As published in 

Ma Labs Workers Pocket Class Cert. In Time-Shaving Suit

 

By Kat Greene

 

Law360, Los Angeles (October 10, 2014, 4:58 PM EDT) -- A California judge certified a class of workers alleging that information technology distributor Ma Laboratories Inc. was shaving time off their hours worked, finding Thursday that workers are under their employers’ control as soon as they are on the clock, even if they aren’t doing any actual work.

Judge Peter H. Kirwan certified the class and its division into several subclasses depending on the type of work that was done or the time worked, according to the decision.

The court found that even workers who are sitting around at the beginning of their shifts smoking cigarettes and waiting for instructions are considered on the clock and working and must be paid, according to the decision.

“Even those who are waiting for instructions in the morning are clocked in and subject to Ma Labs’ control,” Judge Kirwan wrote in Thursday’s decision. “Under plaintiffs’ theory, this still constitutes ‘hours worked’ for purposes of compensation, and the necessary findings can be made from the timekeeping alone.”

The plaintiffs say that Ma Labs has a set start and end time for each worker depending on their schedule. If they clock in before that time starts or clock out after it ends, the extra time must be approved and manually changed by an administrator in the system, according to court records.

The company doesn’t always give workers pay for the extra time if they arrive early or stay late, but it does dock their pay if they show up late or clock out early, the workers contend.

Preshift time was rarely, if ever, approved, and post-shift time was rarely approved unless it was more than 10 minutes, the workers say.

Ma argued that the plaintiffs couldn’t show that each individual worker wasn’t incorrectly reporting his or her time, or the separate reasons for each individual’s extra-time denials, according to court records.

The company also argued that workers would sometimes swipe their cards to clock in then stop to eat breakfast rather than start work right away.

The class list includes more than 550 employees, the majority of whom worked at Ma Labs’ San Jose headquarters, according to court records.

The plaintiffs' attorney Xinying Valerian of Sanford Heisler LLP said they’re thrilled with the decision.

“It will allow these employees to stand together, as a group, and demand the wages they are owed,” Valerian said. “Many of these employees are immigrants who speak limited English, working for minimum wage and trying to support their families. Now, they will have their trial after years of hard-fought victories.”

An attorney for Ma Labs did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

The plaintiffs are represented by Xinying Valerian of Sanford Heisler LLP and Edward D. Chapin of Chapin Fitzgerald LLP.

The defendants are represented by Randall C. Creech of Creech Liebow & Kraus PC, Christine H. Long of Berliner Cohen, and Craig A. Hansen of the Law Offices of Craig Hansen.

The case is Tian et al. v. Ma Laboratories Inc. et al., case number 1-11-cv-195373, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Santa Clara.

--Editing by Edrienne Su.