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Pole v. Estenson Logistics, LLC

United States District Court, C.D. California

August 10, 2016

SHARON POLE, individually, and on behalf of other members of the putative class, and on behalf of aggrieved employees pursuant to the Private Attorney General Act “PAGA”, Plaintiff,
v.
ESTENSON LOGISTICS, LLC, a Nevada limited liability company, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR CLASS CERTIFICATION [DKT. NO. 15]

          DEAN D. PREGERSON United States District Judge

         Presently before the Court is Plaintiff Sharon Pole’s Motion for Class Certification. (Dkt. 15.) After considering the parties’ submissions and hearing oral argument, the Court adopts the following Order.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of an employee classification dispute between Plaintiff Sharon Pole and her former employer, Defendant Estenson Logistics, LLC (“Estenson”). Estenson is a third-party trucking company that moves product for its customers from distribution centers to retail stores located in California. (Plaintiff’s Appendix of Evidence (“PA”) 6-7 (Deposition of Michelle Alexander 12:2-15:5).) Plaintiff was formerly employed by Estenson as a “Fleet Manager.” (Complaint ¶ 14.) Plaintiff brings this action on the grounds that Estenson misclassified her as an “exempt” employee and paid her on a salary basis, without any compensation for overtime hours worked and missed meal periods or rest breaks. (Id. ¶ 15.)

         In the present motion, Plaintiff seeks to certify the following class under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3):

All current and former California-based salaried “Fleet Managers, ” or persons who held similar job titles and/or performed similar job duties, who worked for Estenson within the State of California from September 6, 2010 to final judgment.

         (Motion for Class Certification (“Mot.”) 1.) The gravamen of Plaintiff’s class certification theory is that “Estenson misclassified her and other Fleet Managers as exempt because their job duties fail to satisfy any of the requirements for the executive or administrative exemptions.” (Id. 1.)

         A. Estenson’s Operation

         Estenson operates out of approximately forty-six distribution centers in California, some of which operate 24 hours a day. (Declaration of Michelle Alexander ¶ 2; Alexander Dep. 26:10-17.) Each location is overseen by a single Site Manager. (Alexander Dep. 89:21-24.) The site mangers are “ultimately . . . responsible for the operations of each facility.” Each facility also employs administrative staff, drivers, and yard hostlers. (Id. 23:21-24:5.) At eleven of these facilities, Estenson employs “Fleet Managers.” (Id. 15:16-16:3.) These facilities are located across California. (Id. 18:7-19 (noting facilities from Redlands, CA in the south to Tracy, CA in the north).) Based on the size of operations, a location can have anywhere from one to five Fleet Managers employed at any given time. (Alexander Decl. ¶ 4.) During her employment, Plaintiff was one of two Fleet Managers at the Lathrop, CA location. (Plaintiff’s Dep. 73:10-11.)

         B. Fleet Manager’s Responsibilities

         According to Estenson’s 2013 Fleet Manager job description, the position’s responsibilities include ensuring loads are delivered on time, investigating complaints, ensuring company safety policies are understood, assisting in safety inspections and trainings, and filing paperwork generated by shipping activities. (See PA 140-141.) Other versions of the job description include tasks such as enforcing rules and company policies, ensuring safety and compliance, internal and external customer service, HR related tasks like hiring and training, scheduling, billing, complying with reporting requirements, and assisting the site manager. (See PA 135-138.) Estenson has confirmed that these job duties apply to all Fleet Managers and are not site-specific. (Alexander Dep. 58:4-8.)

         Plaintiff asserts that, on a day-to-day basis, Fleet Managers are primarily responsible for dispatching truck drivers, data entry, and taking calls. (PA 190 (Allen Decl. ¶ 4.); PA 193-14 (Dorado Decl. ¶ 6); PA 196 (Elliot Decl. ¶ 5); PA 199-200 (Jones Decl. ¶ 6); PA 202 (Taylor Decl. ¶ 5); PA 205 (Thompson Decl. ¶ 5.).) Fleet Managers create “route packets” based on a load planners assessment of how to arrange a customer’s delivery requests and give these packets to drivers, along with their keys. (Alexander Dep. 26:22-27:24; 61:18-64:25.) Fleet Managers also collect paperwork submitted by truck drivers and input into Estenson’s computer system. (Alexander Dep. 73:16-24.) Furthermore, Fleet Managers handle all in-bound truck driver calls, including accident and maintenance reports. (Alexander Dep. 199:5-7; 92:5-97:6.) Some Fleet Managers were also given a “checklist” that memorializes many of these duties. (PA 143-44; PA 101-02 (Towell Depo. 75:6-76:2.)

         Estenson elaborates on this account of a Fleet Manager’s duties by noting additional responsibilities. For example, Estenson describes the specific considerations a Fleet Manager might accoutn for when deciding how to assign a particular driver to a delivery route. (Alexander Dep. 36:6-37:9; 46:16-19.) Estenson also notes the various responsibilities involved in responding to customer complaints or handling other customer inquiries. (Suarez Decl. ¶¶ 10-11.) While Estenson describes some commonalities in the Fleet Manager role, it also elaborates on the differences. For instance, Estenson explains that larger facilities with more drivers have divided responsibilities among multiple Fleet Managers--with some handling loan planning and billing and others focusing on driver communications--while smaller facilities will have only a single Fleet Manager who is responsible for a broader range of responsibilities. (Towell Dep. 76:3-77:14.)

         C. Classification of Fleet Managers as Exempt

         The basis of Plaintiff’s suit is that Estenson misclassifies its Fleet Managers as exempt. (Alexander Dep. 28:4-12.) As exempt employees, Estenson does not pay overtime to its Fleet Managers when they work longer than eight hours a day or forty hours a week. (Alexander Dep. 122:13-124:1.) Estenson also does not provide its Fleet Managers with meal and rest breaks. (Towell Dep. 59:22-60:3.) According to Plaintiff, Fleet Managers routinely work longer than eight hours and did not take lunch or rest breaks. (Towell Dep. 21:4-12; PA 191 (Allen Decl. ¶ 7); PA 194 (Dorado Decl. ¶ 9); PA 118 (Pole Dep. 104:1-18); PA 191 (Allen Decl. ¶ 8.).) Defendants acknowledge that Fleet Managers are not entitled to overtime and do not receive scheduled meal and rest breaks but submit evidence that some Fleet Managers have taken lunch breaks. (Suarez Decl. ¶ 15; Towell Dep. 64:9-20.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The party seeking class certification bears the burden of showing that each of the four requirements of Rule 23(a) and at least one of the requirements of Rule 23(b) are met. See Meyer v. Portfolio Recovery Assocs., LLC, 707 F.3d 1036, 1041 (9th Cir. 2012); Hanon v. Dataprods. Corp., 976 F.2d 497, 508-09 (9th Cir. 1992). In determining whether to certify a class, a court must conduct a “rigorous analysis” to determine whether the party seeking certification has met the prerequisites of Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Valentino v. Carter-Wallace, Inc., 97 F.3d 1227, 1233 (9th Cir. 1996). Rule 23(a) sets forth four prerequisites for class certification:

(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); see also Hanon, 976 F.2d at 508. These four requirements are often referred to as (1) numerosity, (2) commonality, (3) typicality, and (4) adequacy. See General Tel. Co. v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 156 (1982).

         In determining the propriety of a class action, the question is not whether the plaintiff has stated a cause of action or will prevail on the merits, but rather whether the requirements of Rule 23 are met. Eisen v. Carlisle & Jacquelin, 417 U.S. 156, 178 (1974). This Court, therefore, considers the merits of the underlying claim to the extent that the merits overlap with the Rule 23(a) requirements, but will not conduct a “mini-trial” or determine at this stage whether Plaintiffs could actually prevail. Ellis v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 657 F.3d 970, 981, 983 n.8 (9th Cir. 2011); see also Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 131 S.Ct. 2541, 2551-52 (2011).

         Rule 23(b) defines different types of classes. Leyva v. Medline Indus. Inc., 716 F.3d 510, 512 (9th Cir. 2012). Relevant here, Rule 23(b)(3) requires that “questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over individual questions . . . 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).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Rule 23(a) Prerequisites

         To show that class certification is warranted, Plaintiffs must show that all four prerequisites ...


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