Prior convictions prevent man from serving as class representative

By Gabriel Neves | Oct 11, 2018

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) – A solar panel worker who had class certification denied by a superior court has lost his appeal of the decision.

Judge Elwood Lui, on the bench of the California 2nd District Court of Appeal, Division Two issued a 27-page ruling on Sept. 28 affirming the Los Angeles County Superior Court decision in the lawsuit filed by James Payton against CSI Electrical Contractors Inc. and First Solar Inc.

Payton filed a putative class action suit alleging wage and hour violations while working on a solar farm project in San Luis Obispo.

As stated in the ruling, Payton "was hired on May 22, 2012, by CSI as an electrical and construction worker to work on the Topaz Solar Farm," claiming he was "'effectively terminated' less than a month later on June 14, 2012."

The companies told the court, per the ruling, that they "provided buses that transported employees from employee parking lots to the jobsite," and that trip could take "up to an hour and a half." Payton stated that the companies "were obligated under certain union contracts to pay travel time for employees who took these buses," the ruling says.

The ruling also mentioned that Payton "asserted class claims for the alleged failure to pay travel time, including claims for overtime compensation where warranted," as he also claimed that CSI and First Solar "violated applicable regulations governing rest periods and meal breaks by tacking the second of the required two daily rest breaks onto the end of the mid-day meal period," as well as of a "violation on behalf of employees who worked shifts longer than six hours."

The companies denied Payton's claims, stating in the ruling that "declarations from numerous employees testifying that they always received afternoon breaks separate from the lunch break," the ruling states. They also denied the travel pay claim, stating, per the decision, that "travel pay was preempted by federal law because it involved the alleged interpretation and breach of a collective bargaining agreement."

The lower court decided that Payton was not suitable class representative for either of the claims, as prior convictions for "lascivious acts" with a minor and a sentence for a felony marijuana sale disqualified him, the ruling states.

In his ruling, Lui criticized Payton's argument while searching for a new class representative, stating that "the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Payton’s request to amend the complaint made only after respondents challenged his qualifications as a class representative in opposing the motion to certify the class."

California 2nd District Court of Appeal, Division Two case number B284065

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