In a recent victory for employers, a California appellate court agreed that a group of account managers could not pursue their overtime claims as a class. In Walsh v. IKON Office Solutions, Inc., plaintiffs Ryan Walsh and Kevin Miller sought to represent a class of IKON employees who allegedly worked more than eight hours in a day and forty hours in a week without overtime pay. The trial court initially allowed the employees to pursue the claims, including for account managers who were allegedly misclassified as exempt from overtime wage laws. Shortly before trial, at IKON's request, the court reassessed its prior determination and held that the plaintiffs could not represent a class of account managers.
On appeal, the court agreed class treatment was inappropriate because individual questions of fact and law were too prevalent to resolve the claims of the class as a whole. For instance, the performance of tasks alleged to be common to all account managers actually varied significantly among individuals and offices, depending on the manager's territory, number of customers and job orders, support staff, and personal approach to each account.
This decision provides employers an excellent tool to challenge plaintiffs' attempts–which are growing more and more frequent–to leverage individual wage and hour claims into class actions.