District Court certifies a class of Penske Logistics delivery drivers and installers

United States District Court Judge Janis Sammartino (Southern District of California) granted plaintiff's motion to certify a class of California-based logistics employees that drove delivery trucks or rode along as installation helpers.  Dilts v. Penske Logsiticcs, LLC (S.D. Cal. Apr. 26, 2010) 2010 WL 1709807.  The analysis was long but not unusual in the wage & hour setting.  The Court offered these comments about its decision to certify the meal period subclass:

The first issue to deal with is the employer's obligation with respect to meal periods under California law. The legal uncertainty about this issue has been a recent source of heartburn for courts. Although it is presently before the California Supreme Court in Brinker Restaurant v. Superior Court, until that decision has issued this Court must proceed as best it can.

As such, the Court finds that California meal break law requires an employer to affirmatively act to make a meal period available where the employee are relieved of all duty. See Cicairos v. Summit Logistics, Inc., 133 Cal.App.4th 949, 35 Cal.Rptr.3d 243, 252-53 (Cal.Ct.App.2006) (“[T]he defendant's obligation to provide the plaintiffs with an adequate meal period is not satisfied by assuming that the meal periods were taken, because employers have ‘an affirmative obligation to ensure that workers are actually relieved of all duty.’ ”); Brown v. Fed. Express Corp., 249 F.R.D. 580, 585 (C.D.Cal.2008) (“It is an employer's obligation to ensure that its employees are free from its control for thirty minutes.”). An illusory meal period, where the employer effectively prevents an employee from having an uninterrupted meal period, does not satisfy this requirement. Cicairos, 35 Cal.Rptr.3d at 252-53; Brown, 249 F.R.D. at 585. However, the employee is not required to use the provided meal period.

Slip op., at 11.