See what I did there? Shine. Spotlight. Nevermind. Today's wage and hour class action opinion comes to us courtesy of Shine v. Williams-Sonoma, Inc. (May 29, 2018). In Shine, the Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District, Division Four) reviewed de novo whether a demurrer to a reporting time pay complaint was properly sustained on res judicata grounds. Multiple bases were argued in support of the Trial Court's Order, but the Court found that the res judicata basis was sufficient alone, and did not require analysis of the other arguments. As to res judicata, the Court said:
The Morales complaint sought recovery of unpaid wages on behalf of class members employed by Williams-Sonoma since June 24, 2009. The allegations in that case included the claims of failure to provide meal and rest periods, overtime and minimum wages, timely wages, and final paychecks to the Morales class plaintiffs.
In the present action, Mr. Shine seeks reporting-time pay for on-call shifts that were canceled in early 2013, within the period covered by the Morales settlement agreement. Because reporting-time pay is a form of wages, a claim for reporting-time pay could have been raised in the Morales action. (See Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. (2007) 40 Cal.4th 1094, 1111–1112 [reporting-time pay, like split-shift and overtime pay, is a form of wages even though it serves a dual purpose of shaping employer behavior].) The fact that no claim for reporting-time pay was alleged in Morales does not alter our determination that the same primary right, to seek payment of wages due, was involved in both Morales and this case. (See Boeken v. Phillip Morris USA, Inc. (2010) 48 Cal.4th 788, 798–799.)
Slip op., at 7. The Court also discussed Villacres, but, compared to Villacres, the outcome seems more obvious here when the language of the prior release is considered:
Like the Augustus release, the Bonilla settlement agreement released “all claims, demands, rights, liabilities and causes of action that were or could have been asserted (whether in tort, contract or otherwise) for violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the California Labor Code, the California Business and Professions Code, the Private Attorneys General Act (‘PAGA’), the applicable Industrial Welfare Commission Orders or any similar state or federal law, whether for economic damages, non-economic damages, liquidated damages, punitive damages, restitution, penalties, other monies, or other relief based on any facts, transactions, events, policies, occurrences, acts, disclosures, statements, omissions or failures to act pled in the Complaint, which are or could be the basis of claims that Defendant failed to pay wages or overtime, failed to provide meal or rest breaks or compensation in lieu thereof, failed to provide timely wages and final paychecks, committed record-keeping violations, provided noncompliant wage statements, failed to reimburse for business expenses, or engaged in unfair business practices at any time on or before the date of Preliminary Approval.” (Italics added.)
Slip op., at 12 (boldface emphasis added).
Separate from all of this, I have a concern about the Villacres holding that allows any enumerated list of released items to be treated as a "general release." This seems to muddy the waters as to what constitutes a general release and what constitutes a specific release. As it stands, this seems to re-define "specific release" to mean a release with an expressly enumerated scope and a "general release" to mean any release with coverage broader than what is expressly enumerated, particularly where identified by the phrase "all claims." So you can have a "general" release of "all" wage payment claims. Perhaps we should call "general" releases "total coverage" releases and all other releases "specific" or "itemized" coverage releases.
Respondents and Defendants were successfully represented by Melanie L. Bostwick, Randall C. Smith, Jessica R. Perry, and Allison Riechert Giese of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe