Los Angeles Daily Journal, May 4, 2015
Following wage and hour claims, cosmetology school litigated for 17 months before seeking arbitration
By America Hernandez
In a proposed wage and hour class action involving hairdressing students providing services without pay as part of their training, a federal judge decried the defense’s attempt to hit the reset button mid-discovery by moving to binding arbitration after 17 months in court.
“We are not convinced that [Defendant], having learned that the district court was not receptive to its arguments, should be allowed a second bite at the apple through arbitration,” wrote U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez in a harshly worded order denying a motion to dismiss without hearing oral argument. Ford, et al. v. Yasuda, et al., CV13-1961 (C.D. Cal., filed Oct. 28, 2013).
The dispute began in October 2013 when Maria Ford and several other students at the Milan Institute of Cosmetology’s Bakersfield campus sued the program director, claiming violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and California’s Unfair Competition Law.
The Milan Institute is part hairdressing and cosmetology school, part beauty salon, where paying clients are attended to by students completing the practicum component of their degree.
Plaintiffs contended that upon transitioning to work in the school’s salon, they became employees entitled to minimum wage and other benefits.
The school filed a motion to dismiss on grounds that the students were not employees, but did not raise the arbitration agreement all students signed upon enrollment as an affirmative defense.
Nearly a year later, when students filed an amended complaint with additional wage claims, the school invoked the arbitration agreements, which call for individual rather than collective arbitration, for the first time.
The plaintiffs protested, saying Milan had waived its right to invoke them by proceeding in federal court.
“You can’t shop around and see if you’re going to get a good order from the judge, then decide you don’t like it and say, ‘Let’s go try arbitration,'” said plaintiffs’ attorney Bryan Schwartz in Oakland. “This is a setback for employers who do whatever they can to strip away any class claims and prevent people from coming together to vindicate their rights.”
But lead defense counsel Ronald L. Holt of Dunn & Davison LLP said the judge mischaracterized the history of case.
“First off, we’re only employers insofar as it’s been alleged by the students,” he said, adding that while the case has been on file for 17 months, nothing happened for the first seven or eight months. After defendants hired new counsel, said Holt, the parties eventually entered a joint stipulation in May 2014.
“The plaintiffs began to conduct discovery, and it was at that point that we determined we were going to invoke our right [to arbitrate].”
Holt said the defendants plan to file an interlocutory appeal with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
When no other attorney would touch my case, Bryan took it on with zeal. Since then, the EEOC certified a class action and has ruled in our favor in every motion the other side has thrown at us. A five-star rating does not come close…
I was fortunate to have found Bryan Schwartz Law while searching for reputable and reliable law firms in the Oakland area that specialized in labor law, and I couldn’t be more pleased by the results they secured for my family on my father’s behalf! After…
Bryan's firm came highly recommended to deal with an employment discrimination and harassment case. Bryan and his staff were very professional, ethical, extremely organized and diligent. They are strong advocates who worked extremely hard to get me a very fair resolution to my case. I…
Bryan Schwartz is an attorney who gives good, sound advice and empowers you to believe in your convictions. I reached out to him because no other attorney wanted to assist me. Bryan has been my advocate for the last six years. He is compassionate, empathetic…
Bryan Schwartz is without a doubt a fantastic attorney. As tenacious as he is intelligent, I would absolutely recommend his services to anyone seeking justice. Not only is his legal expertise top notch, his interpersonal skills with his clients are superb as well. Working with…
Bryan and his team were highly recommended by a friend and another attorney. I reached out to Bryan when I was sick, hurting and afraid, not knowing what to expect or how to ask for help. Bryan offered to help, he and his team fought…
When I first met Bryan, and the team at Bryan Schwartz Law, I was blown away by how understanding, sympathetic, and outright dismayed they were to the unlawful situation my coworkers and I were (to say the least) uncomfortably having to endure and work through.…
Bryan Schwartz represented me successfully in mediating my age discrimination claim against a large employer....[T]here can be few lawyers with greater legal acumen or a more relentless drive to get an acceptable result for their clients. Bryan is all business and probably works too hard.…
I could never imagine having any other attorney on my side when I needed someone. This office is beyond professional and intelligent from the person answering the phone right to the attorneys. These attorneys will fight tooth and nail for you.
These guys were amazing. Just on the ball, knowledgeable and friendly as hell. I presented my case over the phone and I immediately got some preliminary feedback which was awesome. I was asked for more details which I provided via email the next day. Two…
Schedule an initial consultation to have Bryan Schwartz Law
evaluate your situation.
*Your submission of an intake request form does not guarantee that Bryan Schwartz Law will take your case or provide legal advice. You must be offered and sign a representation agreement with the firm before you will receive any legal advice.
How did we do?
Note: Your review may be shared publicly.