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Wilson v. Te Connectivity Networks, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

September 5, 2019

DALE WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
TE CONNECTIVITY NETWORKS, INC., et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING FINAL APPROVAL OF CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT, AWARD OF ATTORNEYS' FEES AND COSTS, AND ENHANCEMENT AWARD

          Elizabeth D. Laporte United States Magistrate Judge.

         Before the Court is the Motion for Final Approval of Class Action Settlement and Award of Attorneys' Fees (“Final Approval Motion”). See ECF Nos. 147, 150. Having reviewed the Settlement Agreement and the parties' arguments and papers, the Court GRANTS the parties' motions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual and Procedural History

         Plaintiff Dale Wilson (“Plaintiff”) was employed as a technician at Redwood City, California, facility of Defendants Tyco Electronics Corporation (“Tyco”) and TE Connectivity Networks, Inc. (“TECN”) (together, “Defendants”) between 1972 and 2013. Wilson Decl., ECF No. 77-12 ¶ 2. Plaintiff contends that due to pressures of work or interruptions by his supervisor, Plaintiff sometimes had an interrupted meal break or missed his meal break completely. Id. at ¶ 4. In an ordinary week, Plaintiff did not get a full meal break on three out of five days. Id. Because of Defendants' auto-deduct policy, Defendants did not compensate Plaintiff for these missed or interrupted meal breaks. Id.

         On October 1, 2014, Plaintiff filed a class action lawsuit against Defendants in the Superior Court for the State of California, County of San Mateo, No. CIV530714 alleging causes of action for: (1) Failure to Provide Meal Periods (Lab. Code §§ 204, 223, 226.7, 512, and 1198); (2) Failure to Provide Rest Periods (Lab. Code §§ 204, 223, 226.7, and 1198); (3) Failure to Pay Hourly Wages (Lab. Code §§ 223, 510, 1194, 1194.2, 1197, 1997.1, and 1198); (4) Failure to Provide Accurate Written Wage Statements (Lab. Code § 226(a)); (5) Failure to Timely Pay All Final Wages (Lab. Code §§ 201-203); (6) Unfair Competition (Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 17200, et seq.); and (7) Civil Penalties (Lab. Code §§ 2698, et seq.). Compl., ECF No. 1, Ex. A. The Complaint seeks recovery of wages on behalf of Plaintiff and on behalf of a class of “[a]ll persons employed by Defendants in hourly or non-exempt positions in California from October 1, 2010, through the date of class certification, who had a ½ hour deducted from their paychecks for a meal period.” Compl. ¶ 11.

         Defendants contend that they have complied with all state wage and hour laws and do not believe that any liability to Plaintiff or Class Members exists, or that Plaintiff or Class Members are entitled to any recovery. Ans., ECF No. 1, Ex. B. According to Defendants, Tyco has, throughout the class period, had a meal and rest policy that provides and permits meal and rest breaks in accordance with California law. Pereira Decl., ECF No. 79-5 ¶ 4.

         On October 31, 2014, Defendants filed its answer, ECF No. 1-2, and then removed the action to the Northern District of California under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”) on November 3, 2014, ECF No. 1. On January 22, 2015, Plaintiff filed a motion to remand the case to state court arguing that Defendants had not proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeded $5, 000, 000 as required by the CAFA. ECF No. 17. On March 26, 2015, the Court denied Plaintiff's motion to remand without prejudice, noting that discovery might reveal that there is a good faith reason to remand this case. ECF No. 31. Following certain discovery, on August 9, 2016, Plaintiff filed a renewed Motion to Remand, ECF No. 66, which the Court denied on October 3, 2016. ECF No. 76.

         Plaintiff and Defendants both served and responded to several sets of written discovery responses. See ECF Nos. 99-102. The Parties exchanged extensive data, information, and documents concerning the claims, defenses, and alleged damages at issue in the Action, including production of time records for a sample of Class Members, meal period premium data for a sample of Class Members, Plaintiff's wage statements and personnel file and relevant policy documents, and other various Class Member data. Defendants deposed Plaintiff Dale Wilson on October 15, 2015. ECF No. 147-1 ¶ 10. Plaintiff interviewed putative class members to investigate their experiences as Tyco's employees. ECF No. 147-1 ¶ 12. Plaintiff deposed Lynne Pereira as an individual and as Defendants' Person Most Knowledgeable on August 23, 2016. Setareh Decl., ECF No. 147-1 ¶ 13.

         On October 11, 2016, Plaintiff moved for class certification. Plaintiff's motion sought to certify three proposed subclasses: (1) meal break class; (2) rest break class; and (3) auto-deduct class. On February 9, 2017, the Court granted in part Plaintiff's motion for class certification. ECF No. 96. The Court denied Plaintiff's motion for class certification as to the meal and rest break classes because individual inquiries predominated. Id. On January 25, 2018, following supplemental briefing by the parties, the Court certified the auto-deduct class. ECF No. 118. On February 8, 2018, Defendants filed a petition for permission to appeal the district court's class certification order regarding the auto-deduct class with the Ninth Circuit, No. 18-80018. Defendants' request for immediate appeal was withdrawn on May 11, 2018, when the parties agreed to settle the case. Setareh Decl., ¶ 22.

         B. Settlement

         Following at least two mediation sessions with a neutral mediator, the parties agreed to settle this action for a total amount of $4, 960, 000 for 1, 300 class members. Setareh Decl. ¶¶ 25-26. The proposed settlement amount includes (a) payments to Class Members (an average of approximately $2, 450.87); (b) Class Counsel's attorneys' fees and litigation costs (not to exceed $1, 653, 333.30 in fees and not to exceed $50, 000 in costs), (c) settlement administration costs (not to exceed $45, 000), (d) enhancement award to Plaintiff (not to exceed $7, 000), and (e) payment to the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency (“LWDA”) to resolve the claims arising under California's Private Attorney General Act ($50, 000). Setareh Decl. ¶ 31; Settlement Agreement, ECF No. 136-1 ¶ 56. After deduction from the total settlement amount of attorneys' fees and costs, the enhancement award to Plaintiff, the payment to the LWDA, and the costs of administering the settlement, there will be a net settlement amount of at least $3, 167, 166.70.

         The Proposed Class consists of, “[a]ll current and former non-exempt employees of Tyco employed in the State of California between October 1, 2010, through and including May 15, 2017, who had a half hour deducted for a meal period from their recorded hours as part of an auto-deduct policy.” Settlement Agreement ¶ 6.

         C. Notice

         Simpluris was appointed by the Court as Settlement Administrator to administer the Settlement in accordance with the terms of the Settlement Agreement. Salinas Decl., ECF No. 147-3 ¶ 9. The Class Notice advised Class Members of their right to opt out from the Settlement, object to the Settlement, or do nothing, and the implications of each such action. See Class Notices, ECF Nos. 147-4, 147-5. The Class Notice advised Class Members of applicable deadlines and other events, including the Final Approval Hearing, and how Class Members could obtain additional information. Id. The Class Notice was pre-printed with the name and address of the Class Member, work weeks used to calculate his/her estimated Settlement share, and instructions for challenging the work weeks. Id. On January 30, 2019, Notice Packets were mailed via First Class Mail to 1, 278 Class Members contained in the Class List. Salinas Decl. ¶ 7. For Notice Packets returned by the USPS as undeliverable and without a forwarding address, Simpluris performed an advanced address search (i.e., skip trace) by using a reputable research tool called Accurint and promptly mailed Notice Packets to updated addresses. Salinas Decl. ¶ 5. On March 28, 2019, counsel for Defendants provided Simpluris with 22 additional Class Members. Supp. Salinas Decl., ECF No. 150-1 ¶ 7. Ultimately, nine Notices were undeliverable because Simpluris was unable to locate a current address. Id. at ¶ 4.

         Simpluris also established and is maintaining a settlement website (www.TycoSettlement.com) to provide information to the Class Members. Salinas Decl. ¶ 9. The website was operational on January 30, 2019, and is accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Id.

         As of June 14, 2019, Simpluris (1) had received no requests for exclusion from the Settlement; (2) had accepted 6 valid disputes with none others pending; and (3) had not received any objections.

         D. Preliminary Approval and ...


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