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Bluford v. Safeway Stores, Inc.

California Court of Appeals, Third District, San Joaquin

May 8, 2013

KENNETH BLUFORD, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
SAFEWAY STORES, INC., Defendant and Respondent.

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Joaquin County, No. CV028541 Carter P. Holly, Judge. Reversed with directions.

Weinberg, Roger & Rosenfeld, David A. Rosenfeld, Theodore Franklin, Caren P. Sencer, and Jannah V. Manansala for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Payne & Feers, James L. Payne, Jeffrey K. Brown, and James R. Moss, Jr., for Defendant and Respondent.

ORDER OF PARTIAL PUBLICATION

NICHOLSON, Acting P. J.

This appeal concerns the trial court’s denial of class certification in a wage and hour action. Plaintiff Kenneth Bluford sought to certify a class of plaintiffs in his action against his employer, defendant Safeway, Inc. He claims Safeway violated statutory and regulatory laws requiring it to provide its employees with paid rest periods, earned meal periods, and sufficiently itemized wage statements.

The trial court denied plaintiff’s motion to certify a class. It ruled individual issues predominated over common issues on the rest period and meal period claims, and that plaintiff failed to allege a common injury resulting from the inadequate wage statements.

We reverse. Insufficient evidence supports the trial court’s ruling, as common issues predominate over individual issues, and plaintiff in fact alleged a common injury resulting from the wage statements. We order the trial court to grant plaintiff’s motion.

FACTS

Since 2003, Safeway has managed the operations of a distribution center in Tracy. Plaintiff is employed by Safeway as a truck driver who works out of the distribution center. He and the other drivers he sought to certify as a class deliver goods from the distribution center to Safeway stores in northern California and Nevada.[1]

Safeway’s truck drivers are represented by General Teamsters Local 439, which has negotiated successive collective bargaining agreements with Safeway. The agreements included provisions regarding rest periods and meal periods. Under those provisions, Safeway was required to provide two paid rest periods of 15 minutes each for every eight- or 10-hour shift worked. Employees received an additional 15-minute paid rest period if they worked in excess of two hours overtime.

Also under the agreements, drivers were to take a 30-minute meal period on their own time. Drivers were required to take the meal period no later than five hours after their regular shift began. The first collective bargaining agreement, which ran from 2003 to 2008, did not require drivers to take a second meal period if the driver worked more than 10 hours. The second agreement, however, effective September 28, 2008, to 2011, required drivers to take a second meal period in addition to the first meal period if the driver worked more than 10 hours. The driver could waive this second meal period if he had worked no more than 12 hours and had taken the first meal period.

The collective bargaining agreements also obligated Safeway to utilize what it calls an activity based compensation system to determine the drivers’ wages. Pay was calculated based on (1) mileage rates applied according to the number of miles driven, the time of day the trips were taken, and the locations where the trips began and ended; (2) fixed rates for certain tasks (e.g., rates for number of pallets delivered and picked up); (3) an hourly rate for a predetermined amount of minutes for certain tasks (e.g., paid for 10 minutes at hourly rate for set-up time at each store); and (4) an hourly rate for delays (e.g., breakdowns, impassable highways, time spent at scales, or other causes beyond the driver’s control).

Drivers logged their mileage and activities for each trip manually on trip sheets. They also logged their activities into an onboard computer system known as the XATA system. Through XATA, Safeway tracked the drivers’ moves, including their stops. The drivers input codes into XATA to record specific reasons for delays. Neither the trip sheets nor the XATA system, however, provided a place or means to record meal or rest periods.

Beginning in 2005, after we issued our decision in Cicairos, Safeway took additional steps to ensure its drivers took their breaks. In December 2005, it required drivers to note on their daily trip sheets when they took their meal periods. In July 2006, it required each driver to sign a certification on the back of the trip sheets certifying he was “authorized and permitted” to take his rest periods, and that he took his meal periods. In 2007, Safeway informed drivers that failing to sign the certification on the trip sheet could result in discipline.

At all relevant times, Safeway provided the drivers with a “driver trip summary -- report of earnings” and an “earnings statement” with each paycheck. The driver trip summary listed each component of a driver’s pay, and the quantity of each component for which he was being paid. The components and quantities were paid based on the rates set in the collective bargaining agreements. The earnings statement itemized the actual components, and it expressed them in an equivalent hourly pay. However, neither the driver trip summary nor the earnings statement stated the rates by which drivers were compensated for their mileage.

Plaintiff filed his complaint as a class action in 2006. He alleged Safeway violated pertinent provisions of the Labor Code and Industrial Welfare Commission wage orders by failing to provide him and other similarly situated employees with paid rest periods, meal periods, and sufficiently itemized wage statements. Specifically, plaintiff contends Safeway violated the law by (1) not paying for rest periods nor specifically accounting for them on wage statements; (2) (a) not providing until 2006 a second meal period for drivers who worked more than 10 hours a day, and (b) not making adequate efforts until 2006 to relieve drivers of their duties for any required meal period; and (3) issuing inadequate wage statements omitting essential information that would allow a driver to determine if he had been paid the proper amount of wages owed him under the activity based compensation system.

In April 2009, plaintiff filed his motion for class certification. He sought to certify three subclasses: those drivers denied paid rest periods; those denied required meal periods; and those who received inadequate wage statements. The trial court denied the motion in July 2010. It found class members’ individual reasons for not taking rest or meal periods predominated over common issues. It believed it could resolve the rest and meal period claims only by inquiring into each episode where a class member did not take a break. As to the wage statement claim, the court ruled plaintiff could not show common issues because class members did not suffer any common injury from the wage statements.

Plaintiff contends the trial court erred in refusing to certify the class, subdivided into three subclasses.

DISCUSSION

I

Standard of Review


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