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Northern District Rejects Stay of Meal and Rest Break Action Pending California Supreme Court’s Decision in Brinker v. Superior Court

In Meal and Rest Breaks, Stay on October 11, 2010 at 6:56 am
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The Northern District rejected defendant’s motion for stay of a meal and rest break action where the primary focus of complaint was unrelated to the break claims.  Murphy v. J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc., No. C 10-01568 WHA, 2010 WL 3911786 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 5, 2010) (slip op.).  Defendant J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc., moved to stay a case alleging three claims for discrimination and one claim for nonpayment of wages for regular meal-and-rest periods.  Id. *1.  Defendant’s stay motion sought a stay pending the resolution of a case pending before the California Supreme Court, Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, 196 P.3d 216 (Oct. 22, 2008), in which the court will decide whether the California Labor Code requires employers to affirmatively ensure that employees take rest and meal breaks. Id.

The court recited the standard for a stay of federal court proceedings as follows:

The proponent of a stay bears the burden of establishing its need. Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 708 (1997). In determining whether to stay an action three competing interests must be weighed: (1) the possible damage which may result from granting the stay; (2) the hardship or inequity which a party may suffer in being required to go forward; and (3) the orderly course of justice measured in terms of simplifying or complicating of issues, proof, and questions of law expected to result from a stay. CMAX, Inc. v. Hall, 300 F.2d 265, 268 (9th Cir. 1962).

Id.

The court found that defendant had not established its burden for any of the three competing interests. Id. *2.

First, the possible damage to plaintiff resulting from a stay is far greater than the potential damage to defendant. Plaintiff filed four claims against defendant, three of which related to employment discrimination. While the California Supreme Court is addressing a legal issue related to the fourth claim, the decision in Brinker will not impact the other three claims in this case whatsoever. Making plaintiff wait, potentially for several months, for a decision that will not impact the primary focus of plaintiff’s claims against defendant is prejudicial and damaging to plaintiff. Defendant argues that plaintiff will suffer little to no damage as a result of a stay, but this argument ignores the cost plaintiff must incur to wait to make his case in court.

Second, the hardship on defendant going forward is minimal. Defendant argues that additional substantial discovery relating to plaintiff’s fourth claim will be required without a stay. Plaintiff correctly points out, however, that additional discovery will actually be minimal because the facts of the instant case will not change. If Brinker is decided before this case ends and the California Supreme Court clarifies the California Labor Code in regard to meal-and-rest breaks, the parties can argue that standard in this case. During discovery, however, both parties must gather all the facts related to the fourth claim, and doing so will be necessary no matter how Brinker is resolved. The impact on defendant is minimal.

Third, the orderly course of justice is best served by moving forward. Defendant does not make a compelling argument as to why granting a stay would provide for better justice in this case. The potential prejudice to plaintiff is large if a stay is granted and the impact on defendant of moving forward without a stay is minimal. The time has come to proceed with this case.

Accordingly, the court denied defendant’s motion to stay.

Judge

District Judge William Alsup.

By CHARLES JUNG

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