In a mixed ruling, a California state court judge in Villegas v. Six Flags Entertainment Corp., Case No. BC505344, issued a decision last week denying certification of eight subclasses of amusement park workers, but indicating she would consider certification of several others pending further briefing.
Basis of Complaint
In 2013, a group of four plaintiffs filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking to represent a class of current and former Six Flags Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor employees who worked at the parks. The complaint accused Six Flags of a series of state labor law violations, including the failure to pay employees overtime wages, provide mandatory meal and rest breaks or proper seating. The named plaintiffs held positions such as ride mechanics, ride operators, and game attendants.
Last year, the plaintiffs moved for class certification. Magic Mountain opposed the motion, arguing there was a complete lack of evidence of common issues requiring certification. In doing so, it argued, in part, that during the relevant time period, it employed more than 25,000 employees in 255 positions within 25 separate departments (and thus, common proof was missing).
During oral argument last week, the judge issued a tentative decision denying certification of the bulk of the subclasses, drawing protests from plaintiffs’ counsel. A particular point of contention concerned a “shaved time” subclass (a class consisting of workers whose wages were not fully paid) and a “walking time” subclass (a class consisting of workers who were not compensated for time spent walking to break areas). Based upon the preliminary ruling, the judge rejected these arguments citing the individualized nature of the issues, but took the matter under submission.
Not So Fast: Certification of Additional Classes Will Be Considered
Perhaps thinking that everyone deserves a chance to walk away a winner, the judge ordered additional briefing on three subclasses: a rounding subclass (where employees’ hours were manually reduced) and two regular rate subclasses (where employees’ overtime rates were based on their hourly rates, and not on their “regular rate of pay”). In doing so, the judge did not indicate which way she was leaning.
While drawing comparisons between an amusement park and any other employer may be difficult, one key takeaway is clear: arguing the practical application of an employer’s business practices to the proposed subclass should lay at the forefront of any certification opposition. Indeed, showing a lack of commonality across a proposed subclass through representative examples can make or break an opposition to certification. So keep your eye on the brass ring.