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Ramirez v. United Rentals, Inc.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

June 12, 2013

DANIEL RAMIREZ, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff(s),
UNITED RENTALS, INC., Defendant(s).


EDWARD J. DAVILA, District Judge.

Plaintiff Daniel Ramirez brings this action on behalf of a putative class of employees of United Rentals Northwest, Inc. See Compl., Docket Item No. 1. He moves for certification of the class pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3). See Docket Item No. 24. For the reasons set forth below, Ramirez's motion is denied.


United Rentals is an industrial equipment rental company with 106 branch offices in California. See Marsh Decl., Docket Item No. 29, at Ex. 6. At any given time during the class period, these 106 offices employed, on average, 190 total drivers to deliver the equipment to customers. See Jakubiak Decl., Docket Item No. 3, at 6.

Daniel Ramirez was hired by United Rentals in February 2005. See Ramirez Decl., Docket item No. 26, at 2-3. Later that year, he was promoted to driver, the position he held until his employment was terminated in February 2010. Id.

Ramirez alleges that United Rentals failed to provide him and the putative class members with meal and rest breaks or to compensate them for missed breaks. Ramirez seeks relief under the California Labor Code, California's Unfair Competition Law, and for unjust enrichment.

A. California's Meal and Rest Break Laws

California Labor Code § 512 requires United Rentals to provide its employees with the opportunity to take an uninterrupted, unpaid 30-minute meal break during any shift that lasts five hours or more. See IWC Order No. 7-2001, codified at CAL. CODE REGS. tit. 8, § 11070, at subd. 11 ("Wage Order"); see also Brinker Rest. Corp. v. Super. Ct. , 53 Cal.4th 1004, 1040-41 (2012) (employer must provide a "bona fide relief from duty, " but need not "police" the break to ensure that no work is done). The employee is also entitled to a 10-minute paid rest break for every four hours worked. See Wage Order at subd. 12. An employee is entitled to an hour's wages in compensation for each meal or rest break missed. Cal. Lab. Code § 226.7; Wage Order at subds. 11(D), 12(B). Employers are required to maintain accurate records of employee meal breaks. See Wage Order at subd. 7(A)(3).

B. United Rentals' Policies and Practices

Owing to erratic delivery schedules, United Rentals does not schedule specific times during the day for its drivers to take meal and rest breaks. See, e.g., Boyer Decl., Docket Item No. 37-1, at Ex. 1. Rather, it is up to the driver to pick a time and place. Id.

During the putative class period, United Rentals had no uniform, company-wide procedure for keeping track of its drivers' meal and rest breaks. See Marsh Decl. at Exs. 2, 3. Despite the lack of a formal policy, many branch managers configured the company timekeeping software, Workbrain, to automatically deduct 30 minutes each from the time a driver actually logged each day. Id. at Ex. 11 ("In the past, our primary practice for tracking [drivers'] hours and breaks has been to utilize Workbrain pre-set schedules with auto-deduct breaks and to have the employee review the time entries on a weekly basis."). But not all branch managers automatically deducted time for meal breaks. See, e.g., Def.'s Compendium of Manager Decls., Dcoket Item No. 38, at Exs. 2, 8, 9.

Plaintiff submits declarations from 18 drivers indicating that their delivery schedules were often too busy to allow for full, duty-free meal and rest breaks. See generally Pl.'s Compendium of Driver Decls., Docket Item No. 27. Practices for recording missed breaks varied from branch to branch. In at least some branches that did not automatically deduct time, drivers kept paper time logs of breaks, both taken and missed. See, e.g., Cuneo Decl. at 15; Sacson Decl. at 6.

C. Daniel Ramirez's Employment with United Rentals

Daniel Ramirez worked as a driver for a San Jose branch of United Rentals for a little more than four years. See Ramirez Decl. at 2-3. In approximately 95% of his shifts over that period, a 30 minute meal break was automatically deducted from his clocked hours. See Marsh Decl. at 33. Ramirez claims that no records exist to show that he took those meal breaks; that he was able to take meal breaks only about once or twice per week; that he likewise was not provided all required rest breaks; and that none of the breaks he was able to take were off-duty because he would have to answer his work cell phone if it rang. See Ramirez Decl. at 24-25, 34-43, 46-49. Ramirez recalls being told by his branch manager that drivers were told to take breaks, but does not recall any instruction that breaks should be duty-free. Id. at 26-31. Ramirez points to evidence that no compensatory wage was paid for his missed breaks.


To certify a class, a plaintiff must first show that four threshold requirements are met:

(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is ...

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