The class action lawsuit filed in late 2011 by Goyette & Associates against Sacramento County for employees at the Wastewater Treatment Plant in Elk Grove is now moving forward with discovery, leading to a motion to certify the class covered by this case. After the lawsuit was filed, the County filed their Answer, and the case was assigned to the complex litigation department within the Sacramento County Superior Court under the Honorable Judge Raymond Cadei, attorneys for the Plaintiffs and the County appeared before Judge Cadei at a Case Management Conference (CMC) in July. Following this CMC the parties engaged in a cooperative exchange of information to ensure that both sides understood the facts and law at issue. After nearly four months of these efforts at a potential ‘early settlement’ of the lawsuit, however, the County has decided to cease any such efforts and instead intends to file a motion for judgment on the pleadings (MJOP), based on the belief that some or all of the law at issue does not apply to public employees, or that the Plaintiffs have not ‘exhausted their administrative remedies’ prior to filing the lawsuit.
Prior Wastewater Treatment Plant employees Steve Cox, Vern Simunek and Michael Bradbury are acting as the named Plaintiffs in this class action, on behalf of all ‘similarly situated’ County employees working at the Plant. The lawsuit was filed and is being pursued to seek overtime pay and/or minimum wage pay for unpaid time at the start of work shifts during which Plant employees perform tasks required by the County. Specifically, pay is sought for the time incurred by employees – – long after their commute to work has ended – – putting on (or ‘donning’) the protective gear required by the County to be donned at the Plant and worn at the Plant, checking out required radios, having required ‘exchanges’ of information with supervisors and/or the employees just ending their shifts, and traveling to their assigned posts at the Plant. No pay (straight time or overtime) is provided by the County for any of these required tasks; instead, the employees’ paid shifts begin at the predetermined shift start time when they are required to be at their assigned posts.
Gary G. Goyette, the attorney leading class action and wage & hour cases for Goyette & Associates, is both disappointed the County has chosen to abandon early settlement efforts, but is confident in the facts and law supporting the case: “It’s no different than many of the cases I have handled during this economic recession; employers cut corners to save money, and in doing so violate the applicable wage and hour laws. Here, there is no dispute that the pre-shift tasks are required by the County and are done for the benefit of the County – – yet somehow the County believes the time incurred should be ‘donated’ by the employees and the tasks should be done for free. This case is also no different than all the other cases where early settlement is ultimately rejected by the employer, and the employer ends up paying far more than what would have been paid in settlement at the close of the case.”
The Goyette & Associates’ Blog will provide ongoing updates, including the amount spent by the County defending this case, as the litigation progresses.