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Sanchez v. Capital Contractors, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

June 7, 2017



          MAXINE M. CHESNEY United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is the "Motion for Class Certification, " filed November 11, 2016, by plaintiffs Lilliana Sanchez, Yolanda Camey and Juan Carlos Ramirez. Defendant Capital Contractors, Inc. ("Capital") has filed opposition, to which plaintiffs have replied. Additionally, Capital, with leave of court, has filed a surreply. Having read and considered the parties' respective written submissions, the Court hereby rules as follows.[1]


         In the operative complaint, the Second Amended Complaint ("SAC"), plaintiffs allege that Capital "provides cleaning services to major industrial clients throughout California." (See SAC ¶ 11.) Plaintiffs further allege that each of them entered into an "Independent Contractor Agreement" ("ICA"), under which each such plaintiff agreed to provide certain services to Capital (see SAC ¶¶ 18-19, 26); specifically, plaintiffs allege, they agreed to "perform the janitorial services themselves for Capital's clients and/or engage janitorial workers . . . to perform the janitorial services for Capital's clients" (see SAC ¶ 12).

         Plaintiffs allege that Capital, consistent with the title of the written agreement each plaintiff signed, classified plaintiffs as "independent contractors." (See id.) According to plaintiffs, each of them, during the period of time in which they provided services to Capital, "should have been properly classified as a non-exempt hourly employee of Capital" (see SAC ¶¶ 14-16), and that, during the respective periods of time in which they state they were misclassified, Capital did not provide them with rights available to an employee under California law, such as paying them "overtime wages" and providing "rest breaks" (see SAC ¶ 40). Plaintiffs bring their claims on behalf of a putative class consisting of persons who contracted in California to provide "cleaning services at Capital's clients' properties" and who were "misclassified" by Capital as independent contractors. (See SAC ¶ 42.) Plaintiffs refer to themselves and the members of the proposed class collectively as "ICs" (see SAC ¶¶ 12, 18-23) and seek on behalf of all plaintiffs, both named and proposed, declaratory/injunctive and monetary relief.

         In its answer, Capital denies that plaintiffs and the members of the putative class were employees. (See Answer ¶¶ 14-16, 20.)


         By the instant motion, plaintiffs, pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, seek an order certifying a class for purposes of resolving their claims, which are defined by plaintiffs as their "entitlement to 1) minimum and overtime wages, 2) meal and rest period periods, 3) reimbursement of business expenses and pay deductions, 4) indemnity from Capital, 5) restitution under Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200, et seq., 6) the adequacy of Capital's recordkeeping and wage statement practices . . ., and 7) whether a 'good faith' dispute (so as to avoid . . . 'waiting time' penalties) exists." (See Pls.' Mot. at 15:18-24). The class proposed by plaintiffs consists of "[a]ll persons who, from April 25, 2010 to final judgment, have been (a) employed by Capital . . . pursuant to contract in the State of California to perform cleaning services at Capital's clients' locations; and (b) classified as an 'independent contractor' while performing cleaning services and/or supervising the performance of cleaning services at Capital's clients' properties." (See id. at 2:7-15.)

         A district court may not certify a class unless the plaintiff has met the four requirements set forth in Rule 23(a): "'(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.'" See Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 345 (2011) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)). Additionally, the district court must find the plaintiff has "satisf[ied] at least one of the three requirements listed in Rule 23(b)." See id. Here, plaintiffs seek certification under Rules 23(b)(2) and 23(b)(3), the additional requirements of which the Court first addresses, as set forth below.

         A. Rule 23(b)(2)

         Rule 23(b)(2) provides for certification of a class where "the party opposing the class has acted or refused to act on grounds that apply generally to the class, so that final injunctive relief or corresponding declaratory relief is appropriate respecting the class as a whole." See Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(2). "Class certification under Rule 23(b)(2) is appropriate only where the primary relief sought is declaratory or injunctive." Zinser v. Accufix Research Institute, Inc., 253 F.3d 1180, 1195 (9th Cir. 2001). To obtain certification under Rule 23(b)(2), the plaintiff must show "a single injunction or declaratory judgment would provide relief to each member of the class." See Wal-Mart, 564 U.S. at 360.

         Here, plaintiffs seek a "judicial declaration that ICs are employees of Capital, and corresponding injunctive relief -- a judicial order directing Capital to cease its unlawful practice of classifying ICs as independent contractors and failing to provide the protections afforded employees under the California Labor Code." (See Pls.' Mot. at 17:6-9.)

         A plaintiff who seeks to certify a class under Rule 23(b)(2) must have standing to seek the declaratory and/or injunctive relief sought on behalf of the class. See Bates v. United Parcel Service, 511 F.3d 974, 983-85 (9th Cir. 2007) ("In a class action, standing is satisfied if at least one named plaintiff meets the [standing] requirements."). To do so, the plaintiff "must demonstrate that he is realistically threatened by a repetition of the violation." See Armstrong v. Davis, 275 F.3d 849, 860-61 (9th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation and citation omitted); see also Hodgers-Durgin v. De La Vina, 199 F.3d 1037, 1044-45 (9th Cir. 1999) (dismissing plaintiffs' claims for declaratory and injunctive relief brought on behalf of class, where named plaintiffs failed to show “likelihood of future injury” from challenged policy).

         As Capital has pointed out, plaintiffs are "former alleged employees." (See Answer at 17:5.) Plaintiffs point to no evidence that they are "realistically threatened" by Capital's classification decisions and alleged violations of the California Labor Code, see Armstrong, 275 F.3d at 860-61, as they arguably might be if they "were in the process of seeking reinstatement to their former positions, or seeking work from that employer, " see Walsh v. Nevada Dep't of Human Resources, 471 F.3d 1033, 1037 (9th Cir. 2006). Under such circumstances, plaintiffs have failed to show that any of them has any likelihood of being injured in the future by Capital's practices. See id. (holding former employee who did not claim “any interest in returning to work” for defendant employer not entitled to seek injunctive relief regarding workplace policies). Consequently, plaintiffs are not entitled to seek on behalf of a class declaratory or injunctive relief with respect to Capital's practices.

         Accordingly, irrespective of whether plaintiffs would be able to satisfy the four prerequisites set forth in Rule 23(a), plaintiffs have failed to ...

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