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Summary of Lawsuit
In this lawsuit, a union and some of its members are suing ConocoPhillips for allegedly failing to provide proper meal breaks at various facilities in California. California meal break law requires that employers provide employee a 30 minute unpaid meal break for every 5 hours of work. ConocoPhillips is essentially arguing that the employees all agreed to work 12 hour shifts and were free to take meals breaks whenever they wanted, the time was just not deducted from their pay. That is, the employee would eat the meal "on the clock" while at the same time not performing any work.
The following are "facts" that ConocoPhillips considers relevant to the lawsuit: ("Covarrubias" is one of the plaintiffs)
Fact #55. "Covarrubias often makes himself breakfasts of bacon and eggs." -- Note the Local Rule for requires only "material facts" to be listed. Defendant's attorneys just waste the Courts time with such worthless and irrelevant "facts."
Fact #56 "Covarrubias testified that he often makes himself lunches or dinners of macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, or steak." Another "material" fact. Maybe they should tell us whether he likes his steaks rare or well done. And what condiments does he like on the hot dogs?
Some District Courts are so fed up with attorneys that put in such irrelevant "facts" that they put a cap on the number of facts that can be listed. For instance, the Northern District of Illinois limits the total number to 80 facts. (See Local Rule 56.1). Note the comment where the Court notes that " The judges’ observation is that in the vast majority of cases, a limit of 80 asserted statements of fact and 40 assertions of additional statements of fact will be more than sufficient to determine whether the case is appropriate for summary judgment." Of course, this case is being handled in the Central District of California, so ConocoPhillips feels the need to inundate the judge with worthless and irrelevant facts.
Of course, ConocoPhillips "facts" are not the only thing that is bloated. Their motion for summary judgment is 24 pages long. It is full of worthless and irrelevant information and argument. Ultimately, none of ConocoPhillips bloated arguments were accepted by the Judge, and he denied their motion for summary judgment. The judge noted that the central issue of the case was "whether 'the nature of the work prevents an employee from being relieved of all duty.'" Not surprisingly, the fact that one of the Plaintiffs liked hot dogs was not central to this holding.
The judge did note that ConocoPhillips was talking out of both sides of its mouth. In particular, ConocoPhillips argued that the nature of the work did indeed require the employee to be "on duty" at all times. However, in a different motion, Defendant had argued just the opposite and said that the employees' job duties were interchangeable and that one employee could cover another employee's shift. In particular, the judge noted that "Defendant contradicted its current position by arguing that 'the skill level of each employee . . . impacts how interchangeable unit employees are for one another. Thus, if an Operator is on a break there may well be other Operators who can respond to an issue." It certainly is odd to see that the best argument against a party's position was actually argued by that same party. However, the judge picked right up on ConocoPhillips' attempt to have it both ways and properly denied the motion.