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Bamgbose v. Delta-T Group

June 30, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLaughlin, J.


Three motions are before the Court in this Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") putative collective action: the defendant's motion to dismiss the opt-ins, the defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, and the plaintiff's motion for leave to amend the first amended complaint. For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny the defendant's motions to dismiss the opt-ins and to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and grant the plaintiff's motion to amend.

I. Background

The Court outlines the background of this action relevant to the motions at issue.

On February 17, 2009, the plaintiff brought suit individually and on behalf of others similarly situated against the defendant, Delta-T Group, Inc. ("Delta-T"), for violations of the FLSA. He asserted that the defendant, which hires healthcare workers*fn1 and places them in various healthcare facilities when such facilities require staffing, misclassified him and others as "independent contractors" rather than "employees."

On July 27, 2009, after approximately sixty workers filed notices of consent to opt into this action ("the opt-ins"), the plaintiff moved for FLSA conditional collective action certification and court-facilitated notice of the collective action to the putative class.*fn2 In a memorandum and order, the Court denied the plaintiff's motion without prejudice. Bamgbose v. Delta-T Group, Inc., 684 F. Supp. 2d 660 (E.D. Pa. 2010). The Court held that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate a "modest factual showing" that the putative class of healthcare workers was similarly situated with respect to the analysis the Court would engage in to determine whether the workers were "employees" or "independent contractors." Although Delta-T labeled all of the healthcare workers "independent contractors," and the workers shared certain similarities, the record did not demonstrate that evaluation of the workers' employee status would be possible on a collective basis; indeed, the record indicated that the workers had diverse experiences based on their relationships with Delta-T and its various clients.

In denying the motion, the Court addressed the plaintiff's argument that he could develop subclasses later in the litigation to account for the variances among the workers. The Court stated:

The potential to establish subclasses later in this action . . . does not adequately address the Court's current concerns. If, after the parties complete discovery and develop the record, subclasses become appropriate, the plaintiff may then renew his motion for class certification and propose subclasses. 684 F. Supp. 2d at 671.

The Court then ordered the parties to report to the Court as to how they would like to proceed, in view of its decision. The plaintiff requested clarification of the Court's intentions as to the healthcare workers who had opted into the case to date, totaling over ninety. The Court's order did not dismiss the opt-ins, and the plaintiff presumed that the Court would allow collective discovery as to all of them, so that he could renew his motion for certification at a later date. The defendant responded that the opt-ins were dismissed by the Court's order. It argued that the action was a single-plaintiff lawsuit and that discovery could not proceed on a collective basis.

The Court held a telephone conference to discuss the parties' arguments. Attempting a compromise, the Court told the parties that discovery should proceed as to the named plaintiff's claim, so that the parties could try one case on the merits and avoid discovery disputes in relation to the opt-ins. Before any additional discovery could take place with respect to the optins, the plaintiff was to articulate his theory as to a subclass. Once articulated, certain opt-ins would be dismissed for not meeting the subclass definition. Until then, the opt-ins would remain in the case, unless the defendant could demonstrate that their presence in the action was contrary to law. Conf. Tr. 14-15, 21, 23; Feb. 24, 2010.

A series of activities then followed. On March 16, 2010, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the opt-ins. Two days later, the defendant served the plaintiff with an offer of judgment pursuant to Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for a sum of $15,000, plus all reasonable costs and attorneys' fees.*fn3 On March 23, 2010, the plaintiff filed his motion to amend the complaint, and then he accepted the offer of judgment. One day after he accepted the offer of judgment, the defendant filed its motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.*fn4

II. Analysis

The Court addresses the three pending motions in turn.

First, it finds that it is not contrary to law to keep the optins in this action, and concerns for judicial economy warrant maintaining their presence in the matter. Second, the defendant's offer of judgment failed to moot the plaintiff's collective action claim and did not divest the Court of jurisdiction. Third, because the plaintiff's action is still live, the Court has jurisdiction to rule on the plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint. Further, the plaintiff may amend his ...

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