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
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
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
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