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Williams v. Superior Court (Allstate Insurance Company)

California Court of Appeal, Second District, Eight Division

December 6, 2013

Christopher WILLIAMS, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Petitioners,
v.
The SUPERIOR COURT of Los Angeles County, Respondent; Allstate Insurance Company, Real Party in Interest.

[As Modified December 24, 2013]

ORIGINAL PROCEEDING in mandate. John Shepard Wiley Jr., Judge. Petition granted. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BC382577)

Page 1354

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1355

COUNSEL

Law Offices of Kevin T. Barnes, Kevin T. Barnes and Gregg Lander, Los Angeles; Trush Law Office and James M. Trush, Newport Beach, for Petitioner.

No appearance for Respondent.

Seyfarth Shaw, Andrew M. Paley, Sheryl L. Skibbe, James M. Harris and Kiran Aftab Seldon, Los Angeles, for Real Party in Interest.

OPINION

RUBIN, J.

Page 1356

Petitioner Christopher Williams petitions for a writ of mandate directing the trial court to vacate its order decertifying petitioner's class action claim that alleged Allstate Insurance Company failed to pay overtime wages to Allstate's auto field adjusters. A writ shall issue forthwith directing the trial court to vacate its decertification order and to recertify the class.

FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

Allstate Insurance Company employs several hundred auto field adjusters in California. Auto field adjusters travel to sites such as body shops to inspect, and analyze the value of, damaged vehicles. In 2005, Allstate changed the classification of its auto field adjusters from salaried employees to hourly employees in response to litigation challenging their misclassification as employees exempt from the protection of overtime wage laws. ( Jimenez v. Allstate Ins. Co. (C.D.Cal. Apr. 18, 2012, No. LA CV 10-08486) 2012 WL 1366052,*4 ( Jimenez ).)

Page 1357

Auto field adjusters receive their daily work schedules of vehicle inspection appointments by logging onto Allstate's " Work Force Management System" software loaded onto their work laptops. Although the adjusters are hourly employees entitled to overtime if they work more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week, the Work Force Management System software is not a time record keeping program, nor does Allstate maintain any other time [165 Cal.Rptr.3d 343] clock system.[1] An Allstate executive testified in deposition: " Q. Is there any timekeeping system such as a time clock or a computer punch-in and punch-out system that auto adjusters punch in and punch out in order to keep track of the start and the end of their day? [¶] A. No timekeeping punch-in, punch out system, no. [¶] Q. Is there any timekeeping system of any type, whether it's a time clock, a computer system or a manual system, that records the actual start time and the actual end time of the auto adjuster's workday? ... [¶] A. No." Rather than track the actual hours an adjuster works, the Work Force Management System instead presumes each adjuster's eight-hour workday begins when the adjuster arrives at his first vehicle-inspection appointment of the day. As the Allstate executive explained, " Their day begins at the first stop."

Allstate's presumption that an adjuster's workday begins with the first appointment as set by the Work Force Management System does not take into account any work the adjuster may have performed before the day's first appointment. As the Allstate executive explained in deposition, " Q. The eight-hour workday upon which the system is based assumes that the eight-hour workday begins at the first appointment, correct? [¶] A. Yes.... [¶] Q. [T]he eight-hour workday upon which the system is based does not take into account any work that may have been done before the first appointment; isn't that right? ... [¶] A. That's correct. The system doesn't take into account anything that somebody might have done prior to that first assignment."

Belying Allstate's assumption of an 8-hour workday, appellant submitted declarations from numerous adjusters stating they typically worked more than 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week after Allstate reclassified them from salaried to hourly employees. Among the overtime tasks those adjusters declared they performed outside their eight-hour shifts were (1) logging onto their work computers, (2) downloading their assignments, (3) making courtesy calls to auto repair shops and car owners to confirm appointments, (4)

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checking their voice mail, and (5) traveling to and from their first and last appointments of the day. For an adjuster to work overtime, Allstate's official company policy required the adjuster to get his supervisor's prior approval. But the adjusters' declarations stated the adjusters hesitated to request overtime because they did not want to be perceived as " bad" employees.

In 2007, petitioner Christopher Williams filed a class action complaint for himself and all others similarly situated. The complaint sought class certification for all Allstate auto field adjusters working in California, a group of several hundred employees defined as " all auto adjusters in California that perform field inspections using the Workforce Management System (‘ WFMS') with the title Claim Adjuster, Senior Claim Adjuster, Staff Claim Adjuster, Claim Service Adjuster, Senior Claim Service Adjuster, Staff Claim Service Adjuster, Appraiser, Claim Representative, Claim Specialist and Claim Consultant." The complaint alleged Allstate had a policy and practice of not compensating adjusters for work performed before they arrived at [165 Cal.Rptr.3d 344] their first vehicle inspection of the day and for work performed after completing the last inspection of the day. The complaint alleged various wage violation causes of action.

Petitioner moved for class certification. At the December 2010 class certification hearing, the trial court found evidence in the record " supports a class of Auto Field Adjusters with respect to off-the-clock claims ... that are performed pre-first inspection and post-last inspection in connection with logging on and off the computer timekeeping system, including, but not limited to, setting voicemail messages and checking for schedule and travel changes." The court therefore certified an " Off the Clock" class, defined as Allstate's " California-based hourly-paid Auto Field Adjusters from January 1, 2005 to the present, to the extent that [Allstate] failed to pay for off-the-clock work for the following specific tasks performed prior to the first inspection of the day: logging on and off computer systems, preparing and checking voicemail messages, checking for schedule and travel changes, obtaining directions to the first inspection if there is a travel change, and making courtesy calls." [2]

Half a year later in June 2011, the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes (2011) __ U.S. __, 131 S.Ct. 2541, 180 L.Ed.2d 374 ( Dukes ). Dukes involved class certification of 1.5 million current and former female Wal-Mart employees from 3,400 stores who alleged Wal-Mart denied ...


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