On October 27, 2011, the Honorable Philip S. Gutierrez granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification in a case brought by approximately six hundred Operators and Lab Workers who work at three ConocoPhillips petroleum refineries located in California. The workers, represented by Hadsell Stormer Richardson & Renick and Gilbert & Sackman, were required to work twelve hour shifts without being allowed to leave their units and subject to interruptions at any time, violating California's law against "on-duty" meal periods. Read the order here.
There were two classes certified: 1) all former, current, and future non-exempt hourly employees of Conoco who, at any time since February 15, 2004, worked as an operator on a shift schedule at a Conoco petroleum refinery located in Los Angeles, Santa Maria, or Rodeo, California; and 2) all former, current, and future non-exempt hourly employees of Conoco who, at any time since February 15, 2004, through June 8, 2009, worked in the laboratory on a shift schedule at a Conoco petroleum refinery located in Los Angeles, Santa Maria, or Rodeo, California.
Attorney Randy Renick notes that "the court's ruling affirms what the workers have known for some time, that a break isn't a break when the employee is required to keep working."
This decision follows an appeal of Judge Gutierrez' previous denial of class certification. Judge Gutierrez denied certification the first time around based on the possibility that plaintiffs would not prevail on their 'on duty' theory. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that a district court may not "decline to certify [a] class on the basis of a mere potentiality that may or may not be realized." United Steel Workers v. ConocoPhillips Co, 593 F.3d 802, 810 (9th Cir. 2010). Instead, a district court must consider whether "plaintiffs' actual legal theory" is one in which common issues of law or fact predominate over individual questions. Id. at 808.
Plaintiffs are represented by Randy Renick and Anne Richardson of Hadsell Stormer Richardson & Renick, LLP and Robert Cantore and Josh Young of Gilbert & Sackman. The case is United Steel Workers v. ConocoPhillips Co., CV 08-2068 PSG (FFMx).