UPDATED: In A Published Opinion CA Court of Appeal Issues Favorable Decision Benefiting California Nursing Assistants: Baltodano & Baltodano LLP Lawsuit to Move Forward in SLO County Court
In August 2011, John Castañeda, a certified nursing assistant, sued his former employer, The Ensign Group, Inc., for wages he never received while working at Bella Vista Transitional Care Center (formerly Cabrillo Rehabilitation and Care Center) in San Luis Obispo, California. The Ensign Group, Inc. operates various cluster companies and subsidiaries, which, in turn, operate skilled nursing facilities throughout California. Mr. Castañeda brought a state-wide class action lawsuit to recover unpaid wages on behalf of thousands of certified nursing assistants who work at defendants’ skilled nursing facilities across California.
After the San Luis Obispo Superior Court threw out Mr. Castañeda’s case on the ground that The Ensign Group is not an “employer” and, therefore, not liable for unpaid wages, Baltodano & Baltodano LLP, working with appellate attorney Allison Ehlert from Ehlert Appeals, appealed the ruling. “We intend to challenge The Ensign Group’s business model. A large corporation simply cannot cheat workers out of wages and evade liability by hiding behind other companies and subsidiaries it owns,” said attorney Hernaldo J. Baltodano.
On August 7, 2014, the California Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s ruling, holding that triable issues of material fact exist as to whether The Ensign Group is an employer and liable for the unpaid wages. The decision succinctly elaborates on the definition of “employer” set forth in the California Supreme Court’s seminal decision in Martinez v. Combs. Ms. Ehlert said, “The appellate decision is unequivocal. We amassed a huge amount of evidence showing The Ensign Group was Mr. Castañeda’s employer, we met our burden on appeal, and now Mr. Castañeda will have his day in court.”
UPDATE: On September 15, 2014, the Court of Appeal certified its opinion in the Ensign case for publication, making it a permanent part of California’s body of employment law that can be cited by other attorneys in future cases. Baltodano & Baltodano LLP and several California plaintiff-side law firms recommended publication because of the impact the decision will have on similar wage and hour lawsuits and the clarity it brings to an otherwise little discussed aspect of employment law post-Martinez v. Combs.
Castañeda v. The Ensign Group now returns to San Luis Obispo Country Superior Court. We look forward to moving for class certification and trial in the months ahead. To read the full opinion by the California Court of Appeal, which has now been certified for publication, please click here.