Capstone Law – Class Decertification Order in Williams v. Superior Court (Allstate Insurance Company)
In Williams v. Superior Court (Allstate Insurance Company) – filed December 6, 2013, Second District, Div. Eight, the Second Appellate District granted a petition for writ of mandate, vacated a trial court class decertification order, and remanded. The court held that the trial court erred in concluding that a proposed class of some 200 insurance adjusters was not certifiable because only some, but not all, of those class members might have suffered damages due to a company policy precluding compensation for certain tasks.
In action for failure to pay overtime wages, the trial court abused its discretion by decertifying the plaintiff class based on the precedent in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes (2011) 131 S.Ct. 2541, holding that a plaintiff class could not be certified in a gender discrimination action, because proof of discriminatory intent would be required as to each individual store manager. However, Dukes did not establish an absence of commonality as to a plaintiffs’ claim that the employer required class members to work “off the clock” at the beginning and end of each work day. Because an employer who knew, or should have known, of overtime work may be liable for overtime wages as a matter of state law, a pattern or practice of employees working off-the-clock in order to complete their daily work can sustain a common question of fact or law that supports commonality for class certification.
All-State Auto field adjusters, employees who travel to sites such as body shops to inspect and analyze the value of damaged vehicles, receive their daily work schedules of vehicle inspection appointments by logging onto Allstate’s “Work Force Management System” software loaded onto their work laptops. Although the adjusters are hourly employees entitled to overtime if they work more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week, the Work Force Management System software is not a time record keeping program, nor does Allstate maintain any other time clock system.
Rather than track the actual hours an adjuster works, the Work Force Management System instead presumes each adjuster’s eight-hour workday begins when the adjuster arrives at his first vehicle-inspection appointment of the day. As the Allstate executive explained, “Their day begins at the first stop.”
Allstate’s presumption that an adjuster’s workday begins with the first appointment as set by the Work Force Management System does not take into account any work the adjuster may have performed before the day’s first appointment.
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