Alcantar v. Hobart Serv.

Decision Date03 September 2015
Docket NumberNo. 13–55400.,13–55400.
Citation800 F.3d 1047
PartiesJoséluis ALCANTAR, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff–Appellant, v. HOBART SERVICE; ITW Food Equipment Group, LLC, Defendants–Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

Robin G. Workman (argued), Daniel H. Qualls, and Aviva N. Roller, Qualls & Workman, LLP, San Francisco, CA, for PlaintiffAppellant.

Thomas E. Hill (argued) and Mara D. Matheke, Reed Smith LLP, Los Angeles, CA, for DefendantsAppellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Philip S. Gutierrez, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. 5:11–cv–01600–PSG–SP.

Before: MILAN D. SMITH, JR. and N. RANDY SMITH, Circuit Judges and JOAN HUMPHREY LEFKOW,* Senior District Judge.

Opinion by Judge LEFKOW; Partial Concurrence and Partial Dissent by Judge N.R. SMITH.

OPINION

LEFKOW, Senior District Judge:

Joséluis Alcantar wishes to represent a class of service technicians in his suit against his employer, Hobart Service (Hobart), and its parent company, ITW Food Equipment Group (ITW). Alcantar alleges that Hobart did not compensate its technicians for the time they spent commuting in Hobart's service vehicles from their homes to their job sites and from those job sites back home. Alcantar also alleges that Hobart failed to provide its technicians with meal and rest breaks.

Alcantar appeals from the district court's denial of class certification and its grant of partial summary judgment, as well as its determination that Alcantar did not comply with the notice requirements of California's Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”). We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. We affirm the judgment in part and reverse and remand in part.

BACKGROUND
I. Factual Background

ITW, Hobart's parent company, designs and manufactures commercial food equipment.

Hobart provides after-sale maintenance and repair services to ITW's customers. Alcantar works for Hobart as a service technician.

Alcantar and other service technicians provide most services on-site. They drive to and from customer locations in vehicles Hobart provides, carrying the tools and replacement parts necessary to make repairs. Although they spend most of their time at customer locations, each technician is assigned to one of Hobart's thirteen California branch offices.

As hourly employees, the technicians are compensated for the time they spend fixing equipment and the time they spend driving to and from different assignments. If they commute in the service vehicles, they are also compensated for the time spent driving from their homes to their first assignments and from their last assignments back home, but only to the extent it falls outside their “normal commute.”

A normal commute is the time it takes a technician to drive from his home to his branch location. Thus, if a job site is farther from a technician's home than his branch office, the technician is compensated for the extra time it takes him to reach the job site. But if a job site is the same distance or closer to a technician's home than his branch office, the technician is not compensated for time spent driving to the job site. Alcantar claims that California law requires Hobart to compensate technicians for their normal commute. The crux of this claim is the allegation that, while commuting to and from work in Hobart's vehicles, the service technicians are under Hobart's control.

As a condition of their employment, Hobart's service technicians must sign an agreement governing their use of the vehicles. The agreement states that the technicians have the option either to commute in their vehicles or leave the vehicles at their branch offices:

I understand that I have the option of driving the company vehicle to my home at the end of the work day and from my home to my first work assignment of the day. I also understand I may park the company vehicle at the office to which I am assigned.

Alcantar maintains this choice is illusory. The branch offices do not have enough secured parking spaces for technicians' vehicles. Because the technicians are responsible for the tools and parts inside the vehicles, they risk having to pay for any stolen tools and parts if the vehicles are burglarized at the branch offices.

The agreement also places numerous restrictions on the service technicians' use of the vehicles, including prohibiting personal use without prior approval:

Personal use of the service vehicle, other than commuting from home to the first work assignment and from the last work assignment to home, is strictly prohibited unless prior written approval is granted by management. (An example of personal use for which prior approval could be granted would be in case of a dental appointment which cannot be scheduled after hours or on a weekend.)

The agreement also prohibits service technicians from carrying passengers without prior approval. Transporting or storing alcohol is also forbidden, and the agreement does not give service technicians the option to seek permission from management to do so. By signing the agreement, the technicians acknowledge that “any infraction of these rules will result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.” Hobart's personnel manual echoes the agreement, listing the [o]peration of a service vehicle for personal use” as grounds for termination. In addition to these limitations, Hobart also expects service technicians to respond to calls on their company-issued cell phones while driving to and from their first and last assignments of the day.1 Alcantar alleges that, as a result of these restrictions and requirements, service technicians are under Hobart's control when commuting to and from work and thus must be compensated for their time.

As hourly employees, the technicians are also required to take meal and rest breaks throughout the day. Alcantar alleges that Hobart failed to provide these breaks.

II. District Court Proceedings

Alcantar's complaint, filed October 5, 2011, alleges violations of California Labor Code § 1194. The complaint also alleges derivative claims under the Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”), Cal. Bus. & Prof.Code §§ 17200 et seq., and PAGA, Cal. Lab.Code §§ 2698 et seq. Alcantar sought certification of a class of service technicians employed by Hobart in the four years preceding the filing of the lawsuit.2 Hobart and ITW opposed class certification and moved for summary judgment on all claims.

The district court denied Alcantar's motion for class certification, explaining that Alcantar failed to satisfy the commonality requirement of Federal Rule of Procedure 23(a)(2) and the predominance requirement of Federal Rule of Procedure 23(b)(3). The court then granted the motion for summary judgment as to Alcantar's overtime claim for commute time but held that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Hobart complied with California's meal- and rest-break requirements. The district court concluded that the derivative UCL and PAGA claims survived to the same extent as the overtime claim.

Hobart and ITW moved for summary judgment a second time, arguing that Alcantar had not complied with PAGA's notice requirements. The district court agreed. The parties stipulated to dismissal of the § 1194 claim and the UCL claim and Alcantar timely appealed, challenging the district court's orders denying certification, granting in part the first motion for summary judgment, and granting the second motion for summary judgment.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

We review de novo the district court's decision to grant or deny summary judgment, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Alexander v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., 765 F.3d 981, 987 (9th Cir.2014). [S]ummary judgment is appropriate when ‘there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.’ Albino v. Baca, 747 F.3d 1162, 1168 (9th Cir.2014) (en banc) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) ).

We review orders granting or denying class certification for abuse of discretion. Parra v. Bashas', Inc., 536 F.3d 975, 977 (9th Cir.2008). “An abuse of discretion occurs when the district court, ‘in making a discretionary ruling, relies upon an improper factor, omits consideration of a factor entitled to substantial weight, or mulls the correct mix of factors but makes a clear error of judgment in assaying them.’ Id. at 977–78 (quoting Waste Mgmt. Holdings, Inc. v. Mowbray, 208 F.3d 288, 295 (1st Cir.2000) ).

DISCUSSION
I. Class Certification

Alcantar contends that the district court improperly reached the merits of his claims in denying class certification under Rule 23(a)(2) and Rule 23(b)(3).

“The class action is ‘an exception to the usual rule that litigation is conducted by and on behalf of the individual named parties only.’ Wal–Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, ––– U.S. ––––, 131 S.Ct. 2541, 2550, 180 L.Ed.2d 374 (2011) (quoting Califano v. Yamasaki, 442 U.S. 682, 700–01, 99 S.Ct. 2545, 61 L.Ed.2d 176 (1979) ). This exception is justified where the class members and the class representative possess the same interest and have suffered the same injury. Id. Rule 23(a) seeks to ensure that the class claims are limited to those ‘fairly encompassed by the named plaintiff's claims.’ Id. (quoting Gen. Tel. Co. of Sw. v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 156, 102 S.Ct. 2364, 72 L.Ed.2d 740 (1982) ). To that end, Rule 23(a) conditions certification on a demonstration that

(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class; (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.

Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a).

Courts must perform a “rigorous analysis” of these prerequisities before concluding that Rule 23(a) is satisfied. Wal–Mart, 131 S.Ct....

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