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Finder v. Leprino Foods Co.

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 12, 2015

JERROD FINDER, on behalf of himself and a class of others similarly situated, Plaintiff
LEPRINO FOODS COMPANY, a Colorado Corporation; LEPRINO FOODS DAIRY PRODUCTS COMPANY, a Colorado Corporation; and DOES 1 through 50, inclusive, Defendants


ANTHONY W. ISHII, Senior District Judge.

I. Background

Jerrod Finder ("Plaintiff") is a former employee of Leprino Foods Company ("Defendant"). He alleges that he was not provided meal breaks as required by California law. Plaintiff filed suit in state court; his proposed class action complaint contains five causes of action: (1) failure to provide meal periods in violation of California Labor Code §§ 512 and 226.7, (2) failure to provide accurate wage statements in violation of California Labor Code § 226, (3) failure to promptly pay wages due in violation of California Labor Code §§ 201 and 202, (4) violation of California Business & Professions Code § 17200, and (5) enforcement of California Labor Code provisions under the Private Attorney Generals Act ("PAGA"). Doc. 1. Defendant removed the case to federal court, asserting subject matter jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act ("CAFA"). The court raised questions about the adequacy of the amount in controversy. Doc. 13. Defendant has filed a written response to address the issue. Doc. 14. Defendant filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. Doc. 6. The motion is opposed. Doc. 8. The matter was taken under submission without oral argument.

II. Legal Standard

"After the pleadings are closed but within such time as not to delay the trial, any party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 12(c). Because the motions are functionally identical, the same standard of review applicable to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion applies to a Rule 12(c) motion. Dworkin v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 867 F.2d 1188, 1192 (9th Cir. 1989). Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate when, taking all the allegations in the non-moving party's pleadings as true, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Ventress v. Japan Airlines, 486 F.3d 1111, 1114 (9th Cir. 2007). A dismissal under may be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or on the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory. Conservation Force v. Salazar, 646 F.3d 1240, 1242 (9th Cir. 2011); Johnson v. Riverside Healthcare Sys., 534 F.3d 1116, 1121 (9th Cir. 2008). The allegations of the nonmoving party must be accepted as true, while any allegations made by the moving party that have been denied or contradicted are assumed to be false. MacDonald v. Grace Church Seattle, 457 F.3d 1079, 1081 (9th Cir. 2006). The facts are viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and all reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of that party. Living Designs, Inc. v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 431 F.3d 353, 360 (9th Cir. 2005). However, complaints that offer no more than "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of action will not do." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Dichter-Mad Family Partners. LLP v. United States, 709 F.3d 749, 761 (9th Cir. 2013). The Court is not required "to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." Wilson v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 668 F.3d 1136, 1145 n. 4 (9th Cir. 2012); Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001).

III. Discussion

A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Under CAFA, "The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action in which the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $5, 000, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is a class action" in which there is minimal diversity. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2). That amount must be demonstrated by a "preponderance of the evidence." 28. U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2)(B). The court issued an order to show cause why the case should not be remanded to the state court for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Doc. 13. Defendant responded and explained how the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million. Doc. 14. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated Cal. Labor Code § 226 by failing to correctly state the legal name of Defendant on wage statements. Doc. 1, Complaint, 11-25-28. The penalty for such a violation is $50 for the first pay period and $100 for each subsequent pay period with a maximum aggregate of $4, 000 for each employee. Cal. Labor Code § 226(e)(1). Defendant employed 1, 277 employees in the relevant one year time frame. Paul Adams, Defendant's Vice President/Controller in charge of payroll, has stated that these employees were paid on a weekly basis with 52 pay periods in a year and that "all wage statements issued to all Leprino employees in California listed the same employer name." Doc. 14-1, Adams Declaration, 1:28-2:3. Given this evidence, the calculation can be based on the reasonable assumption that the maximum $4, 000 penalty might apply to each of the 1, 277 employees, which totals $5, 108, 000. Defendant has shown that more than $5 million is in controversy. This court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to CAFA.

B. Meal Periods

California law requires that employers give employees meal breaks after a certain number of hours on the job. "An employer may not employ an employee for a work period of more than 10 hours per day without providing the employee with a second meal period of not less than 30 minutes, except that if the total hours worked is no more than 12 hours, the second meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and the employee only if the first meal period was not waived." Cal. Labor Code § 512(a). "If an employer fails to provide an employee a meal or rest or recovery period in accordance with a state law, including, but not limited to, an applicable statute or applicable regulation, standard, or order of the Industrial Welfare Commission, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, or the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, the employer shall pay the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee's regular rate of compensation for each workday that the meal or rest or recovery period is not provided." Cal. Labor Code § 226.7(c). Plaintiff alleges "Defendants...required the Plaintiff and Plaintiff class members to work without taking statutory second meal periods....Defendants failed to provide Plaintiff and the Class members with second meal periods as provided in Labor Code section 226.7 and 512 and by failing to relieve employees of all duty, relinquish control over their activities and permit a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted 30-minute second meal break. Doc. 1, Complaint, 6:4-6 and 10:7-11. Defendant asserts that "Plaintiff's claim for missed meal periods sets forth only formulaic and conclusory statements that lack the specific factual content required." Doc. 6, Defendant Brief, 5:4-5. In opposition, Plaintiff refers to a document that sets out Defendant's meal period policies. Doc. 8, Plaintiff Opposition, 9:3-16. The document which sets out Defendant's policies are neither subject to judicial notice nor incorporated by reference; it will not be considered in determining whether Plaintiff has stated a claim at this time.

Plaintiff's Complaint contains no detail. The case law requires some factual basis for the claim. Bellinghausen v. Tractor Supply Co., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131384, *10 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 13, 2013) ("While the requirements for a claim under Section 512 are straightforward-the employer failed to provide the requisite meal period-a plaintiff cannot state such a claim without any factual allegations supporting the claim"); Carrasco v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 169515, *24 (E.D. Cal. Nov. 27, 2013) (Plaintiff's allegations are vague and insufficient because it is unclear whether Defendants' failure to provide' Plaintiff with meal and rest breaks was due to Defendants' failure to relieve Plaintiff of all duty for the designated period, or if it was due to Plaintiff not taking meal and rest breaks that were otherwise available to her"). Plaintiff's claim is dismissed with leave to amend to clarify the facts surrounding his claim.

C. Wage Statements

California law requires specific information to be included in wage statements. "Every employer shall, semimonthly or at the time of each payment of wages, furnish each of his or her employees, either as a detachable part of the check, draft, or voucher paying the employee's wages, or separately when wages are paid by personal check or cash, an accurate itemized statement in writing showing (1) gross wages earned... (5) net wages earned... (8) the name and address of the legal entity that is the employer...." Cal. Labor Code § 226(a). Plaintiff alleges he "was not provided accurate itemized employee wage statements in that, inter alia, the wage statements did not state the wages for meal breaks that were not provided and does not state the proper legal entity....Defendants have knowingly failed to comply with California Labor Code § 226 by failing to provide accurate itemized ...

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