COSTA MESA, Calif., November 15, 2013 – On November 6, the California Court of Appeal in Los Angeles affirmed a 2012 Superior Court ruling favoring Overhill Farms, Inc. of Los Angeles. That ruling had denied class action status to a lawsuit filed on behalf of several thousand of the company’s current and former employees.
Overhill Farms was represented by attorneys from Rutan & Tucker, LLP, one of California’s largest full-service law firms, led by Partner Mark J. Payne, with assistance from associate Brandon Sylvia and other members of the Firm’s Employment Law Department.
Former employees of the frozen food company filed the lawsuit on July 1, 2009 shortly after they lost their jobs for using invalid social security numbers in connection with their employment. They claimed that Overhill Farms did not pay employees for the time it took them to put on and remove protective clothing required for their jobs and washing their hands before and after working, along with other alleged violations of labor regulations. The company denied the allegations.
The plaintiffs sought to represent several thousand current and former production workers, and filed a motion to certify the case as a class action and to appoint themselves as representatives of the class. In a 39-page opinion, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision to deny class certification. The Court concluded that Overhill Farms submitted substantial evidence to show that it did not have any uniform, company-wide policies to short-change or underpay its employees. As a result, the plaintiffs had no basis to proceed with their allegations on a class-wide basis.
As chairperson of Rutan’s Employment and Labor Section, Mr. Payne handles a wide variety of employment-related litigation and counseling on behalf of the Firm’s employer clients, including class actions; wrongful discharge, discrimination, harassment and retaliation; executive compensation and related disputes; workplace investigations; and compliance with the many workplace laws and regulations that apply to employers. He also has extensive experience with unfair competition and protection of trade secrets, helping companies in a variety of industries to protect their information assets and resources through the use of effective policies, enforceable agreements and, when necessary, litigation.
Mr. Sylvia’s practice involves representing and counseling employers in all areas of employment law, including harassment, workplace discrimination, terminations, employment agreements, leaves of absence, wage and hour issues, trade secrets, unfair competition, accommodating disabilities, and employment policies and procedures.
“Our congratulations to our client Overhill Farms and to the Rutan team on this important victory in the Court of Appeal,” said Kim Thompson, Rutan’s managing partner.
About Overhill Farms
Overhill Farms, Inc. (www.OverhillFarms.com) is a value-added supplier of custom high quality prepared frozen foods for branded retail, private label foodservice and airline customers. Its product line includes entrées, plated meals, bulk-packed meal components, pastas, soups, sauces, poultry, meat and fish specialties, as well as organic and vegetarian offerings. The Company’s capabilities give its customers a one-stop solution for new product development, precise replication of existing recipes, product manufacturing and packaging. Its customers include prominent nationally recognized names such as Jenny Craig, Inc., Safeway Inc., Panda Restaurant Group, Inc., Pinnacle Foods Group LLC and American Airlines, Inc. The Company also sells frozen foods under the Boston Market brand, under an exclusive license from Boston Market Corporation.
About Rutan & Tucker LLP
Rutan & Tucker is Orange County’s largest full-service law firm with offices in Costa Mesa and Palo Alto. Primary practice areas include corporate and securities law, business, real estate and intellectual property litigation, labor and employment law, intellectual property, real estate, government and regulatory law, land use law, bankruptcy, condemnation and property valuation, environmental law, and taxation and estate planning. Detailed information about the firm is available at www.rutan.com