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August 2012

Los Angeles Employment Team Wins Decertification of Wage and Hour Class Action

Los Angeles partners Steve Ronk and Mollie Burks-Thomas, senior counsel Michelle Steinhardt and associate Erika Shao, in conjunction with an appellate team from the Gibson Dunn firm, recently secured an order decertifying a 13,000+ California class of security guards for their client, a world-wide provider of security services.  The plaintiff class alleged they had been denied off-duty meal periods and rest breaks, and had been provided inadequate wage statements.  Following years of litigation, the class was certified in early 2010.  The class period spanned nearly 10 years and alleged damages, interest, and attorneys' fees in excess of $100 million.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 1 in which the court unanimously disapproved of the “trial by formula” approach in class actions, and with trial imminent, the Gordon & Rees team suggested the bid for decertification.  The client agreed and brought the appellate team who successfully argued Wal-Mart before the U.S. Supreme Court in as co-counsel to assist with the decertification motion.

After extensive briefing and oral argument, followed by plaintiffs’ unsuccessful reconsideration efforts, the Los Angeles County Superior Court issued its order decertifying the class, ruling that the change in law (Wal-Mart) required it to revisit its previous certification order, and further ruling, that in light of the extensive evidence gathered by the Gordon & Rees team, a trial of the case would be unmanageable. 

1 Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes (2011) 564 U.S. ___ [131 S.Ct 2541]


Stephen E. Ronk
Erika L. Shao