The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cathy Bissoon United States Magistrate Judge
Magistrate Judge Bissoon*fn1
Counsel for the parties shall appear before the undersigned for a status conference to discuss the issues identified below.
Plaintiffs have brought this proposed collective/class action alleging, among other things, that Defendants have violated provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA").
See generally Compl. (Doc. 1). Plaintiffs have filed a Motion seeking expedited notification of potentially affected employees so that they may timely "opt in" to the putative collective action. See generally Mot. (Doc. 3).
Much of Defendants‟ response in opposition addresses the speed and urgency with which Plaintiffs have sought conditional certification and Court-facilitated notice. See generally Defs.‟ Opp‟n Br. (Doc. 32) at 1-10 (arguing that Plaintiffs‟ request for notice is "premature"; that the expedited nature of Plaintiffs‟ request is inappropriate; that Defendants first should be permitted to seek dismissal of certain claims under Rule 12(b)(6); and that no harm will result from delaying adjudication of conditional certification). Although Defendants also oppose the notification request on its merits, see id. at 10-21, Defendants‟ "timing" issues present threshold inquiries.
As Defendants undoubtedly are aware, "time [is] of the essence" for the purposes of FLSA notice "[b]ecause the . . . statute of limitations is not tolled [until] a potential plaintiff opts in[to]" the proposed collective action. Ruggles v. WellPoint, Inc., 591 F. Supp.2d 150, 162 n.12 (N.D.N.Y. 2008); accord Pontius v. Delta Fin. Corp., 2005 WL 6103189, *4 (W.D. Pa. Jul. 22, 2005) (Lancaster, J.) (under FLSA, "the statute of limitations is not tolled" and "valid damages claims, if any, are . . . lost or reduced" over time) (citation in footnote omitted). Although Defendants have compiled an impressive list of cases in which conditional certification was addressed at later stages in the litigation, neither their briefing nor the Court‟s independent research has identified legal standards governing when FLSA notice can or should first be addressed.
In the absence of such authority, the Court, on its own, must strike a balance between the putative collective action members‟ interest in asserting timely claims and Defendants‟ interest in fully and fairly contesting this litigation. The logical starting point is Defendants‟ stated intention to seek dismissal of certain claims under Rule 12(b)(6).
Defendants identify four potential grounds for dismissal:
1. lack of specificity as to Plaintiffs‟ claims;
2. ambiguity as to the identity of Defendants;
3. Plaintiffs‟ failure to state a claim for "estoppel"; and
4. Plaintiffs‟ failure to state a ...