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October 2014: Wage and Hour Class Action Victory

October 2014

A recent order denying class certification dealt the coup de grace to a class action filed against the firm’s client, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Inc. Barnes & Noble was accused of various violations of the California Labor Code, including misclassification of employees as “exempt” from overtime pay and minimum wages, and failure to provide meal and rest breaks.

Plaintiff contended Barnes & Noble had a uniform practice of misclassifying Store Managers as exempt to avoid paying overtime to these employees. Quinn Emanuel elicited damaging testimony from plaintiff’s proposed class representative and his own supporting declarants (current and former employees) showing that most tasks performed by Barnes & Noble Store Managers were, in fact, managerial in nature. The firm also marshaled dozens of its own declarations and deposed proposed class members and their supervisors to destroy plaintiff’s premise that Barnes & Noble systematically misclassified its Store Managers.

Despite a plea by plaintiff at the hearing that they be permitted to submit a trial plan that might satisfy the concerns highlighted by the California Supreme Court in its recent Duran v. U.S. Bank decision, the Court denied certification in its entirety. It ruled that plaintiff failed to satisfy his burden to demonstrate common issues predominated over individual issues, that plaintiff was a sufficient class representative, or that a class action was a superior method to adjudicate plaintiff’s claims.

This win followed one a few years ago where the firm also defeated certification in a wage and hour class action on behalf of Barnes & Noble’s Assistant Store Managers, giving the company twin victories on claims where other employers have incurred huge liabilities during the recent wave of class action litigation under state and federal labor laws.