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Chavez v. Converse, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

January 15, 2020

ERIC CHAVEZ, Plaintiff,
CONVERSE, INC., Defendant.



         In this chapter of his employment class action, plaintiff Eric Chavez moves for partial summary judgment as to whether defendant Converse, Inc.'s retail store employees were under its control when they underwent security checks before leaving. See Dkt. No. 169 at 6; see also Dkt. No. 174 at 4. Because Converse's employees were required to submit to security checks between July 10, 2011, and November 19, 2019, the Court GRANTS Chavez's motion for partial summary judgment as to claims one, three, four, five, six, and seven.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         Converse operates 20 stores in California. See Dkt. No. 169-1, Ex. B (“May Depo.”) at 24:16-18. At each store, Converse installs time clocks in back rooms for their employees to clock in and clock out. See id., Ex. A (“Kiefer Depo.”) at 41:13-22. Converse's stores typically have a single point of exit and entry, located at the front of the store away from the break room. See Id. at 43:18-24.

         Whenever an employee leaves a store, they are subject to an exit search. See Id. at 65:2-66:25; see also id., Ex. 3, 4. Under Converse's exit search policy, “[i]f an employee refuses to cooperate, interferes, or hinders the search in any way . . . that employee may be suspended pending further investigation which may include termination. Id., Ex. 4 at 1. Exit searches take place “closest to the point of exit, ” which is typically near the front door. Id. Searches are conducted visually. See Id. at 73:21-25. Employees will typically flash the pockets of their jackets or sweatshirts to demonstrate that they are empty. Id. at 73:24-74:4. If an employee brings a bag, they are required to open the bag for inspection. Id. at 64:18-24.

         As of November 19, 2019, Converse no longer requires its employees to submit to an exit search. See Dkt. No. 179-1, Ex. A (“Ziegler Decl.”) at 16:23-25, 23:11-17.

         B. Procedural History

         Chavez filed his first amended complaint on December 4, 2015, for various violations of the California Labor Code stemming from Converse's alleged failure to compensate its employees for time spent on exit searches. See Dkt. No. 28. On September 22, 2016, the Court certified a class of “[a]ll current and former non-exempt retail store employees of Converse who worked in California during the period from July 10, 2011, to the present.” See Dkt. No. 89.

         On October 11, 2017, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Converse based on the federal de minimis doctrine. See Dkt. No. 144. Chavez appealed. See Dkt. No. 146. Shortly after, the California Supreme Court decided Troester v. Starbucks Corp., 5 Cal. 5th 829 (2018) and held that the federal de minimis doctrine did not apply to wage claims under California law. In light of Troester, the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded this case for further proceedings. See Dkt. Nos. 156, 168.

         Chavez now moves for partial summary judgment. See Dkt. No. 169. The sole issue in Chavez's motion is whether Converse exercises control over its employees when they undergo an exit search. Pending before the Court is Converse's own motion for summary judgment, which is set for hearing on March 4, 2020. See Dkt. No. 179. This order does not resolve that motion.

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 56(a), a court “shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Under Rule 56, the moving party bears the initial burden to demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Once the moving party meets its burden, then the non-moving party must cite “particular parts of materials in the record” showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). A “genuine issue” exists if a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party. E.g., Open Text v. Box, Inc., No. 13-cv-04910-JD, 2015 WL 428365, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 30, 2015). On summary judgment, the Court does not make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence, as these determinations are left to the trier of fact at trial. Bator v. State of Hawaii, 39 F.3d 1021, 1026 (9th Cir. 1994).

         III. ...

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