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Apodaca v. Costco Wholesale Corporation and Doe 1 Through and Including Doe 100

United States District Court, C.D. California

June 5, 2014

LORETTA APODACA, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION and DOE 1 through and including DOE 100, Defendants.

DALE S. FISCHER, District Judge.

On October 10, 2013, a jury entered a verdict in favor of Defendant Costco Wholesale Corporation with respect to Plaintiff Loretta Apodaca's claims for unpaid overtime in violation of the California Labor Code and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and her claims for failure to provide adequate meal periods and rest breaks in violation of the California Labor Code. The remaining claims - for failure to provide accurate itemized wage statements in violation of the California Labor Code, for waiting time penalties under the California Labor Code, for unfair competition under the California Business & Professions Code, and for civil penalties under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) - remain for resolution by the Court. The Court held a hearing on these claims on March 10, 2014. The Court, having heard live testimony and having duly considered the evidence, the credibility of the witnesses, the entire file of the Court, and the contentions and arguments of counsel, makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law in accordance with Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

I. FINDINGS OF FACT[1]

1. Apodaca was employed by Costco from 2004 until May 24, 2012. (Reporter's Transcript, Oct. 8, 2013 (RT1) 119:7-13; Trial Ex. 153.)

2. Prior to November 2006, Apodaca worked as an Assistant Front End Manager, receiving an annual salary of $52, 500. (See Trial Ex. 145.) Costco promoted Apodaca to Bakery Manager in November 2006. (RT1119:14-120:4.) After her promotion, her annual salary increased to $62, 000. (See Trial Ex. 145.)

3. As a Bakery Manager, Apodaca was generally scheduled to work eight regular hours and one overtime hour per work day. (RT1185:8-14.)

4. Apodaca began receiving electronic wage statements as early as May 2011. (See Trial Ex. 7.) These electronic wage statements could be accessed through the internet. (See Trial Ex. 1006.) Apodaca was able to easily access and print her wage statements. (See March 19, 2013 Dep. of Loretta Apodaca (3/19/13 Apodaca Dep.) 172:16-24, 178:18-179:6.)

5. Apodaca's wage statements list the total regular, overtime, and doubletime hours Apodaca worked. (See Trial Ex. 7.) The statements also list Apodaca's "total earnings" and "total net pay." (See id.)

6. The statements include a line item for "vacation pay/non-exempt salaried vacation or float overtime." (Trial Ex. 7.) The hours listed in this line item do not represent hours actually worked. Rather, they represent the eight hours of "vacation pay" and the one hour of "float overtime" Costco provided for each vacation day taken. (See Dep. of Katherine Kearney (Kearney Dep.) 65:14-23, 210:7-14; see also April 12, 2013 Dep. of Loretta Apodaca (4/12/13 Apodaca Dep.) 378:12-23.) Even assuming Apodaca was confused by the meaning of the phrase "float overtime, " Costco's failure to clarify this was neither a knowing nor intentional violation of California Labor Code Section 226. Apodaca never asked Costco to clarify the meaning of the term, (4/12/13 Apodaca Dep. 378:8-11), and there is no evidence that Costco was otherwise made aware of any confusion surrounding the term.

7. Because "vacation pay" and "float overtime" hours are not differentiated on the wage statement, it is impossible to determine which of those hours were compensated at the regular rate of pay, and which were compensated at the overtime rate. (See Kearney Dep. 210:15-211:3.) Costco's failure to separately identify the rates of pay for "vacation pay" and "float overtime" was neither a knowing nor intentional violation of California Labor Code Section 226. There is no evidence showing that Costco was made aware of this issue prior to the initiation of this lawsuit.

8. Costco demoted Apodaca from her Bakery Manager position to a non-managerial position in April 2012. (Reporter's Transcript, Oct. 9, 2013 (RT2) 125:18-20.) After her demotion, Apodaca's compensation decreased to a rate of $19.72 per hour. (See Trial Ex. 153.)

9. Costco suspended Apodaca on May 10, 2012, her last day worked. (Trial Ex. 152.) Apodaca was officially terminated on May 24, 2012, and she received her final paycheck at that time. (Trial Ex. 153.) The final paycheck, which compensated Apodaca for her accrued vacation, reflected Apodaca's new $19.72 hourly rate of pay. (See id.)

II. CONCLUSIONS ...


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