A California federal district court recently denied a motion for class certification because the evidence presented in connection with the motion refuted plaintiffs’ attempted showing of commonality through uniform exposure to unlawful corporate policies.
Paragon provides security services to hundreds of federal government sites throughout California under contracts with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Services. The company was sued by current and former Paragon security officers, who sought to certify claims that Paragon deprived them of rest periods to which they were lawfully entitled.
Under California law, an employer may not require an employee to work during any meal or rest period. To satisfy commonality in support of their motion for class certification, plaintiffs highlighted two separate mandatory corporate policies that they claimed effected the denial of off-duty rest periods for all Paragon security officers within the putative class.
The first Paragon policy highlighted by plaintiffs was a “Rest and Meal Agreement,” which stated that Paragon would count and pay compensation for all required rest periods as if they were hours worked. For reasons not clearly articulated in the Court’s opinion, plaintiffs contended that the Agreement was a mandatory uniform policy depriving security officers of off-duty rest periods.
The Court saw things differently. Noting that the language of the Agreement was consistent with California law, the Court credited evidence showing that Paragon employees were not required to sign the Agreement, and even if they did, could opt out of the Agreement at any time.
The second Paragon policy highlighted by plaintiffs was a uniformly applied firearm policy requiring all security guards to carry Paragon-issued, loaded weapons during their entire shift at all California locations. Because California law prohibits security guards from carrying a firearm in public places other than where they are providing security guard services, plaintiffs contended that the Paragon firearm policy effectively prevents employees from taking a rest break that is not controlled by the employer.
Once again, the Court disagreed. The evidence showed that the written policy requiring firearms for all security officers actually applied to some, but not all, California locations, and the Court concluded that plaintiffs could not satisfy commonality without evidence of a uniform firearms policy applicable to all locations.
Accordingly, the Court denied plaintiffs motion for class certification for failure to satisfy the commonality requirement of Rule 23(a)(2), and also took the opportunity in its order to chastise plaintiffs for attempting to certify a Rule 23(b)(2) class improperly seeking compensatory damages, restitution, enhanced damages, and penalties that were not incidental to the injunctive relief also sought by plaintiffs.
Mireles v. Paragon Systems, Inc., No. 3:13-cv-00122 L (BGS) (S.D. Cal. Sept. 8, 2014).