Cases & Deals

Verizon Wireless defeats class certification in Store Managers misclassification class actions

Client(s) Verizon Wireless, Inc.

On April 14, 2015, Judge Johnson, of the California Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles, agreed with Jones Day client AirTouch Cellular dba Verizon Wireless ("AirTouch") that class certification is inappropriate in two wage and hour misclassification class actions.

In Maestre v. AirTouch Cellular ("Maestre") and Crawley v. AirTouch Cellular ("Crawley"), the plaintiffs allege that AirTouch misclassifies its Store Managers as exempt from California's overtime and meal and rest break requirements, and that as a result, they are owed unpaid overtime compensation and premium payments for missed meal and rest breaks, along with additional penalties under California law. The Plaintiffs in both cases seek to represent all individuals who worked as Store Managers of Verizon Wireless retail stores in Southern California from August 2007 to present -- approximately 350 individuals.

AirTouch opposed the plaintiffs' bid for class certification, arguing that the Store Managers at issue meet both the executive and administrative exemptions under California law.

In siding with AirTouch and denying class certification, Judge Johnson ruled the plaintiffs failed to establish that: (1) common, as opposed to individual issues, predominate; (2) the claims of the plaintiffs are typical of the class; (3) and the class action device is a superior method for adjudicating plaintiffs' claims. Judge Johnson reasoned that the exemption/misclassification inquiry is quantitative, and therefore, there must be an examination into what the employees at issue are actually doing. Citing the California Supreme Court's recent decision in Duran v. U.S. Bank National Assn., the Court noted "whether a given employee is properly classified exempt depends in large part on the employee's individual circumstances." In the Maestre and Crawley cases, the Court found that the evidence shows great variability in the work actually performed by the members of the putative class. For similar reasons, Judge Johnson further reasoned that company policies, while relevant, are not the end all of the misclassification inquiry. Judge Johnson also highlighted that AirTouch's expectation, as expressed in its job description, is that Store Manager spend the majority of their time on exempt managerial tasks.

Crawley v. AirTouch Cellular d/b/a Verizon Wireless, JCCP No. 4693 (Superior Court, Los Angeles County); Maestre v. AirTouch Cellular d/b/a Verizon Wireless, JCCP No. 4693 (Superior Court, Los Angeles County)