Court refuses to certify class in Queen of the Valley Medical Center wage, hour suit

By Dee Thompson | Feb 9, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO — An appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling, denying class certification in a case alleging wage and hour violations by Queen of the Valley Medical Center (QVMC) and concluding "individualized issues predominate and the claims cannot be proven efficiently as a class."

“In their certification motion, appellants seek to certify a class of every nonexempt hourly employee who received a pay stub since November 2010," according to the California 1st District Court of Appeals, 4th Division opinion. "They describe this class as 'purely derivative ... of the wage claims.' The trial court found that because class certification was not appropriate for the overtime or meal break classes, there was no basis to certify the wage statement class which was derivative of the other wage claims. We agree.” 

QVMC is a full-service hospital with 94 departments, according to the opinion. Michael Lampe and Karen McNair, plaintiffs and appellants, are nurses working at QVMC. In 2011, McNair became a relief charge nurse and determines when to provide meal breaks for the nurses she supervises. She previously worked 8-hour shifts in the operating room. Lampe works 12-hour shifts in the mother-child services department. 

Lampe and McNair have filed multiple versions of their complaint in this action in three different counties. The current complaint, filed in Napa County, is the fourth amended class-action complain and alleges seven causes of action.

Among the allegations, Lampe and McNair allege the hospital has unlawful wage-and-hour policies. According to the court’s opinion, “They allege QVMC does not properly compensate AWS employees who work short shifts as required by California Code of Regulations, title 8, section 11050, subdivision 3(B)(2) (Wage Order No. 5-01(B)(2)).  They contend that QVMC has no written policy to inform employees that they are entitled to overtime if they are flexed off their shift.” 

Lampe and McNair also argue QVMC failed to properly calculate employees’ regular rate of pay and assert QVMC required employees to waive one of their two meal periods if they worked a 12-hour shift.

Lampe has alleged that when he works a 12-hour shift he isn’t always given a second meal break as required by law. However, others testified that the hospital compensates employees who don’t take a second meal break when they are entitled to one.

Lampe voluntarily signed a meal period waiver, stating he requested to take his first meal break at the end of his sixth hour or later and waived the second meal break. 

According to the court order, "McNair typically works an eight-hour shift, so she did not sign a meal break waiver. McNair testified that when she is the relief charge nurse, if a nurse refuses to take a break, she instructs the nurse to put 'no break' on their timesheet so they can be paid a premium for the missed break." 

After conducting a hearing, the trial court issued an order denying the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. There were three classes and three subclasses proposed. 

According to the court order, “The trial court concluded that with the meal period claims, every member of the class would be required to litigate numerous and substantial questions regarding his or her right to recover, which depended on the department the employee worked in, the shift she or he had, whether a meal waiver had been signed, and the circumstances leading up to any meal waiver.”

In other words, the claims of the plaintiff were not substantially similar enough to certify a class. “The evidence presented disclosed a great variety in how meal periods are scheduled in different departments,” the court’s opinion notes.

Lampe and McNair are represented by the Law Office of Joseph Antonelli, Joseph Antonelli and Janelle C. Carney; and the  Law Office of Kevin T. Barnes, Kevin T. Barnes and Gregg Lander.

The defendants are represented by Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, Derek R. Havel, Daniel J. McQueen, and Matthew A. Tobias.

Judge John W. Kennedy wrote the opinion, with Judges Ignazio Ruvolo and Maria P. Rivera concurring.

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