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Gooding v. Vita-Mix Corporation

United States District Court, C.D. California

July 14, 2017

RAINOLDO GOODING and NADEEN GOODING, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
VITA-MIX CORPORATION and KELLY SERVICES, INC., Defendants

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR CLASS CERTIFICATION AND PRELIMINARY APPROVAL OF CLASS SETTLEMENT AND GRANTING LEAVE TO FILE AN AMENDED COMPLAINT [54]

          OTIS D. WRIGHT, II UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This is a wage-and-hour class action suit against Defendants Vita-Mix Corporation (“Vita-Mix”) and Kelly Services, Inc. (“Kelly Services”) (collectively, “Defendants”). Named Plaintiffs and proposed class members work for or worked in the past for Vita-Mix, and they allege that Vita-Mix misclassified their employee designations and failed to pay them overtime wages and other benefits. (See generally Compl., ECF No. 1.) At the end of 2016, the parties reached a settlement on behalf of the class, and Plaintiffs now move for class certification and preliminary approval of that settlement. (ECF No. 54.) Both Defendants have filed notices of non-opposition to the settlement. (ECF Nos. 55, 56.) For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS the motion for class certification and preliminarily APPROVES the class settlement.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The basics of the putative class and the proposed settlement are outlined below.

         A. Factual Background

         Vita-Mix is a manufacturer of household and commercial blenders, and Kelly Services is a payroll and “employee leasing” company that jointly employs individuals with Vita-Mix. (Compl. ¶¶ 11-13.) Named Plaintiffs Rainoldo and Nadeen Gooding are individuals who have worked for Defendants for approximately three years. (Id. ¶ 9.)

         Vita-Mix sells many of its blenders through retail stores, where a large portion of its sales are intended for resale.[1] (Id. ¶ 11.) In order to sell blenders through retail stores, it hires employees that it calls “roadshow demonstrators.” (Id. ¶ 14.) The roadshow demonstrators work at third-party stores and warehouses such as Costco Wholesale and Sam's Club. (Id. ¶ 14.) There, they set up booths where they demonstrate the products' abilities in order to entice customers to buy the blenders. (Id.) Roadshow demonstrators' pay is based on the number of blenders the store, such as Costco Wholesale, sells during the time the demonstration is held-ranging from four to twenty days. (Id.)

         Plaintiffs commenced this lawsuit based on several grievances they have with the way Defendants handled classification of employees, compensation, and benefits. Plaintiffs allege that their pay sometimes fell below minimum wage for the time worked, that they were not paid overtime, that they did not receive required break and meal times, that they were not compensated for travel time associated with work, and that Defendants failed to keep accurate timekeeping records. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 25, 27-29, 32.) Defendants, for their part, deny all wrongdoing (see Mot. 4-5), but nonetheless the parties have reached a compromise that they say provides stability and certainty for all involved in the dispute.

         C. Settlement Terms

         The parties propose three sub-classes: a California Class; a non-California class; and an FLSA class.

         1. Class Definition

         Plaintiffs define the proposed classes as follows:

California Class: All individuals who worked for Defendants in a covered position in California any time from June 3, 2012, to March 13, 2017.
Non-California Class: All individuals who worked for Defendants in covered positions in any of the non-California Rule 23 states (states outside California under whose laws Plaintiffs have alleged state law claims in the proposed First Amended Complaint) any time from June 3, 2013, to March 13, 2017.
FLSA Class: All individuals who worked for Defendants in covered positions in the United States at any time from June 3, 2013, to March 13, 2017, and who are not members of either the California class or the non-California Rule 23 class.

         (See Settlement Agreement (“SA”) ¶¶ 60, 61, ECF No. 54-1.) A “covered position” for purposes of all three sub-class encompasses the positions of Sales Representative or Demonstrator.

         The parties estimate that there are 1150 members in the proposed class (across all three sub-classes). (Id. ¶ 81.)

         2. Settlement Fund

         The parties' settlement provides for a maximum, non-reversionary settlement amount of $1, 600, 000 to resolve Plaintiffs' claims on a class and collective basis. (Id.¶ 31.) Plaintiffs' motion for settlement approval states that the average payment to class members is estimated at approximately $952. (Mot. 3.)

         The settlement amount shall be reserved and paid out as follows:

(1) Calculation of Payment: Class members will be paid if they worked for Defendants in the positions of “Sales Representative” or “Demonstrator.” The amount will be based on respective numbers of California individual workweeks and/or non-California workweeks during the relevant time periods (listed above in the class definitions). (SA ¶ 84.)
(2) Opting In: Members of the FLSA class will need to opt in (pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b)). (Id. ¶ 34.) Members of the other two classes will not need to submit a claim form in order to receive a settlement payment.
(3) Excluded from this settlement class are any members of an earlier settlement class with final approval in a prior action, entitled Thomas v. Vita-Mix Corp., in San Joaquin County state court who have not worked for Defendants since August 27, 2015. (Id. ¶¶ 4-5.) If class members from the prior action have worked for Defendants since then, they can be a part of this class settlement, but their “class period” will begin August 28, 2015. (Id.)
(4) Release of Claims: Members of the California and Non-California subclasses who do not opt out will release their state law claims, and FLSA opt-in class members will release their FLSA claims in addition to any applicable state law claims. (Id. ¶ 71.) No class member will release any FLSA claims unless he or she affirmatively opts in and joins the settlement. (Id. ¶ 34.)

         i. Attorneys' Fees

         Plaintiffs anticipate filing a request for attorneys' fees, which is to be deducted from the maximum settlement amount. (Mot. 21.) Plaintiffs state that the amount of attorneys' fees will not exceed 25% of the maximum settlement amount, and they will also seek verified litigation costs of up to $20, 000. (Id.)

         iii. Other Costs to Be Deducted

         The following costs are also to be deducted from the maximum settlement amount: (1) Incentive awards to the two named plaintiffs of $5, 000 each; (2) costs of administering the settlement, not to exceed $25, 000; and (3) a payment of $66, 666.67 to the California Labor and Workforce Development ...


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