On October 4, 2019, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed rulings by the District Court for the Northern District of California to decertify a rest break subclass and to deny class certification of meal break and off-the-clock subclasses in a long-running case brought by AutoZone employees.  In re: AutoZone, Inc., Wage and Hour Employment Practices Litigation, Case No. 3:10-md-02159-CRB.


Plaintiffs brought suit on behalf of a putative class of approximately 30,000 employees challenging AutoZone’s wage and hour practices for non-exempt employees in California.  On December 12, 2012, the district court granted plaintiffs’ motion for class certification as to the rest break subclass, but denied class certification as to all other subclasses. After three and a half years of discovery, on August 10, 2016, the district court decertified the rest break subclass.  The class representatives to the putative class subsequently settled their individual claims, but then appealed the district court’s class certification rulings to the Ninth Circuit.


The Ninth Circuit first rejected AutoZone’s challenge that the Court lacked jurisdiction over the named plaintiffs’ appeal because they had settled their individual claims against the Company.  The Court reasoned that because the parties’ settlement agreements expressly reserved claims for attorney’s fees and costs relating to class certification, the putative class representatives maintained a sufficient personal stake in the class litigation to appeal the district court’s denial of class certification.

Next, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision to decertify the rest break subclass because plaintiffs failed to show the existence of a uniform policy denying class members rest breaks. Specifically, the court highlighted the evidence submitted by AutoZone which called into question the existence of a uniform rest break policy that was consistently applied during the class period.  That evidence included: (1) statements in AutoZone’s employee handbooks that “[rest] breaks are scheduled in accordance with California law”; (2) declarations stating that California’s rest break law was posted in AutoZone’s stores throughout the class period; (3) a 2011 PowerPoint presentation informing employees of California’s rest break requirements; (4) a declaration describing AutoZone’s practice of encouraging employees to take breaks every two hours; and (5) declarations by putative class members attesting that they knew they were permitted to take their breaks in accordance with California law.  Without substantial evidence of a uniform policy, the Ninth Circuit reasoned that it would become necessary to determine in each individual case why a given employee missed a rest break, and that therefore individual, rather than common, questions would predominate.

The Ninth Circuit also determined that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying certification of the meal break and off-the-clock subclasses on predominance grounds. With respect to the meal break subclass, the Court noted that plaintiffs’ failure to present any evidence of a uniform policy requiring employees to work through their meal periods meant that individualized determinations regarding why any given employee missed a meal period would predominate. With respect to the off-the-clock subclass, the Court similarly noted that because AutoZone had a written policy prohibiting off-the-clock work during the class period, a determination of why some employees were under-compensated would also have entailed an employee-by-employee analysis.


This decision is a valuable win for employers who are faced with class actions claims that are vulnerable to certification on predominance grounds.  It also serves as a cautious reminder to employers who are settling individual claims with a class representative to ensure that the settlement agreement does not leave the door open for the settling plaintiff to continue to challenge class certification rulings.

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Photo of Edward Young Edward Young

Edward “Eddie” C. Young is a senior counsel in the Labor & Employment Law Department and a member of the following Firm practice groups: Restrictive Covenants & Trade Secrets; Discrimination, Harassment & Title VII; and Whistleblowing & Retaliation.

Eddie represents employers in all…

Edward “Eddie” C. Young is a senior counsel in the Labor & Employment Law Department and a member of the following Firm practice groups: Restrictive Covenants & Trade Secrets; Discrimination, Harassment & Title VII; and Whistleblowing & Retaliation.

Eddie represents employers in all aspects of employment law, with a concentration on litigating complex employment disputes of all types before federal and state courts throughout the country, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, state and local human rights commissions and arbitral tribunals (e.g., FINRA and AAA).  In particular, Eddie has successfully litigated employment-related disputes alleging breach of non-compete agreements, theft of trade secrets, discrimination, sexual harassment, whistleblower retaliation, wage and hour violations, including employee misclassification claims, breach of contract, defamation, fraud and other business-related torts.  Eddie has obtained a world-wide injunction to enforce a client’s non-competition restriction on a former executive, successfully defended a client through summary judgment and appeal against retaliation claims brought by a former General Counsel, represented Fortune 500 companies in defense of high-profile harassment claims associated with the #metoo movement, and provided representation to several professional sports leagues.  He also has significant appellate experience, including successfully representing clients before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the First, Second and Seventh Circuits, as well as before the United States Supreme Court.  Eddie often draws on his litigation experience to help clients avoid the courtroom by effectuating positive change in the workplace through impactful training, counseling and developing robust employment policies.

Working in a wide range of industries, Eddie represented clients in food services, financial services, medical devices, telecommunications, higher education, sports, retail, real estate and others.

Eddie has been recognized as “One to Watch” by Best Lawyers in America since 2021 and as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers since 2017. He also regularly advises clients, writes and speaks on cutting-edge legal issues, including the use of Artificial Intelligence in the workplace, and legal issues arising from the collection and use of employee biometric information.

Eddie maintains an active pro bono practice, including on-going representation of a certified class of approximately 65,000 visually disabled Chicagoans in litigation challenging the City’s lack of accessible pedestrian crosswalks.  Eddie is also a member of the Firm’s Pro-Bono Committee and is a three-time recipient of the Firm’s “Golden Gavel” award for his significant pro bono contributions.

Prior to joining Proskauer, Eddie was a cum laude graduate from Loyola University Chicago School of Law. He also obtained a Master’s Degree in Human Resources and Industrial Relations from Loyola University Chicago Graduate School of Business. He began his practice at a national management-side employment law firm, and has also worked in the corporate human resources department of a national tax consulting firm and as a Fellow with the Illinois Human Rights Commission.

Photo of Mark W. Batten Mark W. Batten

Mark W. Batten is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the Class & Collective Actions Group.

Mark represents employers nationwide at all stages of complex employment litigation, including class and collective actions on wage and hour matters…

Mark W. Batten is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the Class & Collective Actions Group.

Mark represents employers nationwide at all stages of complex employment litigation, including class and collective actions on wage and hour matters and discrimination claims. Ranked by Chambers USA, Mark is hailed as “a fabulous lawyer, handling interesting and complex cases.” Clients “highly recommend him to anyone seeking litigation counsel in the Boston area,” as well as note “he is responsive, pragmatic and team-oriented, and offers excellent legal advice.”

He assists clients with all aspects of employment policies and practices, including hiring, termination, leaves, accommodation of disabilities, and other matters. Mark also handles diverse civil litigation, including litigation of noncompetition agreements, ERISA matters, discrimination and wrongful termination litigation in federal and state courts; proceedings before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination; wage and hour matters; and labor arbitrations. He is also an experienced appellate attorney both in employment cases and other civil litigation, handling appeals at all levels in the state courts and in the United States Courts of Appeals.

Mark also has substantial experience with traditional labor matters. He regularly represents employers in a variety of industries, including a number of newspaper and media companies, in collective bargaining, practice before the NLRB, labor arbitrations, union organizing campaigns, and day-to-day advice on administration of collective bargaining agreements. He regularly advises clients in both union and non-union settings on diligence matters in corporate acquisitions and financings. He also has experience on behalf of securities firms in arbitrations before the NASD and NYSE of customer and employee complaints.

Mark also practices on behalf of newspapers and other media in newsroom litigation, including libel defense and representation of reporters under subpoena, and has substantial experience in litigation involving access to sealed records and judicial proceedings on behalf of media companies.

Before joining Proskauer, Mark was a trial attorney in the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, where he was lead counsel in major litigation for over two dozen federal agencies, ranging from the U.S. Air Force, the CIA, and the U.S. Secret Service to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Mark regularly writes and lectures on employment-related matters, including, for instance, MCLE’s Representing Clients Before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

In his spare time, Mark is an experienced computer programmer, conversant in C, C++, and other languages. He has ported software between computer operating systems and has published several commercial computer games.