Pereira v. Gate Gourmet, Inc., 2009 WL 177591 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 26, 2009)

Airplane food…some of the finest in the land.  Want to know why?  Apparently, the people who make it are not paid enough.

Stewardess: Can I get you something?

First Jive Dude: ‘S’mofo butter layin’ me to da’ BONE! Jackin’ me up… tight me!

Stewardess: I’m sorry, I don’t understand.

Second Jive Dude: Cutty say ‘e can’t HANG!

Old Lady: Oh stewardess! I speak jive.

Stewardess: Oh, good.

Old Lady: He said that he’s in great pain and he wants to know if you can help him.

Stewardess: All right. Would you tell him to just relax and I’ll be back as soon as I can with some medicine?

Old Lady: Jus’ hang loose, blood. She gonna catch ya up on da’ rebound on da’ med side.

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In Gate Gourmet, a class of ex-employees of the airline food company sued in California state court alleging that Gate Gourmet took too long to pay them after they quit or were terminated, in violation of certain provisions of the California Labor Code.

The decision focused on whether Gate Gourmet had met its burden to establish that the amount in controversy exceeded $5 million, based on evidence of the number of employees affected, average wage, average hours worked, and the number of days payment was delayed, which determines the amount of the statutory penalty.

The court accepted Gate Gourmet’s evidence that there were approximately 3,700 class members who had quit or been terminated from Gate Gourmet in California since October, 2004. The court also accepted Gate Gourmet’s estimates of roughly $10 an hour for the average wage, and eight hours for the average day worked.

However, the court questioned whether Gate Gourmet had established, based on the allegations in the complaint, that the plaintiffs were seeking penalties for all class members for the maximum delay (30 days) for which penalties could be awarded under the statute. According to the complaint, Gate Gourmet had a practice of paying former employees on the Friday of the week following the week in which they stopped working – a maximum delay of 10 days.

Gate Gourmet argued that inconsistent allegations in the complaint, along with the plaintiffs’ refusal to stipulate that they were not seeking penalties for more than a ten-day delay for any class member, were sufficient to allow Gate Gourmet to rely on the higher number.

The court disagreed, finding that “a court cannot base its jurisdiction on a defendant’s speculation and conjecture.” However, the court gave Gate Gourmet one more chance to establish the amount in controversy before remanding the case.

First Jive Dude: What it is, big mama? My mama no raise no dummies. I dug her rap!

Old Lady: Cut me some slack, Jack! Chump don’ want no help, chump don’t GET da’ help!

Second Jive Dude: Say ‘e can’t hang, say seven up!

Old Lady: Jive ass dude don’t got no brains anyhow! Hmmph!