Recent California Supreme Court Activity

While I configured and wired a veritable recording studio, the world marched on, with the issuance of interesting appellate opinions here and elsewhere in U.S.  The California Supreme Court has been up to some interesting activity this year as well.  For instance, the recent debpulication of opinion from the Second Appeallate District, Division Eight, that seemed inconsistent with the manner in which Brinker instructed courts to evaluate class issues, at least in the wage & hour field.  And in the last few weeks the California Supreme Court's Conference events included the following item of note:

  • The Court granted review in Ayala v. Antelope Valley Newspapers, Inc. (pub ord. Oct. 17, 2012), previously published at 210 Cal. App. 4th 77.  In Ayala the Court of Appeal partially reversed a trial court order denying class certification.  The wage & hour case stems from the classification of workers as independent contractors.

The grant of review in Ayala raises the question of whether Bradley v. Networkers International LLC, 211 Cal. App. 4th 1129 (2012), as modified (Jan. 8, 2013), might turn on some issue that the Supreme Court intends to resolve in Ayala.

Bradley v. Networkers International LLC reverses denial of class certification after remand following Brinker decision

The Brinker-related news is still flowing today.  While the Supreme Court was busy depublishing decisions that affirmed certification denials purportedly based on Brinker, the Court of Appeal (Fourth Appellate District, Division One) in Bradley v. Networkers International LLC (December 12, 2012) reversed the trial court's decision to deny class certification as to all but one cause of action (off-the-clock work).  The decision of the Court of Appeal follows an extended detour through the California Supreme Court.  The California Supreme Court granted plaintiffs' petition for review, and ordered the first Bradley decision (unpublished) held pending the high court's decision Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, 53 Cal. 4th 1004 (2012). The court then remanded the first Bradley opinion to the Court "with directions to vacate its decision and to reconsider the cause in light of Brinker . . . ."

The Court took its instructions seriously.  The Court received extensive supplemental briefing on Brinker and other decisions from the parties.  The Court concluded that the trial court erred when it refused to certify every claim.

The Court carefully reviewed Brinker's approach for analyzing class claims based on policies applicable to the class:

In finding that common issues predominated on this rest break issue, the high court emphasized that "[c]laims alleging that a uniform policy consistently applied to a group of employees is in violation of the wage and hour laws are of the sort routinely, and properly, found suitable for class treatment," citing with approval three Court of Appeal decisions: Jaimez v. Daiohs USA, Inc. (2010) 181 Cal.App.4th 1286 (Jaimez); Ghazaryan v. Diva Limousine, Ltd. (2008) 169 Cal.App.4th 1524 (Ghazaryan); and Bufil, supra, 162 Cal.App.4th 1193. (Brinker, supra, 53 Cal.4th at p. 1033.) In each of these decisions, the Court of Appeal held the trial court abused its discretion in denying class certification based on the predominance issue. (Jaimez, supra, at pp. 1299-1307; Ghazaryan, supra, at pp. 1534-1538; Bufil, supra, at pp. 1205-1206.) These courts reasoned that the plaintiffs were challenging a uniform employment policy that allegedly violated California law and thus this violation could be proved (or disproved) through common facts and law. (Jaimez, supra, at pp. 1299-1300; Ghazaryan, supra, at pp. 1536-1538; Bufil, supra, at p. 1206.) The Jaimez and Ghazaryan courts further found that common issues predominated even if the policy did not affect each employee in the same way and damages would need to be proved individually. (See Jaimez, supra, at pp. 1301, 1303-1305; Ghazaryan, supra, at p. 1536.)

Slip op., at 17-18.  (Moment of self-aggrandizement: At this point, I'm feeling pretty good about my work on Ghazaryan.)   The Court continued with a thorough analysis of the clarified standards for meal and rest period claims.  Notably, the Court highlighted the guidance provided by Justice Werdegar on the questions of whether meal period claims are categorically uncertifiable if the defendant raises as an issue the reason for the missed meal period:

Justice Werdegar stated that if an employer's records show no meal period for a given shift, a rebuttable presumption arises that the employee was not relieved of duty and no meal period was provided, shifting the burden to the employer to show the meal period was waived. (Id. at p. 1053.) Justice Werdegar further stated that "[w]hile individual issues arising from an affirmative defense can in some cases support denial of certification, they pose no per se bar [citations]." (Ibid.)

Slip op., at 20.

Later in the opinion, the Court also concluded that the question of independent contractor status is generally one that turns on common issues:

Under both the Borello and Martinez standards, the evidence relevant to the factual question whether the class members were employees or independent contractors is common among all class members. Each of the class members signed a standard "Independent Contractor Agreement" that characterized the worker as an independent contractor; each class member was engaged in a similar occupation (skilled labor in installing or servicing cell sites); each class member was required to work full time and to be available on every working day and during assigned "on call" times; each class member was told how to prioritize each day's jobs; each class member received hourly pay, rather than pay by the job; each class member submitted timesheets to Networkers and Networkers' customers for approval; and each class member was required to use a specific set of tools on the job and to obtain those tools from Networkers. Additionally, although Networkers' standard contract stated that the workers had the right to control the manner and means of the work, including that the workers were permitted to subcontract the work, Networkers had specific time and place job requirements that all workers were required to follow, and the workers could not deviate from these rules or delegate the work.

Slip op., at 23.  The Court continued:

Networkers argued below that there would be a need for individualized proof because of differences among the workers pertaining to job titles, skill levels, pay grades, and the specific type of repair or installation work. However, with respect to the issues "likely to be presented" in the litigation (Brinker, supra, 53 Cal.4th at p. 1025), these distinctions are not significant. The fact that some workers engaged in repair work and others engaged in installation work, or that workers had different pay grades or worked for different lengths of times on particular days, is not central to the issue whether the workers here were employees or independent contractors under the Borello or Martinez tests. (See Martinez, supra, 49 Cal.4th at p. 76; Borello, supra, 48 Cal.3d at pp. 350-351.) Under the analysis, the focus is not on the particular task performed by the employee, but the global nature of the relationship between the worker and the hirer, and whether the hirer or the worker had the right to control the work. The undisputed evidence showed Networkers had consistent companywide policies applicable to all employees regarding work scheduling, payments, and work requirements. Whether those policies created an employer-employee relationship, as opposed to an independent contractor relationship, is not before us. The critical fact is that the evidence likely to be relied upon by the parties would be largely uniform throughout the class.

Slip op., at 24-25.  Unequivocal.  Seems like that IC pendulum is swinging back towards a presumption that IC classification is customarily a question suitable for certification.

The Court then returned to the specific claims in the case before it, applying Brinker's standards to the claims and trial court record.  Rather than wade through that discussion, I will offer this observation.  The employer chose to classify installers and repair techs as independent contractors.  When it made that choice, it also chose not to provide meal periods and authorize rest breaks.  It had no policy for them.  Based on Brinker, the Court concluded that this arrangement raised common questions and let the employer live with the consequences of its choice.

And, while the Court distinguished Lamps Plus and Chipotle, it need not have worried about them; they were depublished today.

Common law test for employment governs claim by "licensed agent" challenging independent contractor classification

Test pilots who push the envelope either go on to walk on the moon and serve as legislators or die in fiery crashes.  Either way, they go out in a big way.  Cases that push the envelope don't have such dramatic finishes, but they often clarify the law, and not necessarily in a good way.  In Arnold v. Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company (December 30, 2011), the Court of Appeal (First Appellate District, Division One) reviewed the trial court's decision to grant summary judgment in favor of defendant on the claim that a non-exclusive insurance agent was improperly classified as an independent contractor.  A key aspect of the Court's decision concerned the issue of whether the trial court applied the correct test for employment to claims alleging failure to reimburse expenses and failure to timely pay wages.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in applying the common law test for employment that was enunciated in S. G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations, 48 Cal. 3d 341 (1989).  Instead, the plaintiff contended that Labor Code section 2750 supplied a statutory definition of employee that is broader than the common law test and controls the definition of employee applicable to section 2802.  I note here, parenthetically, that this argument seems somewhat similar to an discussion of this issue I presented some years ago on this blog.  At least now I don't have to wonder how a court would react to this analysis.

In any event, the Court cited approvingly to Estrada for its conclusion that the Labor Code does not define "employee" for purposes of section 2802:

One reviewing court has recently held the Labor Code does not expressly define “employee” for purposes of Labor Code section 2802, and therefore, the common law test of employment applies to that section. (Estrada v. FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. (2007) 154 Cal.App.4th 1, 10 (Estrada).) That court went on to cite the “principal” and “additional factors” of the common law test as articulated by the Supreme Court in Borello, supra, 48 Cal.3d 341, and summarized above. (Estrada, supra, at p. 10.)

Slip op., at 6-7.  While the Court noted that Estrada may not have explicitly considered the argument about section 2750, the Court  went on to hold that the common law test must apply, or section 2750 would conflict with the statutes immediately following 2750.

Having settled on the common law test for employment as the correct test, the Court then considered whether the evidence supported the trial court's decision to grant summary judgment.  While it is impossible to know what evidence was submitted, the Court's summary of key evidence suggests that the defendant had the better of it:

The salient evidentiary points established Arnold used her own judgment in determining whom she would solicit for applications for Mutual's products, the time, place, and manner in which she would solicit, and the amount of time she spent soliciting for Mutual's products. Her appointment with Mutual was nonexclusive, and she in fact solicited for other insurance companies during her appointment with Mutual. Her assistant general manager at Mutual's Concord office did not evaluate her performance and did not monitor or supervise her work. Training offered by Mutual was voluntary for agents, except as required for compliance with state law. Agents who chose to use the Concord office were required to pay a fee for their workspace and telephone service. Arnold's minimal performance requirement to avoid automatic termination of her appointment was to submit one application for Mutual's products within each 180-day period. Thus, under the principal test for employment under common law principles, Mutual had no significant right to control the manner and means by which Arnold accomplished the results of the services she performed as one of Mutual's soliciting agents.

Slip op., at 9-10.

It's easy to armchair quarterback, but the factual record described by the Court does not seem like the optimal factual record on which to test this issue.  Then again, when I appealed Alvarez, I'm sure many people said the same thing...  Good thing the Supreme Court bailed me out years after the fact in another case.

In Harris v. Superior Court, the California Supreme Court tries to clarify the administrative exemption as it applies to claims adjusters

(Whether it was successful is another matter entirely.)  After spending the majority of December out sick, I have a good deal of case commentary to cover before I'm current here.  In no particular oder, I begin with the California Supreme Court's opinion in Harris v. Superior Court (December 29, 2011).  Harris stems from four coordinated class action lawsuits contending that claims adjusters employed by Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and Golden Eagle Insurance Corporation were erroneously classified as exempt "administrative" employees.  The trial court certified a class of "all non-management California employees classified as exempt by Liberty Mutual and Golden Eagle who were employed as claims handlers and/or performed claims-handling activities."  Plaintiffs moved for summary adjudication of defendants' affirmative defense that plaintiffs were exempt under IWC wage order No. 4. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11040 (Wage Order 4).) Defendants opposed the motion and moved to decertify the class.  The trial court then decertified a portion of the class, depending upon whether the earlier, less specific version of Wage Order 4, or the later, more detailed version of Wage Order 4, applied to the class members.

On appeal, the Court of Appeal majority concluded that, under the terms of that wage order, plaintiffs could not be considered exempt employees, either before or after the amendment to Wage Order 4.  In a nutshell, the Supreme Court reveresed that ruling to the extent it set a bright line rule, holding, instead:

[I]n resolving whether work qualifies as administrative, courts must consider the particular facts before them and apply the language of the statutes and wage orders at issue. Only if those sources fail to provide adequate guidance, as was the case in Bell II, is it appropriate to reach out to other sources.

Slip op., at 22.

Between that summary of its holidng, and the explanation of the facts and procedural history, is a long and painful journey through the federal regulations incorporated into the current version of Wage Order 4.  In case you were wondering, the regulations incorporated as they existed in 2001 are: 29 C.F.R. Sections 541.201-205, 541.207-208, 541.210, and 541.215.  Next, in parsing the regulations, the Court's analysis turned on assessing when work is "directly related" to management policies or general business operations.  As the Court explained:

Work qualifies as "directly related" if it satisfies two components. First, it must be qualitatively administrative. Second, quantitatively, it must be of substantial importance to the management or operations of the business. Both components must be satisfied before work can be considered "directly related" to management policies or general business operations in order to meet the test of the exemption.

Slip op., at 10.  The Court then explained that the plaintiffs in the trial court below moved for summary adjudication of the affirmative defense of exemption by challenging defendants' ability to show one part of the conjunctive test for "directly related."  The plaintiffs argued that the defendants could not show that the work of the adjusters in that case was administrative in nature, the "qualitative" element.  The Supreme Court focused its analysis on that argument only, explicitly declining to review the record for triable issues on any other element of the exemption defense, including the "quantitative" element of the "directly related" regulatory language.

Turning to the administrative/production worker dichotomy discussed in Bell v. Farmers Ins. Exchange, 87 Cal. App. 4th 805 (2001) (Bell II) and the other Bell decisions, the Court explained that the Bell II decision was predicated on the older Wage Order 4 that lacked the detailed definitions included in the current version.  The Court also noted that the Bell II based its analysis on an undisputed record that the work of the employees at issues was "routine and unimportant."  One key fact from the Bell II analysis noted by the Supreme Court here was the limited settlement authorizations provided to the adjusters in that case.  It is important to note, however, that the Court did not invalidate the administrative/production worker dichotomy.  Rather, it stated that the dichotomy could not stand as a dispostive test in lieu of the Wage Order language.  Instead, the dichotomy is an analytical tool available when the language of the Wage Order and incorporated federal regulations is insufficient to resolve the classification question.

Turning to the current case, the Court criticized the creation of a rigid rule defining any employee carrying out day-to-day business as a production worker.  Instead, the Court cautioned against examining the duties of employees in one business to determine the correct classification of employees in another.  In other words, the administrative exemption is fact-specific test for which the Court offers no guidance in its application.

The Court reversed the Court of Appeal but directed it to re-consider the denial of summary adjudication while applying the correct legal standard.

Disclosure:  Spiro Moss represented one of the named plaintiffs, though other firms handled the appellate activities.

In Mora, et al., v. Big Lots Stores, Court affirms denial of certification in manager misclassification case

I've comment previously that misclassification cases (especially in the retail and restaurant sectors) appear to be an increasingly difficult sell.  See post regarding Arenas v. El Torito Restaurants, Inc., 183 Cal. App. 4th 723 (2010).  Since then, I haven't seen anything to change my opinion that the tide has shifted from the Sav-on high water mark.  Yesterday, in Mora, et al. v. Big Lots Stores (April 18, 2011), the Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District, Division Seven) affirmed a trial court order denying certification of a class of Big Lots store managers alleged to have been misclassified as exempt from overtime pay and other labor code obligations.

The Court summarized the two ends of the legal spectrum defining the legal criteria applied to certification:

As the Supreme Court held in Sav-On, supra, 34 Cal.4th at page 326, the central issue in a class certification motion is whether the questions that will arise in the action are common or individual, not the plaintiffs' likelihood of success on the merits of their claims. (Accord, Ghazaryan v. Diva Limousine, Ltd. (2008) 169 Cal.App.4th 1524, 1531 ["trial court must evaluate whether the theory of recovery advanced by the plaintiff is likely to prove amenable to class treatment"].) The putative class representatives contend the trial court disregarded this standard, improperly focusing on the potential conflicting issues of fact that may arise on an individual basis rather than the common questions presented by their theory of recovery. To the contrary, the court employed the correct analysis and concluded the theory of recovery advanced—operational standardization imposed by Big Lots—was not supported by substantial evidence and thus not amenable to class treatment. No legal error was committed: "[A] class action will not be permitted if each member is required to 'litigate substantial and numerous factually unique questions' before a recovery may be allowed. . . . '[I]f a class action "will splinter into individual trials," common questions do not predominate and litigation of the action in the class format is inappropriate.'" (Arenas v. El Torito Restaurants, Inc. (2010) 183 Cal.App.4th 723, 732 [affirming order denying certification on misclassification allegations where trial court found tasks performed by restaurant managers and time devoted to each task varied widely from restaurant to restaurant].)

Slip op., at 12.  The Court noted that the outcome was much like Arenas and Dunbar v. Albertson’s, Inc., 141 Cal. App. 4th 1422 (2006).

The outcome was driven by the standard of review.  The Court emphasized on several occasions that it couldn't second guess the trial court's decision to credit Big Lots' evidence over the plaintiffs' evidence:

In essentially rejecting the putative class representatives' evidentiary submission, the court observed that for more than half of the declarants the percentage of time estimated to have been spent on non-managerial, non-exempt duties was different from the estimates given in deposition testimony or statements to third party prospective employers.

Slip op., at 14, n. 10.  The trial court also credited the very individualized manager declarations submitted by Big Lots over the declarations from the plaintiffs.  The Court of Appeal found that that trial court did not abuse its discretion because substantial evidence supported the trial court's conclusion.  This is the anti-Sav-on.

District Court narrows but does not entirely decertify class alleging misclassification as exempt from overtime

United States District Court Judge Samuel Conti (Northern District of California) granted in part and denied in part Defendant Dollar Tree Stores, Inc.'s Motion to Decertify a class of store managers contending that they were misclassified as exempt from overtime.  Cruz v. Dollar Tree Stores, Inc., 2010 WL 3619800 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 9, 2010).  The facts and result here are interesting.

Dollar Tree requires its store managers to certify that they spend more than fifty percent of their actual work time each week performing tasks on a list of 17 items that are all arguably managerial-type duties. Dollar Tree's expert, Robert Crandall, MBA, analyzed employee task certifications comprising 29,431 workweeks during the class period.  The analysis shows that approximately 62 percent of store managers "always certified that they spent the majority of their workweeks on the seventeen managerial tasks, 2.5 percent reported that they never spent most of their time performing these tasks, and about 35 percent of SMs fall somewhere in between."  Slip op., at 2.

The Court then offered this interesting analysis:

In this case, unlike in Wells Fargo II, Whiteway, and Weigele, Plaintiffs have common proof of how SMs were actually spending their time. Plaintiffs can rely on the certification forms that SMs signed every week to, in the words of the Ninth Circuit, transform what would otherwise be an individual issue into a common one. See Wells Fargo I, 571 F.3d at 959. However, the Ninth Circuit's reasoning in Vinole and Wells Fargo I persuades the Court of the need to narrow the class definition to include only SMs who responded “no” on their certification forms during the class period. Narrowing the class in this way ensures that common issues will predominate over individual ones, and significantly lessens the risk that the class consists of both injured and uninjured parties.

In this case, Plaintiffs “must show that it is more likely than not that [Dollar Tree's] exemption as applied to [SMs] was a policy or practice of misclassification.” Marlo, 251 F.R.D. at 483. In order to make this showing, Plaintiffs can point to common evidence including Dollar Tree's decision to uniformly classify SMs as exempt, Dollar Tree's employment hierarchy and structure, its standardized policies and training procedures for SMs, the common tools it requires SMs to utilize, and, most importantly of all, the fact that SMs often certified on a weekly basis that they were not spending most of their time on managerial tasks. Dollar Tree's common policy of having SMs fill out weekly certifications obviates the need for much individual testimony from SMs concerning how they spent their time.

The Court is persuaded that common issues will predominate over individual ones only if it narrows the class to SMs who responded “no” at least once on the weekly payroll certification forms. According to Dollar Tree's analysis of certification forms comprising 29,431 workweeks, approximately 62 percent of SMs always certified that they spent a majority of their time performing managerial tasks. Crandall Decl. ¶¶ 15, 22-23. If the class were to continue to include SMs who always certified “yes,” then Plaintiffs would be required to show that these SMs were not always being truthful, and this issue could not be resolved without resorting to individualized inquiries that would quickly overwhelm the common issues in this case.

No such individualized inquiries are necessary if the Court focuses its attention on SMs who certified “no.” Dollar Tree classified this group of employees as exempt, yet they certified at least once that they were spending most of their time during particular workweeks performing non-managerial tasks. With regard to this group of employees, Plaintiffs can use the weekly payroll certifications and the other evidence of Dollar Tree's standardized practices and procedures in their attempt to convince the jury that “misclassification was the rule rather than the exception” at Dollar Tree. See Sav-On Drugs Stores, Inc. v.Super. Ct., 34 Cal.4th 319, 330, 17 Cal.Rptr.3d 906, 96 P.3d 194 (2004).

Slip op., at 6-7.  The Court then addressed what is, perhaps, the most obvious challenge to this approach:

Nonetheless, the Court recognizes that some SMs may have always certified “yes” even though they were not spending most of their time on managerial tasks. The Court does not want to preclude these SMs from pursuing their misclassification claims on an individual basis. The Court is willing to entertain a motion to equitably toll the statute of limitations on their misclassification claims so as to preserve their right to pursue individual claims against Dollar Tree. See Marlo, 251 F.R.D. at 476, 488 (after decertification of case, inviting parties to brief question of whether statute of limitations on plaintiff's individual claims should be tolled).

Slip op., at 8.  The balance of the opinion consists mostly of a discussion about the positions of the respective experts used by the parties.  While that is also an educational read, the Court's solution regarding the class definition (only those persons that certified at least once that they did not meet the 50% level) is worth taking the time to evaluate carefully.

Class certification denied to El Torito managers in misclassification suit

In other news, early reports now indicate that the Pope is Catholic.  Another day, another order denying certification in a misclassification suit is upheld.  More specifically, in Arenas, et al. v. El Torito Restaurants, Inc. (ord. pub. April 6, 2010), the Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District, Division Five) affirmed a trial court order denying certification to three subclasses of managerial employees at El Torrito restaurants.  At this point, misclassification suits have the feeling of an arms race where the defendant companies hold a significant technological lead.  Six years after all the excitement occasioned by Sav-On Drug Stores, Inc. v. Superior Court, 34 Cal. 4th 319 (2004), the upshot appears to be that, once a trial court picks a side, a Court of Appeal is unlikely to get involved.

In this particular decision, the Court relied heavily on a mix of California Supreme Court decisions and, somewhat disturbingly, a number of federal decisions.  For example, citing Marlo v. United Parcel Service, 251 F.R.D. 476 (C.D. Cal 2008), the Court said: 

The Marlo court identified the exact problem that this Court faces. Individual declarations submitted by the parties have anecdotal value but cannot be considered representative or common evidence. Specifically, the Marlo court stated the following:[¶] ‘Plaintiffs evidence is essentially individual testimony and an exemption policy. Under the circumstances in this case, where Plaintiff alleges that 1200 [class members] have been misclassified as exempt employees, Plaintiff had to provide common evidence to support extrapolation from individual experiences to a class-wide judgment that is not merely speculative. Plaintiff has not come forward with common proof sufficient to allow a fact-finder to make a class-wide judgment as to the class members. . . . Because Plaintiff lacks common experience, the Court has no confidence that the jury will be able to do anything but speculate as to a class-wide determination.’

Slip op., at 7.  The Court emphasized that it was not permitted to substitute its view of the evidence for the trial court's view:  "As the Supreme Court made clear in Sav-On Drug Stores, Inc., this court cannot now substitute its own judgment."  Slip op., at 12.

Plaintiffs appear to have argued that it is unfair to accept a uniform classification by defendant but require individualized proof of misclassification, an argument that has not been well received at the appellate level as of late.  The argument fared no better here: 

Plaintiffs argue defendants cannot on one hand assert they have determined, based on job activities, that all managers are exempt but on the other hand argue a court must examine each individual’s tasks to determine whether that person is exempt. This argument was answered in Campbell v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP (E.D.Cal. 2008) 253 F.R.D. 586, 603-604, as follows: “Some courts . . . have determined that it is unfair for an employer to ‘on the one hand, argue that all [class members] are exempt from overtime wages and, on the other hand, argue that the Court must inquire into the job duties of each [class member] in order to determine whether that individual is “exempt.”’ [Citation.] But, under Walsh [v. IKON Office Solutions, Inc. (2007) 148 Cal.App.4th 1440, 1461,] there is no estoppel effect given to an employer’s decision to classify a particular class of employees as exempt—whether right or wrong, or even issued in bad faith; instead, the only legally relevant issue to alleged misclassification is whether the exemption in fact applies. 

Slip op., at 13.  Continuing with the extensive quotations from Campbell, the Court of Appeal wrote: 

“It may be intuitively unfair to permit an employer, who has historically classified a particular group of employees as exempt based on a uniform rule, to argue in the context of litigation that the exemption inquiry will require an individualized analysis. But the assumption behind such an intuitively appealing argument is that an employer should somehow be bound by its prior position—which is foreclosed by Walsh. ‘[I]n resolving questions of California law, this court is bound by the pronouncement of the California Supreme Court . . . and the opinions of the California Courts of Appeal are merely data for determining how the highest California court would rule . . . [but] the opinion of the Court of Appeals on questions of California law cannot simply be ignored.’ [Citation.]” 

Slip op., at 14.  After Ramirez in particular, misclassification suits were in no small supply.  But the arms race was equalizing by the time Sav-On was decided, and it looks like the defense bar has pulled ahead in this area.  To make misclassification suits a legitimate mechanism for correcting classification errors on a class-wide basis, plaintiffs will need to find news ways to show trial courts that systemic misclassification errors are really correctable on a class-wide basis.