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Mohammed v. American Airlines, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

November 12, 2019

HASIM A. MOHAMMED, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND RE: DKT. NO. 16

          EDWARD J. DAVILA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Hasim A. Mohammed (“Plaintiff”) initiated this putative class action in state court, alleging violations of California Labor Code sections governing meal and rest breaks, recordkeeping and timeliness of wage payments, and violation of California's Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”). Compl., Dkt. No. 1-1. Defendant American Airlines, Inc. (“Defendant”) removed the action to this Court on the basis of 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d), as amended by the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (“CAFA”). Notice of Removal, Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff now moves to remand the action, asserting that Defendant has failed to establish the requisite amount in controversy. The Court finds it appropriate to take the motion under submission for decision without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion will be granted.

         II. BACKGROUND[1]

         On February 19, 2019, Plaintiff initiated this suit in Santa Clara County Superior Court against Defendant and unnamed Doe defendants. Plaintiff resides in California. Compl. ¶ 5. Defendant is a Delaware corporation doing business in California. Id. ¶ 6. The “Relevant Time Period” is defined as beginning four years prior to the filing of the action until judgment is entered. Id. ¶ 11. The Complaint defines an “Hourly Employee Class” of “[a]ll persons employed by Defendants and/or any staffing agencies and/or any other third parties in hourly or non-exempt positions in California during the Relevant Time Period.” Id. There are also four sub-classes: (1) a Meal Period Sub-Class of “[a]ll Hourly Employee Class members who worked in a shift in excess of five hours during the Relevant Time Period”; (2) a Rest Period Sub-Class of “[a]ll Hourly Employee Class members who worked a shift of at least three and one-half (3.5) hours during the Relevant Time Period”; (3) a Wage Statement Penalties Sub-Class of “[a]ll Hourly Employee Class members employed by Defendants in California during the period beginning one year before the filing of this action and ending when final judgment is entered”; and (4) a Waiting Time Penalties Sub-Class of “[a]ll Hourly Employee Class members who separated from their employment with Defendants during the period beginning three years before the filing of this action and ending when final judgment is entered.” Id. There is also a UCL Class defined as “All Hourly Employee Class members employed by Defendants in California during the Relevant Time Period.” Id.

         Plaintiff worked for Defendant as a non-exempt hourly employee from approximately January 17, 2000 through February 28, 2018. Id. ¶ 19. “On many occasions, ” Plaintiff and the putative class members were not provided meal periods due to (1) Defendant's policy of not scheduling each meal period as part of each work shift; (2) chronically understaffing each work shift; (3) imposing so much work that it made it “unlikely” that an employee would be able to take breaks; and (4) no formal written meal period policy that encouraged employees to take meal and rest periods. Id. ¶ 20. Plaintiff and putative class members were provided meal periods when they were not otherwise occupied with job duties; however, they were required to interrupt their meal periods and to perform job duties when a plane arrived. Id. ¶ 21. Plaintiff and the putative class were neither instructed nor required to clock out for meal periods “as Defendant[] had a policy of automatically deducting one hour from their hours worked.” Id. ¶ 22. In other words, Defendant scheduled Plaintiff and the putative class members to work nine hours but deducted an hour for purported meal periods in order to avoid having to pay class members overtime. Id. Defendant seldom, if ever, provided Plaintiff and the putative class with a one-hour uninterrupted, duty-free meal period. Id. “As a result of Defendant['s] policy, Plaintiff and the putative class were regularly not provided with uninterrupted meal periods.” Id. ¶ 23.

         Moreover, Plaintiff and the putative class “were regularly not provided” with rest periods of at least ten minutes for each four-hour work period for the same reasons they were not provided meal periods. Id. ¶ 26. Plaintiff and the putative class were provided rest periods only to the extent they were not occupied with their jobs. Id. ¶ 25. Plaintiff and the putative class worked through their rest periods in order to complete their assignments on time. Id. ¶ 26.

         Plaintiff and the putative class were not provided with accurate wage statements as mandated by California Labor Code section 226. Id. ¶ 27. The statements that were provided were inaccurate because they failed to include overtime, as well as meal and/or rest period premiums. Id. ¶¶ 28-29.

         Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff asserts six causes of action: (1) failure to provide meal periods (Labor Code §§ 204, 223, 226.7, 512 and 1198); (2) failure to provide rest periods (Labor Code §§ 204, 223, 226.7 and 1198); (3) failure to pay hourly and overtime wages (Labor Code §§ 223, 510, 1194, 1194.2, 1197, 1197.1 and 1198); (4) failure to provide accurate written wage statements (Labor Code §226(a)); (5) failure to pay timely final wages (Labor Code §§ 201, 202 and 203); and (6) violation of the UCL by engaging in unlawful business practices.

         III. STANDARDS

         Defendants may remove a case to a federal court when a case originally filed in state court presents a federal question or is between citizens of different states. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441(a)-(b), 1446, 1453. Only state court actions that originally could have been filed in federal court may be removed. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). CAFA gives district courts original jurisdiction to hear class actions: (i) involving a plaintiff class of 100 or more members, (ii) where at least one member of the plaintiff class is a citizen of a State different from any defendant, and (iii) in which the matter in controversy exceeds (in the aggregate) the sum or value of $5 million, exclusive of interest and costs. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d). When measuring the matter in controversy, “the claims of the individual class members shall be aggregated.” Standard Fire Ins. Co. v. Knowles, 568 U.S. 588, 592 (2013) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(6)) . “[T]hose ‘class members' include ‘persons (named or unnamed) who fall within the definition of the proposed or certified class.'” Id. (quoting § 1332(d)(1)(D) (emphasis added)).

         A class action that meets the CAFA standards may be removed to federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). “Unlike the general presumption against removal, ‘no antiremoval presumption attends cases invoking CAFA.'” Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 574 U.S. 81, 89 (2014). “A defendant seeking removal has the burden to establish that removal is proper and any doubt is resolved against removability.” Luther v. Countrywide Home Loans Servicing LP, 533 F.3d 1031, 1033-34 (9th Cir. 2008); Abrego Abrego v. Dow Chemical Co., 443 F.3d 676, 684 (9th Cir. 2006) (“We therefore hold that under CAFA the burden of establishing removal jurisdiction remains, as before, on the proponent of federal jurisdiction.”).

         “[W]hen a defendant seeks federal-court adjudication, the defendant's amount-in-controversy allegation should be accepted when not contested by the plaintiff or questioned by the court.” Dart, 574 U.S. at 87. “[A] defendant's notice of removal need include only a plausible allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional threshold.” Id. at 89. If the plaintiff contests the defendant's allegation, evidence establishing the amount in controversy is required. Ibarra v. Manheim Invests., Inc., 775 F.3d 1193, 1197 (9th Cir. 2015). “In such a case, both sides submit proof and the court decides, by a preponderance of the evidence, whether the amount-in-controversy requirement has been satisfied.” Id. at 1197 (quoting Dart, 574 U.S. at 88 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1446(c)(2)(B))); see also Rodriguez v. AT&T Mobility Servs. LLC, 728 F.3d 975, 981 (9th Cir. 2013) (“A defendant seeking removal of a putative class action must demonstrate, by a preponderance of evidence, that the aggregate amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional minimum.”). Under the preponderance of the evidence standard, a removing defendant must show “that the potential damages could exceed the jurisdictional amount.” Rea v. Michaels Stores Inc., 742 F.3d 1234, 1239 (9th Cir. 204) (quoting Lewis v. Verizon Commc'ns, Inc., 627 F.3d 395, 397 (9th Cir. 2010)).

         The parties may submit evidence such as affidavits, declarations, or other “summary-judgment type evidence relevant to the amount in controversy at the time of removal.” Id. (quoting Singer v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 116 F.3d 373, 377 (9th Cir. 1997)). The defendant, however, need not prove to a “legal certainty” that the amount in controversy requirement has been met. Dart, 574 U.S. at 88-89 (citing H.R. Rep. No. 112-10, p. 16 (2011)). The preponderance standard requires only that a removing defendant prove that it is “more likely than not” that the amount in controversy requirement is met. Guglielmino v. McKee Foods Corp., 506 F.3d 696, 698 (9th Cir. 2007). “Under this system, CAFA's requirements are to be tested ...


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