions. 6

In addition, Plaintiffs failed to demonstrate they worked a pure piece rate basis and lacked standing to 7 represent the unpaid rest break class. Finally, conflicting evidence defeated certification of the 8 remaining classes. The recommendations were adopted in full on January 31, 2012, and Plaintiffs‟ 9 motion for class certification was denied. (Doc. 56).

Plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration based upon new evidence, seeking to demonstrate El Rancho was a joint employer and three narrowed class definitions satisfied the requirements of class certification. (Doc. 60). On July 6, 2012, the Court granted Plaintiffs‟ motion in part, and gave leave "to file a second motion for class certification with respect to meal periods of Garza employees who worked at El Rancho facilities." (Doc. 95 at 9). Accordingly, Plaintiffs filed their second motion for class certification, now pending before the Court, on July 26, 2012. (Doc. 97).


Class certification is governed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provide: "One or more members of a class may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf of all." Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a). A class action is proper if:

(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class; (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a). Generally, these prerequisites are referred to as numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy of representation, and "effectively limit the class claims to those fairly encompassed by the named plaintiff‟s claims." General Telephone Co. of the Southwest v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 155-56 (1982) (citing General Telephone Co. v. EEOC, 446 U.S. 318, 330 (1980)). When an action satisfies the prerequisites of Rule 23(a), the Court must consider whether the class is maintainable under one of the alternatives set forth in Rule 23(b). Narouz v. Charter Communs., LLC, 591 F.3d 1261, 1266 (9th Cir. 2010). 2

Parties seeking class certification bear the burden of demonstrating that each element of Rule 23 is satisfied, and "must affirmatively demonstrate . . . compliance with the Rule." Wal-Mart Stores, 4 131 S. Ct. at 2551; Doninger v. Pacific Northwest Bell, Inc., 563 F.2d 1304, 1308 (9th Cir. 1977). The 5 Court must conduct a "rigorous analysis," which may require the Court "to probe behind the pleadings 6 before coming to rest on the certification question." Wal-Mart Stores, 131 S. Ct. at 2551 (quoting 7 Falcon, 457 U.S. at 160-61). The Court has an affirmative duty to consider the merits of an action "to 8 the extent that they overlap with class certification issues." Ellis, 675 F.3d at 981 ("a district court 9 must consider the merits if they overlap with the Rule 23(a) requirements") (citing Wal-Mart Stores, 131 S. Ct. at 2551-52). As a result, the Court may consider material evidence to determine Rule 23 requirements are satisfied. Blackie v. Barrack, 524 F.2d 891, 901 (9th Cir. 1975).


In conjunction with a Rule 23 class certification motion, the Court may consider all material evidence submitted by the parties to determine Rule 23 requirements are satisfied. Blackie v. Barrack, 524 F.2d 891, 901 (9th Cir. 1975). Accordingly, declarations may be used to support or oppose a motion where presented in writing, subscribed as true under penalty of perjury, and dated. 28 U.S.C. § 1746. Plaintiffs object to statements made in the declarations of Irma Garza, and Ofilia Tinoco (Doc. 103). However, precisely the same statements and objections were identified in conjunction with the original motion for class certification (Doc. 45), which the Court addressed in its Findings and Recommendations. Accordingly, these objections are DISREGARDED.

Notably, "[o]n a motion for class certification, the court may consider evidence that may not be admissible at trial." Mazza v. Am. Honda Motor Co., 254 F.R.D. 610 (C.D. Cal. 2008) (citing Eisen v. Carlisle & Jacquelin, 417 U.S. 156, 178 (1974) (describing a court‟s determination of class certification as based on "tentative findings, made in the absence of established safeguards" and describing a class certification as "of necessity . . . not accompanied by the traditional rules and procedures applicable to civil trials."); see also Williams v. Veolia Transp. Servs., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 123600 at *7 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 20, 2009) ("Unlike evidence presented in a summary judgment motion, evidence presented at the class certification stage need not be admissible at trial"). Regardless, the Court has considered only evidence deemed admissible in its analysis. 2


Plaintiffs assert they and putative class members are agricultural workers who were employed 4 to work at El Rancho. (Doc. 1 at 2). According to Plaintiffs, "the evidence is overwhelming" that El 5 Rancho and its farm labor contractor, Garza Contracting ("Garza"), "maintained a uniform policy of 6 providing fieldworkers with meal periods at 12:00 noon, consistently resulting in late meal periods." 7

(Doc. 96-1 at 9). 8

Plaintiffs contend, "El Rancho produced approximately 15,000 [ages of payroll and 9 timekeeping documents during discovery . . . [that] facially show a meal break policy in which worker lunches were consistently scheduled from 12:00 to 12:30 p.m. regardless of the time employees began their workday." (Doc. 96-1 at 9). In addition, Plaintiffs assert El Rancho representatives Lynn Kirkorian and John Kovacevich "confirmed that between 2000 and 2009, from approximately May through September of each year, fieldworkers‟ workdays commenced between 6:00 a.m. and 6:45 a.m., and they utilized a noon meal period schedule." Id. Accordingly, Plaintiffs seek to certify the following class: "All employees of Garza ...

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