Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Class Action Denied in Wal-mart Oral Contract Claim

The Court of Appeals reverses the trial court's certification of a class of as many as 350,000 employees. The plaintiffs' claim was a "common oral contractual obligation to provide rest and meal breaks and to pay hourly employees for all work performed' and a breach of that contract. The Court held that the individual formation and breach of each contract would predominate over any common issues. In addition, the court rejected the novel attempt of the plaintiffs to use the 'pattern or practice' method of proving their claim of working off the clock. Allowing it would have permitted the plaintiffs to prove the claim on a 'class' basis based on statistics and surveys resulting in a presumption of liability for each individual. The court found that such a method which has been used for Title VII discrimination cases was not appropriate in a contract case. Finally, the court found that the plaintiffs did not show that a class action was the superior method for adjudication of the controversy. Instead, the court noted the availability of the Texas Payday Act for such claims. Wal-mart Stores, Inc. v. Lopez (Ct. App. - 14th 11/14/02).

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