United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
DANETTE M. MOORE, LATRESA MYERS, ALANNA HARRISON and ALISA VALDEZ, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
PETSMART, INC., Defendant.
PRELIMINARY CERTIFICATION OF SETTLEMENT CLASS; PRELIMINARY APPROVAL OF CLASS
ACTION SETTLEMENT; APPROVAL OF CLASS NOTICE AND PLAN; APPOINTMENT OF CLASS
COUNSEL AND CLASS REPRESENTATIVES; AND SETTING A FINAL APPROVAL HEARING [RE:
DOCKET ITEM NO. 40]
EDWARD J. DAVILA, District Judge.
In this putative class action case filed against Defendant PetSmart, Inc. ("Defendant" or "PetSmart"), presently before the Court is Plaintiffs Danette Moore, Latresa Myers, Alanna Harrison, and Alisa Valdez's (collectively "Plaintiffs") Motion for Preliminary Approval of Class and Class Action Settlement. See Docket Item No. 40. The motion is unopposed and will be GRANTED for the reasons set forth below.
Defendant is a national retail company providing pet supplies and services. The named Plaintiffs are former and current employees of Defendant who were and are employed as pet groomers. This case involves Plaintiffs' wage and hour claims on behalf of approximately 16, 400 current and former employees who are eligible to participate in the settlement and are or were employed by Defendant in California between May 23, 2008 and the present. Plaintiffs initiated this class action on May 23, 2012 in the Superior Court of California. See Docket Item No. 1-2. Defendant removed the case to this Court on July 9, 2012. See Docket Item No. 1.
Plaintiffs bring the present action for: unpaid compensation, failure to reimburse reasonably incurred work-related expenses, meal and rest period violations, failure to properly calculate vacation pay, failure to timely and properly pay wages due upon termination, failure to provide suitable seats, statutory penalties, interest and attorney's fees and costs, and specific enforcement of penalties and restitution of all benefits enjoyed by Defendant for the previous violations. Plaintiffs allege the following causes of action against Defendant: (1) Failure to Provide Reasonable Accommodation Due to Disability (Cal. Gov't Code § 12940); (2) Failure to Provide Reasonable Accommodation Due to Pregnancy (Cal. Gov't Code § 12945); (3) Failure to Engage in Interactive Process (Cal. Gov't Code § 12940(n)); (4) Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy; (5) Failure to Pay Minimum Wages on behalf of the Groomer Class (Lab. Code § 1194 and IWC Wage Order 7-2001 § 4); (6) Failure to Pay Agreed Upon Wages for All Hours Worked on behalf of the Groomer Class (Lab. Code § 223 and IWC Wage Order 7-2001 § 4); (7) Failure to Provide Meal Periods on behalf of the Meal Period Class (Lab. Code §§ 226.7, 512, and IWC Wage Order 7-2001 § 11); (8) Failure to Provide Rest Periods on behalf of the Meal Period Class (Lab. Code §§ 226.7, 512, and IWC Wage Order 7-2001 § 12); (9) Failure to Provide Rest Periods on behalf of the Rest Period Class (Lab. Code §§ 226.7, 512, and IWC Wage Order 7-2001 § 12); (10) Failure to Reimburse Business-Related Expenses and Provide Tools on behalf of the Tool Class (Lab. Code § 2802 and IWC Wage Order 7-2001 § 9(B)); (11) Failure to Pay Wages Due Upon Termination (Lab. Code §§ 201, 202, 203); (12) Failure to Provide Accurate Itemized Wage Statements (Lab. Code § 226); (13) Violation of Business & Professions Code §§ 17200 et seq.; (14) PAGA Claim for Failure to Provide Suitable Seats (Lab. Code §§ 1198, 2698 et seq. and IWC Wage order 7-2001 § 14); and (15) PAGA Claim for Civil Penalties (Lab. Code § 2698 et seq.).
The parties reached a settlement after mediation with an experienced mediator. Dkt. No. 40 at 6. On January 31, 2014, Plaintiffs filed the present motion for provisional certification of settlement class, preliminary approval of class action settlement, approval of class notice and notice plan, appointment of class counsel and class representatives, and setting a final approval hearing. Dkt. No. 40. Objection was filed by Cassandra Pace. See Docket Item No. 44. The hearing was held on March 7, 2014. See Docket Item No. 58. The Court ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefings, which were filed on March 28, 2014. See Docket Item Nos. 66, 68.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
A. Class Certification
A party seeking class certification must provide facts sufficient to satisfy the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Doninger v. Pac. Nw. Bell, Inc. , 564 F.2d 1304, 1308-09 (9th Cir. 1977). Under Rule 23(a), a class may only be certified 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).
In addition, the party seeking certification must show that the action falls within one of the three subsections of Rule 23(b). In this case, Plaintiff seeks certification pursuant to 23(b)(3), which permits certification of cases where "the court finds that the questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy." Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(3). Plaintiffs bear the burden of demonstrating that they have met the requirements of Rule 23(a) as well as the predominance and superiority requirements of
Rule 23(b)(3). See Zinser v. Accufix Research Inst., Inc. , 253 F.3d 1180, 1186 (9th Cir. 2001), amended by 273 F.3d 1266 (9th Cir. 2001).
A trial court has broad discretion in making the decision to grant or deny a motion for class certification. Bateman v. Am. Multi-Cinema, Inc. , 623 F.3d 708, 712 (9th Cir. 2010). A party seeking class certification must affirmatively demonstrate compliance with Rule 23 and prove that the requirements of Rule 23 are met. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes , 131 S.Ct. 2541, 2550-51 (2011). This requires a court to conduct a "rigorous analysis" that frequently "will entail some overlap with the merits of the plaintiff's underlying claim." Id.
B. Preliminary Approval
Preliminary approval of a class action settlement requires the Court to consider whether "(1) the negotiations occurred at arm's length; (2) there was sufficient discovery; (3) the proponents of the settlement are experienced in similar litigation; and (4) only a small fraction of the class objected." In re Linerboard Antitrust Litig. , 296 F.Supp.2d 568 (E.D. Pa. 2003).
A class action may not be settled without court approval. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(e). When the parties reach a settlement agreement prior to class certification, "courts must peruse the proposed compromise to ratify both the propriety of the certification and the fairness of the settlement." Staton v. Boeing Co. , 327 F.3d 938, 952 (9th Cir. 2003). Settlements reached prior to formal class certification must "withstand an even higher level of scrutiny for evidence of collusion or other conflicts of interest than is ordinarily required under Rule 23(e) before securing the court's approval as fair" as "there is an even greater potential for a breach of fiduciary duty owed the class." Radcliffe v. Experian Info. Solutions , 715 F.3d 1157, 1168 (9th Cir. 2013). The court must decide whether the settlement is fundamentally fair, adequate, and reasonable. Hanlon v. Chrysler Corp. , 150 F.3d 1011, 1026 (9th Cir. 1998).
A. Class Certification
The proposed settlement class is defined as:
All individuals who are or were employed by PetSmart as a Pet Stylist, Groomer, Grooming Trainee, and/or Salon Manager in California at any time during the period from May 23, 2008 to the present ("Pet Stylist Settlement Class");
All individuals who are or were employed by PetSmart as an hourly paid, non-exempt employee in California at any time during the period May 23, 2008 to the present in a position other than Pet Stylist, Groomer, Grooming Trainee, ...