Payne and Fears’ attorneys aggressively defend against the wave of class action litigation currently facing California employers. A class action is likely to be the most expensive and perilous type of employment-related litigation an employer will ever face. Because class actions can prevent businesses from functioning at full capacity, employers rely on prompt, adept legal representation to minimize business interruptions and eliminate liability as soon as possible.
Class Action Defense: Wage-and-Hour and PAGA
We have significant employment class action experience defending against class and collective claims brought under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), collective actions under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), claims brought under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), and state wage-and-hour laws (e.g., meal and rest break claims, misclassification, and “off-the-clock” claims).
In Esparza v. Safeway, Inc., 36 Cal.App.5th 42 (2019), our employment class action attorneys pursued a three-pronged approach to beat a statewide wage-and-hour class action in which we:
- defeated certification for most of the claims;
- obtained summary adjudication against a certified meal-period class; and
- successfully moved to strike the accompanying PAGA claims.
We then defended our clients’ successes before the Court of Appeal.
Payne & Fears attorneys also secured a victory on behalf of Southern Counties Oil Co. in a published opinion from the California Court of Appeal, First District in the case, Robinson v. Southern Counties Oil Company (2020) 53 Cal.App.5th 476. Beyond the immediate win for our client, the Court of Appeal made two significant holdings that benefit California employers. First, under the claim preclusion doctrine, a plaintiff cannot bring a second PAGA action after the defendant resolves an identical PAGA action in another matter, and second, that a plaintiff does not have standing to serve as a PAGA representative for a period during which he or she was not employed.
Not every case needs to go all the way through appeal, though, and we work diligently to resolve class actions as efficiently as possible for our clients. For example, when we were retained as lead counsel in addition to insurance panel counsel to defend two related wage-and-hour class actions brought against a car wash owner, we mounted an aggressive strategy to reduce potential damages, including an audit of payroll and timekeeping records, individual interviews with more than 60 putative class members to obtain declarations and releases in exchange for individual settlement payments, and training for all managers and supervisors. We were able to settle at mediation for a fraction of the potential liability, which the client called a “big win.”
We also represented a company in a class action lawsuit filed by a former inside sales representative, claiming that he and more than 100 other individuals were misclassified as exempt from the overtime requirement. We assisted the company in securing releases from most current employees in exchange for additional pay and were able to convince plaintiff’s counsel that employees did not work the extensive overtime hours they claimed. That led to a successful class-wide settlement.
Class Action Defense: How We Can Help
Our class action defense attorneys can help employers avoid the dangers of class action litigation by partnering with clients to create the most strategic response to a threatened action. We have secured success in wage-and-hour class actions, PAGA class actions, and other complex employment class actions. Payne & Fears has litigated and successfully resolved California and nationwide class actions with hundreds of thousands of alleged class members. Our seasoned attorneys’ unique experience with these cases gives them great insight into how to respond to a variety of challenges. We go to the mat to fight for our class action clients by litigating aggressively and creatively at both trial courts and on appeal. Our approach is tailored to avoid expensive discovery (if possible) and efficiently meet the needs of each client and case. We take an aggressive, proactive stance from the outset, highlighting the other side’s weaknesses, and presenting the motions we believe will get the best results. We have found great success in dispositive motion and class certification battles. Our record for obtaining both individual settlements (in class cases) and class-wide settlements is extremely favorable.