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The California Supreme Court will determine the fate of one of the most popular, and feared, types of lawsuits facing employers. On Wednesday, the justices agreed to review a decision that said wage-and-hour claims can’t be brought as class actions. Sav-On v. Superior Court (Rocher), S106718, is being closely watched by employment attorneys. Over the past couple of years, wage-and-hour class actions — in which employees claim they were deprived of overtime pay because they were improperly classified as managers — have become increasingly common. And the potential liabilities for businesses have grown alongside them. Last summer, Farmers Insurance Co. was found liable for $90 million, and Pacific Bell is reported to have settled a wage-and-hour case for $35 million in December. The 2nd District created a buzz when it decided Sav-On earlier this year because it was the first time an appeals court had ruled that class certification was not appropriate in a wage-and-hour case. According to the court of appeal, the job descriptions of 1,400 Sav-On employees were so different that, regardless of their titles, the employees did not constitute a class. “You can’t have a class action simply because you think it’s a procedural mechanism that would be advantageous,” said Rex Heinke, a partner at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld who is representing Sav-On. “The important thing here, that we argued successfully in the court of appeal, is that the employees in question do not perform the same tasks for the same amounts of time because the stores involved are so different.” Riordan, an appellate specialist who most recently represented Marjorie Knoller in the high-profile dog mauling case, acknowledged that he is best known for his criminal work. But he said that he’s hardly a stranger to civil cases, having taught courses on civil appeals and having handled other civil appeals. Meanwhile, the California Supreme Court’s decision to review Sav-On means that the case can no longer be cited as binding precedent. Two weeks ago, a judge in Sonoma County, Calif., cited Sav-On in tentatively denying class certification in another wage-and-hour case. All of the justices voted to review Sav-On except Janice Rogers Brown, who was absent and didn’t participate.

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