Court of Appeal issues "sweet" opinion affirming the denial of class certification in meal break case

United States Publication June 4, 2021

On April 26, 2021, the Second District Court of Appeal in Salazar v. See's Candy Shops, Inc., affirmed the trial court's denial of class certification on a meal break claim. In Salazar, plaintiff claimed employees were denied their second meal break when they worked over 10 hours. In support, plaintiff offered the company's meal and rest break policy which did not mention second meal breaks, as well as the company's scheduling form which, while containing columns for "lunch" and two rest breaks, did not contain a column for a second meal break. In opposition to class certification, See's Candy offered timecard evidence showing 24 percent of shifts over 10 hours recorded a second meal break and 43 percent of employees who worked shifts over 10 hours recorded a second meal break. See's Candy also offered declarations demonstrating employees were aware of the Company's policy of providing second meal breaks in shifts over 10 hours. Based on this evidence, the trial court found plaintiff could not prove through common evidence that See's Candy had a consistent practice denying second meal breaks; instead, the individualized evidence required to prove plaintiff's claim would "devolve into a series of mini-trials." Further, the trial court found plaintiff's proposed trial plan was inadequate to manage the individual issues.

The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding the trial court "reasonably concluded that a 'significant number of employees' would likely need to offer individual testimony at trial for the finder of fact to determine whether See's consistently applied a practice of denying second meal breaks" because, based on the "large number of employees who were able to take such breaks (and therefore presumably knew that they could do so), it is reasonable to conclude that a significant number of employees made their own decision to decline second meal breaks that they otherwise could have taken." The Court of Appeal also held the trial court properly exercised its discretion in concluding plaintiff's trial plan was inadequate where it offered only vague promises without providing any means to litigate See's Candy's defenses with the proper individual inquiry.

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