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Bell v. CEVA Logistics U.S., Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. California

July 15, 2019

Clarence Bell, III
v.
CEVA Logistics U.S., Inc. et al.

          Present: The Honorable STEPHEN V. WILSON, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

          CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

         Proceedings: IN CHAMBERS ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND [12]

         I. Introduction

         On November 15, 2018, Plaintiff Clarence Bell, III filed this putative class action against Defendant CEVA Logistics U.S., Inc. (“CEVA”) and Defendant Randstad Inhouse Services, LLC (“Randstad”) in California state court. Dkt. 1-1. Plaintiff asserts claims under California law alleging: (1) failure to provide all paid rest periods; (2) failure to provide all second meal periods; (3) failure to pay all seventh day overtime wages; (4) failure to timely furnish accurate itemized wage statements; (5) violations of California Labor Code § 203; (6) penalties pursuant to California Labor Code § 2699; and (7) unfair business practices. Id. Plaintiff brings this case on behalf of himself and “[a]ll California citizens employed by Defendants as hourly-paid employees during the appropriate time period[1] who were subjected to Defendants' policies and practices.” Id. ¶ 26.

         On February 22, 2019, CEVA removed the case, asserting jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”). See Dkt. 1. On March 22, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion to remand the case. Dkt. 12.

         II. Factual Background

         Plaintiff alleges that he worked for Randstad as an hourly-paid employee from approximately September 2017 to November 18, 2017 and that he worked for CEVA from approximately November 19, 2017 to October 26, 2018.[2] Dkt. 1-1 ¶ 7. Plaintiff also alleges that he is a citizen of the State of California and that both CEVA and Randstad are Delaware corporations. Id. ¶¶ 6, 9-10.

         Specifically, Plaintiff contends that, “as a matter of Defendants' established company policy, ” “[n]on-exempt employees [could] not leave work premises during a rest break” in violation of California law and that, pursuant to the policy, “the members of the Rest Period Class were not allowed to leave Defendants' premises for their rest breaks . . . as Defendants failed to relinquish all control over how the members of the Rest Period Class spent their rest breaks.” Id. ¶¶ 40-41. With respect to meal periods, Plaintiff asserts that “[o]n one or more occasions, the members of the Meal Period Class worked over ten (10) hours per shift and therefore were entitled to a second meal period of not less than 30 minutes” that they did not receive. Id. ¶¶ 50-53. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants did not furnish each member of the putative wage statement class with an accurate itemized wage statement by not including the “beginning and ending of each work period, meal periods, rest periods, the total daily hours worked, the total hours worked per pay period, meal and rest period premium payments and applicable rates of pay.” Id. ¶ 70. Plaintiff also seeks derivative waiting time penalties because “Defendants had a consistent and uniform policy, practice and procedure of willfully failing to pay the earned wages of Defendants' former employees . . . at the time of their termination.” Id. ¶¶ 81-82.

         III. Legal Standard

         CAFA gives federal district courts original jurisdiction over class actions involving at least 100 class members, minimal diversity, and at least $5 million in controversy. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d). In a notice of removal, a defendant need only plausibly allege that these prerequisites are met. Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 554 (2014). Once confronted with a motion to remand, however, the defendant bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. Id. at 553-54. The parties may submit “evidence, including affidavits or declarations, or other ‘summary-judgment-type evidence relevant to the amount in controversy at the time of removal.'” Akana v. Estee Lauder Inc., No. LA CV19-00806 JAK (PLAx), 2019 WL 2225231, at *3 (C.D. Cal. May 23, 2019) (quoting Ibarra v. Manheim Invs., Inc., 775 F.3d 1193, 1197 (9th Cir. 2015)) (citation and quotation marks omitted). The evidence must use “reasonable assumptions”; that is, “a defendant cannot establish removal jurisdiction by mere speculation and conjecture, with unreasonable assumptions.” Ibarra, 775 F.3d at 1197-98. There is no presumption against removal under CAFA. Dart Cherokee, 135 S.Ct. at 554.

         Where the complaint contains generalized allegations of illegal behavior, a removing defendant must supply “real evidence” grounding its calculations of the amount in controversy. Ibarra, 775 F.3d at 1198-99. Therefore, a defendant cannot assume a 100% violation rate based on the plaintiff's general allegation of a “pattern and practice” and “institutionalized unwritten policy that mandates these unlawful practices.” Id. at 1198-99. However, “courts have generally found the amount in controversy satisfied where a defendant assumes a 100% violation rate based on allegations of a ‘uniform' illegal practice (or other similar language) and where the plaintiff offers no evidence rebutting this violation rate.” Duberry v. J. Crew Grp., Inc., No. 2:14-cv-08810-SVW-MRW, 2015 WL 4575018, at *3 (C.D. Cal. July 28, 2015); see also Ibarra, 775 F.3d at 1199 (suggesting that an allegation that a defendant violated labor laws “universally, on each and every shift” would suffice to assume a 100% violation rate).

         IV. Discussion

         Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) does not allege a specific amount in damages. Therefore, Defendants bear the initial burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million. Plaintiff argues that Defendants fail to meet this burden because the amount in controversy set forth by CEVA in its Notice of Removal is based on speculation and conjecture. Dkt. 12-1 at 1. Plaintiff does not dispute that CAFA's jurisdictional requirements of minimum diversity and class numerosity are satisfied.[3]

         Plaintiff makes three primary arguments to attack CEVA's Notice of Removal. First, it argues that the Notice was not supported by concrete evidence and so was mere speculation. Second, it contends that CEVA cannot assume 100% violation rates. And third, it alleges that ...


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