Bench Rejects $575K Settlement in AT&T Employee’s Wage and Hour Class Action

An order issued on Monday by a Fresno, Calif. federal judge said the plaintiff representing a class of AT&T retail store employees was not actually a class member and therefore denied preliminary approval. The case is a wage and hour class action accusing AT&T Mobility Services LLC of multiple violations of state labor law including miscalculating wages, underpayment, and recordkeeping violations.

Previously, the Eastern District of California mostly denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss. Thereafter the parties engaged in discovery, during which the plaintiff sought sanctions against AT&T, claiming that the company was stonewalling its efforts.

In March, after the parties reached agreement, the named plaintiff, an AT&T employee who ended his employment with the wireless provider in 2018, moved for preliminary approval of the $575,000 settlement. In his motion, the plaintiff made mention of another class action settlement that recently received final approval, releasing AT&T of claims from impacted workers up until November 2021.

As such, the instant case sought certification of a class of California workers who were impacted by AT&T’s allegedly illegal payment practices from November 2021 to the present.

In this week’s opinion, Judge Jennifer L. Thurston reviewed what a party must show in order to receive preliminary approval of a proposed settlement, noting that “‘[a] bedrock requirement running through the Rule 23(a) framework is that class certification is not appropriate unless one or more class representatives actually belong to the proposed class.”

The court explained that because the sole named plaintiff ended his employment with AT&T well before the class period began, he “clearly cannot be a member of the class.” As such, the plaintiff could neither satisfy the typicality nor the adequacy requirement.

The plaintiff is represented by Bradley/Grombacher LLP and Law Offices of Sahag Majarian II. AT&T is represented by Paul Hastings LLP.