MURIETTA, Calif. — A group of general managers for Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurants were denied class certification in a wage suit filed by a former general manager, Richard Sinohui, alleging violations of California labor law. Sinohui worked in one of the restaurant’s Murietta, California locations and sought to represent a class including all general managers in California dating back to October 2010 who were classified as exempt employees. He alleged two claims against the restaurant: first, that it forced exempt employees to perform nonexempt work due to understaffing and, secondly, that it failed to reimburse the managers for expenses.
Certification Denied as to Misclassification
The federal court issued an order granting in part and denying in part the certification petition. With respect to misclassification, the plaintiff claims that the restaurant’s owner deliberately misclassified him and other managers as exempt even though they spent the majority of their time doing nonexempt work. He claims that the company’s policies and focus on efficiency required managers to cut hourly employee work hours and to cover their meal and rest breaks. Therefore, general managers were essentially required to spend most of their time performing the same kind of work as hourly employees.
However, the judge stated it was unclear how the company’s policies uniformly required general manager to primarily engage in nonexempt work and that the the amount of time managers spent on these tasks actually varied from employee to employee. The company may have expected that general managers perform some nonexempt duties, the plaintiff failed to show that their experiences are uniform such that there are common questions that would support class certification. The federal court also found that the declarations submitted by 54 general managers did not provide any indication of how they calculated the percentages of their time spent on their duties. Those who submitted declarations were apparently unable to explain how they estimated or calculated the time spent on exempt duties.
Class Certification Granted for Expense Reimbursement
The plaintiff’s complaint also alleges that he was required to use his personal cell phone while working for the restaurant to speak to his supervisor and to access the restaurant sales system. However, the complaint claims that Chuck E. Cheese’s failed to pay him back for his phone costs. Additionally, the restaurant failed to reimburse him for mileage expenses that he was owed for having to drive his car frequently during the course of his regular duties, which included going to the bank and attending meetings. The federal court granted class certification for these expense reimbursement claims, finding that the restaurant’s policies may have resulted in the manager’s incurring these reimbursable expenses.
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