Conoco workers won’t get class-action status in W&H suit — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily
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Conoco workers won’t get class-action status in W&H suit

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A federal judge recently refused to certify a class-action suit in which workers at several California refiners sought to jointly sue ConocoPhillips Co. for failing to provide meal periods.

Finding that the Class Action Fairness Act does not provide a basis for jurisdiction, Judge Philip S. Gutierrez of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California remanded the case back to Los Angeles Superior Court where it was initially filed.

Three workers and the United Steelworkers union filed the suit in February of 2008 on behalf of employees at four ConocoPhillips refineries in Los Angeles, Santa Maria and Rodeo seeking damages and injunctive relief for failure to provide meal breaks.

Gutierrez  found that “there is no ‘reasonably foreseeable possibility’ that a class will be certified, given that plaintiffs have brought two unsuccessful certification motions and that insurmountable problems preclude certification ...”

According to Gutierrez, the proposed class met several requirements that would have permitted certification, but couldn’t overcome a basic shortcoming: proving that a class action would be the superior method for resolving the controversy.

Since ConocoPhillips has shown that some workers did often take meal breaks, Gutierrez ruled that a finder of fact could conclude that not all class members missed meal breaks. That means each plaintiff’s entitlement to damages would turn upon individual testimony.

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