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Taylor v. Pittsburgh Mercy Health System

November 10, 2009

YVONNE TAYLOR, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
PITTSBURGH MERCY HEALTH SYSTEM, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cathy Bissoon United States Magistrate Judge

Magistrate Judge Bissoon

ORDER

For the reasons that follow, Defendants‟ Motion for Sanctions (Doc. 129) will be denied. This ruling comes on the heels of an Order entered in Camesi v. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Civil Action No. 09-85J (W.D. Pa.) (Bissoon, M.J., presiding). In Camesi, the Court addressed the plaintiffs‟ mailing of a letter dated September 1, 2009, to "an untold number of putative collective action members in [that] case." See Doc. 318 in 09-85J at 1.

The Court held that, although "the numerous disputes resulting from Plaintiffs‟ mailings serve[d] . . . to emphasize the need for Court supervision over the FLSA notice process," the undersigned was "constrained to conclude that sanctions [we]re not warranted." Id. at 7-8; see also id. at 7 (finding sanctions unsupportable given "the relative uncertainty in the law, as well as the absence of an order requiring judicial supervision over Plaintiffs‟ mailings before they were sent").

Defendants argue that the September 1st letter in Camesi violated an Order in this case, dated August 25th (Doc. 90), requiring the Court‟s pre-mailing supervision of written communications with the putative collective action members herein. See generally Defs.‟ Br. (Doc. 130) at 1. Plaintiffs assert, and Defendants do not dispute, that the mailings in Camesi were restricted to employees identified by the defendants in that case. See Pls.‟ Opp‟n Br. (Doc. 143) at 3-4 (citing record evidence). Defendants argue, however, that the substantial overlap between putative collective action members in the two cases, well known to Plaintiffs, placed the Camesi mailings in violation of this Court‟s August 25th Order. See Defs.‟ Br. at 1-2.

Before reaching the merits of Defendants‟ Motion, some context is appropriate. In an Order dated July 7, 2009, the Court explained how the Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh ("Mercy Hospital") came to be a Defendant in both Camesi and in this case:

In [Camesi], Mercy Hospital is identified as one of many entities operating within the UPMC health system. . . . [The p]laintiffs have pursued a collective action against [the d]efendants, alleging that UPMC instituted uniform policies in violation of the FLSA. In [Taylor, i.e., this case], Mercy Hospital is identified as part of the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System . . . . Although the purported FLSA violations in Taylor are similar to the ones alleged [in Camesi], Taylor addresses a different health system, with different defendants, save a single overlapping entity, Mercy Hospital. . . .

The reason Mercy Hospital has been named in both lawsuits is clear: in [March] 2008, the Hospital switched from pre-existing Mercy compensation policies to the compensation policies of UPMC. . . .

Doc. 63 in 09-377 at 7-8 (citation to quoted source omitted).

The Court concluded that, in Taylor, only those workers at Mercy Hospital who commenced employment before March 1, 2008 were eligible for membership in the putative collective action. See id. at 8. On the other hand, those workers who were employed at Mercy Hospital on March 1, 2008, and thereafter, were eligible for membership in Camesi. Cf. id. Consistent with these rulings, the Court observed:

It seems possible, if not highly likely, that certain workers were employed at Mercy Hospital both before UPMC‟s compensation policies went into effect and after. Under the circumstances, those employees will, and should, receive notice in both cases. As these related cases proceed, the Court and parties . . . will be better suited to address the aforementioned scenario, although the undersigned . . . sees no reason why such employees should be excluded from either action.

Id.

Defendants‟ Motion for Sanctions also is informed by the circumstances leading to the Court‟s August 25th Order in this case, requiring pre-mailing, judicial supervision of Plaintiffs‟ written communications. Defendants first raised the issue on August 8th, in their Motion for a protective order regarding "the employee information to be provided to [P]laintiffs" by Defendants through the Court‟s grant of conditional certification. See Defs.‟ Mot. (Doc. 69) at 1; see also Defs.‟ proposed order attached thereto ("[o]n July 7, 2009, the Court ordered Defendants to produce [employee] information," and Defendants‟ proposed ruling, if adopted, would clarify that "the Court ordered the production of said information for the sole purpose" of notice). All of Defendants‟ subsequent filings likewise restricted their discussion to Plaintiffs‟ proposed use of Defendants‟ employee information, not the information produced in Camesi. See, e.g., Defs.‟ Doc. 75 at 1 ("this Motion for Clarification . . . [seeks] to limit Plaintiffs‟ use of the information Defendants have been ordered to produce"); Defs.‟ Doc. 87-2 at ¶ 1 (same); Defs.‟ Doc. 88 at 4, ¶ A(1) (same).

It was within these contexts that the Court entered the August 25th Order establishing procedures for judicial supervision of Plaintiffs‟ written communications. See discussions supra; see also Aug. 25th Order at 2 (framing ruling within context of "Defendants‟ employee information") (emphasis added). At the time of the Order‟s entry, neither the ...


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