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Bradford v. Chevron USA Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

December 5, 2019

JOANN BRADFORD, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CHEVRON USA INC., Defendant.

          ORDER REMANDING ACTION RE: DKT. NOS. 15 & 16

          PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs Joann Bradford, Liza Mosqueriola, Jason Rohrbach, and Brian White's motion to remand came on for hearing before this court on October 30, 2019. Defendant Chevron USA Inc.'s (“Chevron”) motion to dismiss came on for hearing before this court on the same date. Plaintiffs appeared through their counsel, Alexander Nazarov. Defendant appeared through its counsel, Douglas Hart and Marina Gruber. Having read the papers filed by the parties and carefully considered their arguments and the relevant legal authority, and good cause appearing, the court hereby GRANTS plaintiffs' motion to remand and DENIES defendant's motion to dismiss, for the following reasons.

         BACKGROUND

         On June 7, 2019, plaintiffs commenced a putative class action against Chevron in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Contra Costa. See Compl., Dkt. 1 at ECF p. 31. Plaintiffs' complaint alleges four causes of action: (1) failure to pay reporting-time pay pursuant to Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order 1-2001, Cal. Code Regs. tit. 8, § 11010(5)(A) (“Wage Order 1-2001”); (2) failure to pay all wages earned at termination pursuant to Labor Code §§ 200-203; (3) failure to provide accurate itemized wage statements pursuant to Labor Code §§ 226-226.3; and (4) violation of Business and Professions Code §§ 17200, et seq. All of plaintiffs' claims are based on their contention that Chevron failed to compensate certain employees for reporting-time relating to “standby shifts” and standby time. Compl. ¶¶1-5, 7, 22. As such, the parties agree that the second, third, and fourth causes of action are derivative of the first cause of action, in that those claims seek penalties and other relief for Chevron's alleged failure to pay wages disputed under the first cause of action. See Mot. at 2 (“The remaining claims are derivative from the reporting time pay claim.”); Opp. at 9 (because the second, third, and fourth claims are derivate of the first, “preemption of Plaintiffs' claim for reporting time pay will result in preemption and ultimate dismissal of their remaining claims as well.”).

         On July 15, 2019, Chevron removed the action to this court. Dkt. 1. On August 14, 2019, plaintiffs filed the present motion to remand the action to state court. Dkt. 16. On August 21, 2019, defendant filed the present motion to dismiss the action. Dkt. 21.

         Chevron owns and operates an oil refinery in Richmond, California. Plaintiffs are current and former operator employees (employees in that role are referred to as “Operators”) who have worked at the Richmond refinery. The dispute centers around Chevron's policy of assigning Operators to “on-call” (also called “standby”) shifts. (Operators are also assigned regular shifts, which are not challenged in this action.) Plaintiffs' essential contention is that Wage Order 1-2001 requires Chevron to pay Operators for shifts when they are required to be available and “on-call” to work, even when Chevron does not ultimately require the Operators to physically appear at its facility to work.

         Between plaintiffs' allegations and defendant's submission of undisputed collective bargaining agreements, the relevant features of the Operators' standby shifts are not materially disputed, although there are minor discrepancies between the allegations and the collective bargaining agreements. See Leger Decl., Dkt. 1-1, Exs. A (2015-2019 Articles of Agreement), B (the “12-Hour Shift Agreement”) (together, the “CBAs”).[1]

         Plaintiffs allege that Chevron requires Operators to work regular 12-hour shifts, scheduled in advance. Operators can generally be confident that they will be required to physically appear at Chevron's facility to work these shifts, and that they will be paid for their time. Chevron separately requires Operators to be available for 12-hour standby shifts, also scheduled in advance. Operators may or may not be required to physically appear at Chevron's facility to work standby shifts.

         Plaintiffs allege that Chevron requires Operators to be available to receive a call from Chevron either 30 minutes or 1 hour prior to the start of each assigned standby shift, and either 30 minutes or 1 hour after the start of the shift, during which time Operators may be told that they must travel to Chevron's facility to work. Cf. Compl. ¶¶ 3, 23.[2]Plaintiffs allege that they must arrive at work within 2 hours of being contacted. Id. ¶¶ 3, 23.[3] If an Operator fails to answer a supervisor's telephone call during the designated time period, the Operator is considered absent without leave and subject to discipline. Id. ¶ 3. If the Operator is not contacted during the designated 1.5-hour time period, Chevron does not compensate the Operator. Id.

         The 12-Hour Shift Agreement largely aligns with plaintiffs' relevant allegations about how standby shifts operate:

• For every 12-hour shift, there is also a “standby” crew “in the event short notice overtime (less than 12 hours notice) is required and no volunteers are available.” 12-Hour Shift Agreement at p. I-5.
• “Standby personnel must be available . . . during the period extending from 2 hours prior to shift change and 1/2 hour after shift change” and “will receive no standby pay allowance.” Id.; see also id. at p. III-7 ¶ 2. As such, on-call Operators need to make themselves available to work their scheduled 12-hour on-call shifts, and must also be accessible to speak by telephone from 4 AM to 6:30 AM. Id. at pp. I-5, III-7 ¶ 3.
• “Standby personnel must give a number where they can be reached during standby periods.” Id. at p. III-7 ¶ 4. Standby Operators must be available to be spoken with “directly.” Id. ¶ 5. Answering machines and beepers are not sufficient. Id.
• Employees scheduled to work standby for a given shift who “are not personally contactable during the standby period will be considered AWOL and subject to disciplinary action. (Discipline will follow the established practice for absenteeism).” Id. ¶ 6.
• “Standby personnel must be able to get to work in a reasonable time period after being contacted.” Id. ¶ 7.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         1. Removal

         Removal jurisdiction is based entirely on federal statutory authority. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441-55. A defendant may remove “any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts . . . have original jurisdiction[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).

         “To remove a case from a state court to a federal court, a defendant must file in the federal forum a notice of removal ‘containing a short and plain statement of the grounds for removal.'” Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co., LLC v. Owens, 135 S.Ct. 547, 551 (2014) (quoting 28 U.S.C. ยง 1446(a)). The ...


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