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McKinney v. United Stor-all Centers

November 10, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Document No. 14




This case comes before the court on the plaintiff's motion requesting that the court assist in the identification and notification of similarly situated employees, who may choose to opt in to the litigation. The plaintiff, Patricia McKinney, brings this action against the defendants, United Stor-all Centers and United Stor-all Management, for allegedly withholding overtime and vacation pay under D.C. Code §§ 32-1301 et seq. and §§ 32-1001 et seq. and under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. Under the FLSA, the court may authorize the notification of potential class members as long as the plaintiff provides modest support for her claims. The defendants contend that the non-descript language used in the plaintiff's motion and the supporting declarations are insufficient for the court to authorize notification in this case. After reviewing the plaintiff's submissions, the court concludes that the plaintiff has provided enough support to grant a conditional class certification at this early stage of the proceedings.


The plaintiff was employed as a Primary Manager at the defendants' District of Columbia ("D.C.") storage facility beginning in March 2003 and continuing until January 2008. Compl. ¶ 6; Defs.' Opp'n at 2. The plaintiff alleges that the defendants failed to compensate her for overtime*fn1 worked while managing the D.C. facility. Id. ¶ 14. She also contends that the defendants failed to pay her accrued vacation pay. Id. ¶ 28.

On February 25, 2008, the plaintiff instituted the current suit alleging violations of the FLSA and the D.C. Code. She also brought the action on behalf of "similarly situated" employees, which she defined as other Primary Managers employed by the defendants at their Maryland, District of Columbia and Northern Virginia locations since February 22, 2005. Id. ¶ 9. On September 4, 2008, the plaintiff filed a motion requesting that the court facilitate identification and notification of these purportedly "similarly situated" employees. The defendants vigorously oppose the plaintiff's motion, and the court now addresses the parties' arguments.


A. Legal Standard for Collective Actions Under the FLSA

The FLSA allows for actions to challenge the denial of overtime payments to be "maintained against any employer (including a public agency) in any Federal or State court of competent jurisdiction by any one or more employees for and in behalf of himself or themselves and other employees similarly situated." 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). The Supreme Court has held that this provision "grant[s] the court the requisite procedural authority to manage the process of joining multiple parties in a manner that is orderly, sensible, and not otherwise contrary to statutory commands or the provisions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure." Hoffman-La Roche Inc. v. Sperling, 493 U.S. 165, 170 (1989). But the Court warned that "[i]n exercising the discretionary authority to oversee the notice-giving process, courts must be scrupulous to respect judicial neutrality." Id. at 174.

Neither the FLSA nor its implementing regulations defines "similarly situated." Thus, courts have relied on a two-tier approach to certify a collective action under the FLSA. At the first stage, also termed the "notice stage," the court makes a preliminary determination whether to authorize notifications to potential class members so that they may opt in to the litigation. Mooney v. Aramco Servs. Co., 54 F.3d 1207, 1214 (5th Cir. 1995). The court employs a lenient standard in making this determination, requiring only that the plaintiff make "a modest factual showing" that potential class members are "similarly situated." Hoffman v. Sbarro, Inc., 982 F. Supp. 249, 261 (S.D.N.Y. 1997). This showing may be made through pleadings and affidavits that demonstrate that "the putative class members were together the victims of a single decision, policy or plan" that violated the law. Mooney, 54 F.3d at 1214 n.8 (quoting Sperling v. Hoffman-La Roche, Inc., 118 F.R.D. 392, 407 (D.N.J. 1988)).

The second stage occurs after discovery, allowing the court to revisit its initial determination based on a fully developed factual record. Mooney, 54 F.3d at 1214. This reevaluation is usually prompted by a defendant's motion to decertify the class. Id. Based on the court's determination at this second stage, the action will either proceed as a collective action or the named plaintiffs in the original complaint will proceed in their individual capacities. Hunter v. Sprint Corp., 346 F. Supp. 2d 113, 117 (D.D.C. 2004).

B. Because the Plaintiff has Made a Modest Factual Showing to Support her Claims, the Court Grants a ...

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