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Novoa v. Charter Communications, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 22, 2015

LUIS NOVOA, individually, and on behalf of other members of the general public similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company; and DOES 1 through 100, inclusive, Defendants

Decided April 21, 2015.

For Luis Novoa, Plaintiff: Autumn E. Love, Joseph Cho, Ronald H. Bae, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Aequitas Law Group, Los Angeles, CA; Stuart C. Talley, LEAD ATTORNEY, Kershaw Cutter & Ratinoff, LLP, Sacramento, CA; David Roger Markham, The Markham Law Firm, San Diego, CA.

For Charter Communications, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, Defendant: Thomas R. Kaufman, Vartan Serge Madoyan, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Paul Berkowitz, Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, LLP, Los Angeles, CA.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Anthony W. Ishii, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

I. Introduction

On May 20, 2014, Defendant Charter Communications, LLC (" Defendant" ), filed a motion for partial summary judgment. On June 16, 2014, Plaintiff Luis Novoa (" Plaintiff" ), filed his opposition. Defendant's reply was filed on June 23, 2014.

Defendant's seeks summary adjudication as to all of Plaintiff's claims that originated prior to May 24, 2010, Plaintiff's commute time compensation claim, Plaintiff's meal period and rest period denial claims, and Plaintiff's defective wage statement claim.

For the following reasons, Defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted in part and denied in part.

II. Background

Defendant is a video, internet, and telephone service provider to residential and business customers in certain regions of California. As part of providing those services, Defendant must employ broadband installers or broadband technicians to install, repair, or disconnect services. Defendant also employs quality assurance inspectors and field auditors who review work performed by broadband installers for compliance with Defendant's installation standards.

Plaintiff worked for Defendant as a broadband technician from 2005 until 2010. Deposition of Luis Novoa (" Pltf. Dep." ) at 21:19-22:4. Plaintiff represents that his responsibilities included handling service calls, sales, and quality assurance work at customer locations in Southern California. Doc. 20 at 7. That description of Plaintiff's job duties roughly tracks with the job description provided by Defendant: " perform basic to advanced troubleshooting and repair for services from tap to [customer] for residential customers, and occasionally for commercial customers. Completes disconnects, downgrades, upgrades, and all installations as business needs dictate." Declaration of Stacy Gannon, Doc. 17-3 at 9-12 (" Gannon Decl." ) at ¶ 3, Defendant's Exhibit B-1; Pltf. Dep. at 27:7-28:8. In 2010, Plaintiff's job duties changed and he transitioned from the role of broadband technician to quality assurance inspector. Pltf. Dep. at 22:1-24. As quality insurance inspector Plaintiff indicated that his primary role was verifying that service installations were done according to Defendant's standards. Pltf. Dep. at 23:1-10. That description also mirrors the job description proffered by Defendant: " verify that the customer premise (sic) and wiring and services meet all company installation and service specifications." Gannon Decl. at ¶ 3, Exh. B-1; Pltf. Dep. at 31:7-15.

Defendant submits that while Plaintiff worked as a broadband technician, he was instructed to drive his assigned company vehicle to his first appointment and to arrive at 8:00 a.m. Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Facts, Doc 17-2 (" Doc. 17-2" ) at ¶ 10.[1] Defendant provided Plaintiff and the other broadband technicians the option to drive their work vehicles home each night rather than leave them at one of Defendant's facilities. Declaration of Terri Stephenson (" Stephenson Decl." ) at ¶ 5; Pltf. Dep 53:9-54:7; see Defendant's Exhibit B-7 (" Timekeeping Memo 2009" ). During his time as a broadband technician, Plaintiff always elected to keep his service vehicle at home. Pltf. Dep. at 33:2-19.

On November 9, 2009, Defendant issued a memorandum to Plaintiff and the other broadband technicians detailing the requirements for timekeeping, providing alternative methods for those who take their company vehicles home and those who do not. See Timekeeping Memo 2009. Defendant provided updates annually. See Defendant's Exhibits B-8 (" Timekeeping Memo 2010" ), C (" Timekeeping Memo 2011" ), and D (" Timekeeping Memo 2012" ). When the broadband technicians elected home-start (take their vehicles home with them) they were required to bring a signal level meter, PDA, laptop, work orders, and any payments from customers (" Daily Kit" ), from the vehicle and to their home at the end of their shift and return it to their vehicle at the beginning of their next shift. Timekeeping Memos 2009-2012. Broadband technicians were then required to do a visual inspection of the exterior of the vehicle for any obvious safety hazards. Id; Plaintiff's Exhibit N, Doc. 22 at 113-115. Once those two items were completed, the broadband technicians were to turn on their PDA, receive their first assignment, enter their status as " en route," and proceed to their first service call. Timekeeping Memos 2009-2012; Pltf. Dep. at 51:1-3. They were not compensated for the time that it took to complete any of those activities.

Office-start employees (those who elected not to take their company vehicles home with them), were required to be at a company location at the start of their shift. Timekeeping Memos 2009 at 3, 2010 at 4, 2011 at 4, and 2012 at 4. Office-start employees did not engage in any of the aforementioned preparatory activities (e.g. loading their Daily Kits, turning on their PDAs) until they were on the clock. Id.

Defendant imposed a vehicle policy on all employees who drove one of Defendant's vehicles. See Plaintiff's Exhibit D, Doc. 21 (" Vehicle Policy" ) at 44-57. That policy restricted use of a company vehicle to: performing job-related duties, transporting other employees while driving for company purposes, and travelling between the driver's work assignment and residence at the beginning and end of the work day. Vehicle Policy at 45, 51-52. Activities prohibited by the policy included, in part: any personal uses or transporting any family member, friend, or any other person. Vehicle Policy at 45, 52. Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that, while he operated a company vehicle, he was required to remain in uniform, was not permitted to use his personal cell phone, and " had to listed to the radio at a low volume and could only listen to appropriate channels." Pltf. Decl. at ¶ 7.

Broadband technicians were compensated for their work at the beginning of their scheduled shift. For a home-start employee, at the shift's start the technician is expected to be at the first service call and is required to enter their status as " on job" in his or her PDA. Timekeeping Memos 2009-2012; Pltf. Dep. at 51:4-8. Broadband technicians were instructed not to " conduct any work or communicate with any customer, co-worker, supervisor, or dispatcher" during their commute. Timekeeping Memos 2009 at 2, 2010 at 2, 2011 at 2, and 2013 at 2. The memorandum also instructed technicians who arrived at the service location prior to their shift start time not to " contact the customer, fill out paperwork or perform any other work before the scheduled shift start time." Id. The memorandum further instructed that employees were to record all hours worked, even if the technician started work prior to his or her scheduled shift in violation of policy. Id.

Each service call was scheduled within window of time. Defendant " set routes for broadband techs, notifying them of which customers they were supposed to visit in [each] window of time." Doc. 24 at ¶ 11. The service windows were set such that nothing was scheduled between 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to provide a lunch break for the broadband technicians. Doc. 17-2 at ¶ 14. Although Plaintiff does not dispute that he was scheduled a one-hour meal period, he contends that the policy precluding him from " walk[ing] off the service call to take a meal period" prevented him from taking a lunch break until after his fifth hour of work. Doc. 24 at ¶ 14; Declaration of Luis Novoa (" Pltf. Decl." ) at ¶ 9. Defendant's employees were instructed to record their meal breaks in Defendant's " eTime" system using the provided PDAs. Pltf. Dep. at 116:13-117:13; Charter Memorandum: " Meal Periods and Rest Breaks for California Employees," Doc. 14-4 at 31 (" Dfdt. Meal and Rest Policy" ) at 1; Employee Transactions and Totals -- CA Rest Meal Break Report, Doc. 17-4 at 17-24 (" Break Report" ) at 1. When Plaintiff failed to record a lunch break in the eTime system he was compensated for an hour of work. See Defendant's Exhibit B-24, Doc. 17-3 at 183; Gannon Decl. at ¶ 18. However, when Plaintiff took meal periods later than five hours into his shift he was not paid any additional compensation or penalty. See Plaintiff's Exhibit F, Doc. 22 at 2-31.

Defendant also had a policy that required employees to take two paid ten-minute breaks per eight-hour shift. Pltf. Dep. at 80:8-23; see Break Report at 1. Defendant did not record and did not require its employees to record rest breaks. See Break Report at 1. Plaintiff alleges that the policy precluding him from leaving a service call and the time variations inherent in the time estimation system prevented Plaintiff from taking rest breaks. Pltf. Decl. at ¶ 9; Pltf. Dep. at 80:8-23 (" there was not time in the day to take [rest breaks].). However, Plaintiff never made any internal complaint related to working off-the-clock, meal period, rest periods or wage statements. Pltf. Dep. at 159:3-14.

It is undisputed that Defendant used a point system for scheduling service calls. Doc. 24 at 15; Pltf. Dep. at 133:10-15; Stephenson Decl. at ¶ 19. Each point represented an estimated five minutes of project time. Id. It is also undisputed that each tech was only assigned eighty to eighty five points in one particular day. See Doc. 24 at 16 (disputing that Plaintiff was able to finish all of the work Defendant required of him within 8 hours but not that 80-85 points were assigned each day); Pltf. Dep. at 133:16-19.

Defendant's time keeping memorandum provides a procedure for home-start broadband technicians to clock out after all service calls are completed. See Timekeeping Memos 2009-2012. The procedure provides that, after the last service call, the technician is to secure all equipment in the vehicle, notify the dispatcher that all work has been completed, enter a logged off status in the PDA, and record all hours worked on the timesheet. Id. at 3. After that procedure has been completed, the employee receives no further compensation for activities in that work day. Id. Once that procedure has been completed the employee is advised to " commute to [his or her] residence," and not to " conduct any work or communicate about work with any customer, co-worker, supervisor, or dispatcher." Id. Once the technician arrives at home, he or she is required to set safety cones, lock the vehicle, and remove the Daily Kit from the vehicle to be secured in the technician's home. Id.

III. Legal Standard

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary judgment when " the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Early resolution of issues that present no dispute genuine dispute of material fact serves a principal purpose of Rule 56 -- disposing of unsupported claims and defenses. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)

The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of " informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; see Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). " Where the non-moving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the moving party need only prove that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." In re Oracle Corp. Securities Litigation, 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325). If the moving party meets its initial burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to present evidence establishing the existence of a genuine dispute as to any material fact. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-86, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). To overcome summary judgment, the opposing party must demonstrate a factual dispute that is both material, i.e., it affects the outcome of the claim under the governing law, see Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248; T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987), and genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Wool v. Tandem Computers, Inc., 818 F.2d 1433, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987).

In resolving the summary judgment motion, the court examines the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any. Rule 56(c); SEC v. Seaboard Corp., 677 F.2d 1301, 1305-06 (9th Cir. 1982). The court must construe all facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See LibertyLobby, 477 U.S. at 255. However, conclusory and speculative testimony does not raise a genuine factual dispute and is ...


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