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Garay v. Southwest Airlines Co.

United States District Court, N.D. California

December 20, 2019

MARCO GARAY, Plaintiff,
v.
SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO., Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND RE: DKT. NO. 13

          PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the court is plaintiff Marco Garay's (“plaintiff”) motion to remand. Dkt.13. The matter is fully briefed and suitable for decision without oral argument. Having read the parties' papers and carefully considered their arguments and the relevant legal authority, and good cause appearing, the court hereby GRANTS plaintiff's motion for the following reasons.

         BACKGROUND

         On October 25, 2018, plaintiff filed his complaint alleging a putative employment-related class action against defendant Southwest Airlines Co. (“defendant”) in Alameda county. Dkt. 1, Ex. A (Compl.). Based on that complaint, defendant removed plaintiff's action to this court on December 14, 2018, thereby giving rise to the related case Garay v. Southwest Airlines Co., 18-cv-07538-PJH (“Southwest I”). On February 28, 2019, this court granted plaintiff's first motion to remand. Southwest I, Dkt. 17.

         Defendant filed its second notice of removal of plaintiff's action to this court on August 29, 2019. Dkt. 1. Defendant bases its subsequent removal on the same complaint and expressly acknowledges that “no further process, pleadings, or orders related to this case have been filed in the Superior Court action or served by any party.” Id. ¶ 9. On September 28, 2019, plaintiff filed the instant motion to remand challenging defendant's subsequent notice of removal. Dkt. 13.

         A. The Complaint

         In his complaint, plaintiff alleges six claims on behalf of all persons employed by defendant in California four years prior to plaintiff's action. Compl. ¶ 11. Such claims include the following:

1. Failure to provide meal periods, Compl. ¶¶ 37-52;
2. Failure to provide rest periods, id. ¶¶ 53-63;
3. Failure to pay hourly and overtime wages, id. ¶¶ 64-92;
4. Failure to provide accurate written wage statements, id. ¶¶ 93-99;
5. Failure to timely pay all final wages (“waiting time penalties”), id. ¶¶ 100-110; and
6. Unfair competition (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §17200), id. ¶¶ 111-127. In his complaint, plaintiff does not specify the amount in damages sought.

         B. Procedural Posture

         1. Southwest I

         In support of its first removal, defendant asserted federal jurisdiction under CAFA, as well as Title 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(d), 1441(a) and 1446. Southwest I, Dkt. 1. Plaintiff subsequently moved to remand the action to Alameda County Superior Court. The parties disputed only whether defendant satisfied its burden of showing CAFA's $5 million amount in controversy requirement had been met. Southwest I, Dkt. 17 (February 28, 2019 Order Remanding Action) at 2. To do so, defendant relied only on plaintiff's second through fifth claims. Id. Defendant ultimately contended that, based on those four claims (plus attorneys' fees), the amount in controversy totaled $134 million. Id.

         As evidentiary support for that contention, defendant offered only the declaration of Senior Manager of Engagement and Administration Michelle Inlow (“Inlow”). Southwest I, Dkt. 1-2. As further shown below, a description of this declaration is significant. In her declaration, Inlow provided only the following concerning the amount in controversy:

• Defendant employed approximately 2, 475 individuals as hourly, nonexempt employees in California at any given time in 2014. Such employees had an average hourly rate of $22.12. Dkt. 1-2 ¶ 4;
• Defendant employed approximately 2, 704 hourly, nonexempt employees in California at any given time in 2015. Such employees had an average hourly rate of $21.45. Id.;
• Defendant employed approximately 3, 003 hourly, nonexempt employees in California at any given time in 2016. Such employees had an average hourly rate of $22.55. Id.;
• Defendant employed approximately 3, 254 hourly, nonexempt employees in California at any given time in 2017. Such employees had an average hourly rate of $22.29. Id.;
• Defendant employed approximately 3, 667 hourly, nonexempt employees in California at any given time in 2018. Such employees had an ...

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