Pioneering Defense in California Employment Class Actions
Pioneering Defense in California Employment Class Actions
For California employers, the potential dangers of seemingly innocuous violations, such as wage and hour issues, when aggregated, can lead to enormous risk. From resolving five concurrent class actions for a national employer to successfully opposing numerous motions for class certification, CDF has defended more than 200 employment class actions in both state and federal courts throughout the state. In addition, CDF is one of the very few firms in California that has tried five wage and hour class actions before judges or juries in various jurisdictions in California.
CDF attorneys received a very favorable decision from the California Supreme Court in Duran v. U.S. Bank Nat. Assn., 59 Cal. 4th 1 (2014). CDF’s defense work on this case, which lasted for more than a decade, helped to shape class certification and trial principles in exemption cases. The closely followed trial, and subsequent victory before the California Supreme Court, serves as a testament to the respect CDF’s class action practice commands throughout California.
In summary, our client prevailed in the California Supreme Court following a first-of-its kind class action trial and multiple appeals. CDF defended the bank against a class action alleging misclassification of exempt loan officers who were engaged in selling loans to small businesses. The primary dispute at trial was the applicability of the California outside salesperson exemption to each employee in the class. After aggressively defending the client against these claims for more than a decade, including a months-long class action trial premised on an unprecedented "representative" trial methodology that involved statistical terminology but ignored relevant legal and statistical principles, CDF appealed both the class certification and the trial plan and class judgment, resulting in a reversal of the judgment and an order decertifying the class from the Court of Appeal. The plaintiffs petitioned the California Supreme Court for review, and CDF went on to successfully defend the client before the California Supreme Court. The California Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal's judgment in its entirety, resulting in a clear total victory for the bank - with the trial court judgment reversed and the class decertified. The California Supreme Court left the door open for Plaintiffs to attempt to re-certify the class on remand, to which Plaintiffs availed themselves. In their second bid for class certification, Plaintiffs again argued that the class could be certified using statistical methodology and sampling techniques, with the aid of a survey expert who conducted a survey of some of the putative class members. CDF once again successfully attacked the reliability of Plaintiffs’ survey results to demonstrate that the class lacked predominant common issues suitable for class treatment. The trial court denied certification, which was upheld on appeal in another published decision and victory for the bank, Duran v. U.S. Bank Nat. Assn., 19 Cal.App.5th 630 (2018) (Duran II).
Our class action experience, nearly two decades strong, includes advice and litigation throughout California on:
- Class Action Avoidance
- Wage and Hour Class Action Defense
- Discrimination Class Action Defense
- Unfair Competition Law and Unruh Act Class Action Defense
- Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) Representative Action Defense
- Wage and Hour Audits
With the recent decisions by the California Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court in arbitration and class action cases, we have seen a proliferation of representative Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) claims. CDF has an established record of successfully defending and resolving these cutting-edge claims for California employers.
Early and Creative Strategies for Class Action Claims
Each class action threat carries a different set of potential risks, costs and business impact to employers. While some law firms approach high-volume cases in a formulaic manner, CDF prefers an individualized strategy that maximizes true efficiencies.
At the outset of each case, we conduct a thorough analysis of the legal issues simultaneously with a prompt factual investigation. We then formulate a plan that aligns with a client’s litigation goals and budget. Together, we determine if the wisest course is to position the matter for dismissal, settlement or denial of class certification at the earliest possible juncture.
CDF’s deep experience in defeating class certification and reducing claims plays a pivotal role in spotting class action defense pitfalls that would otherwise prolong the litigation or drive up defense costs. CDF attorneys also:
- Use early discovery or dispositive motions to limit the size and scope of the proposed class and/or claims, and bring creative solutions to settlement negotiations.
- Deploy a statewide on-the-ground legal team to efficiently interview putative class members and obtain favorable declarations in a cost-effective manner. This leads to favorable settlement negotiations or successful opposition of class certification motions.
- Conduct classwide merits-based discovery, work with expert statisticians, economists, accountants, and develop effective trial plans.
CDF’s ahead-of-the-curve approach underscores our belief in the power of a good offense. We continually advise clients on developing legal compliance requirements and implementing effective policies and practices to help them avoid class actions in the first place. We also conduct audits of our clients’ practices to spot potential problematic areas before they face the specter of expensive class actions.