Decertification and the Effect of Wal-Mart v. Dukes

And so it begins. Wal-Mart v. Dukes [an enhanced version of this opinion is available to lexis.com subscribers / unenhanced version available from lexisONE Free Case Law] has already changed the course of class actions in 2011. In Cruz v. Dollar Tree Stores, Inc., the Northern District of California decertified a class of store managers as a result of the court's heightened concerns following Dukes.

The plaintiffs claimed that they were misclassified as exempt executive employees and denied overtime pay and meal and rest breaks in violation of California law. As a preliminary matter, there seemed to be plenty of proof issues, even without consideration of the issues raised in Dukes. The class had already been narrowed to include only those store managers who answered "no" on the payroll certification forms (indicating whether they spent more than fifty percent of their actual work time each week performing seventeen listed duties that Dollar Tree believes to be "managerial" in nature) at least once during the class period. And the court discussed its serious concerns regarding the payroll forms being offered as common proof.

As a result, the developments in the case and case law persuaded the court that continued certification would present unmanageable difficulties. Just as in Dukes, the plaintiffs failed to provide the common proof that would permit a class-wide determination. Since the store managers were unable to provide common proof as to how they spent their time on a weekly basis, the commonality and predominance inquiries of Rule 23 were not met.

Rule 23(b)(3) requires that "questions of law or fact common to the members of the class predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy." Among the issues central to the predominance inquiry is whether the case, if tried, would present intractable management problems.

Since a district court's order to grant class certification is subject to later modification or decertification, I am sure we will be seeing more and more plaintiffs meeting the same fate as those in Dollar Tree and Dukes.

Read more articles on employment law issues at Employment and the Law, a blog by Ashley Kasarjian

For more information about LexisNexis products and solutions connect with us through our corporate site.