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November 2012

Gordon & Rees Partner George Acero Wins Summary Judgment in Case Involving Layoffs at Napa Winery

On Nov. 2, Gordon & Rees partner George Acero prevailed on summary judgment in Mosley, et al. v. St. Supery Vineyards and Winery, et al. 
 

In Mosley, a Napa winery laid off all full-time employees in its bottling department due to an inability to find sufficient outside clients to supplement its internal bottling work. Two laid-off employees sued, alleging they were laid off due to their age and asserting wage-and-hour claims. Gordon & Rees moved for summary judgment as to all causes of action alleged by each plaintiff.
 
The plaintiffs conceded that the financial situation justified layoffs, but argued the winery should have transferred the plaintiffs to other positions and laid off younger employees instead. The Napa County Superior Court found this contention unpersuasive and insufficient to establish a prima facie case of age discrimination: “The fact that two out of the two employees defendant laid off were over the age of forty and possessed skills that may have qualified them for positions held by younger employees in other departments simply does not give rise to an inference of discrimination.” The Court also dismissed the plaintiffs’ disparate-impact discrimination claims due to their failure to establish a prima facie case under that legal theory.
 
One of the plaintiffs, who alleged she was denied meal and rest periods, testified that she voluntarily missed meal or rest periods. Gordon & Rees argued that Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court (2012) 53 Cal. 4th 1004 doomed those claims. The Court found the plaintiff failed to create a triable issue of material fact on the winery’s evidence that she voluntarily missed meal and rest periods: “Although plaintiff purports to dispute defendant’s evidence in this regard, none of the evidence she presents is actually contrary to that presented by defendant.” The other plaintiff also failed to create a triable issue of material fact on her contention that she was misclassified as an exempt employee.
 
For the full order, please click here.


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