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Potoski v. Wyoming Valley Health Care System

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 19, 2013

LYNN POTOSKI and DENISE GAITERI, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
WYOMING VALLEY HEALTH CARE SYSTEM and WILKES-BARRE HOSPITAL COMPANY, LLC, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge.

Presently before the Court is a Motion for Order Authorizing Notice to Similarly Situated Persons Pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) (Doc. 60) filed by Plaintiffs Lynn Marie Potoski and Denise Gaiteri (collectively, "Plaintiffs").[1] In their motion, Plaintiffs move to conditionally certify this case as a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) ("FLSA"). Plaintiffs allege that they were employed by Defendants Wyoming Valley Health Care System ("WVHCS") and Wilkes-Barre Hospital Company, LLC (collectively, "Defendants"). (Am. Compl., Doc. 24, ¶ 17.) According to Plaintiffs, WVHCS owned and operated three facilities in the area, Wilkes Barre General Hospital ("WBGH"), First Hospital, and CHOICES until April 2009.[2] Id. at ¶ 9. Plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated, allege that Defendants violated the FLSA by knowingly suffering or permitting employees to perform meal break and uniform maintenance work without proper compensation. (Am. Compl., Doc. 24, ¶¶ 30, 44.) Accordingly, Plaintiffs propose certification of two subclasses: (1) a "meal period work class" composed of "all persons who have worked as full-time, hourly employees at Wilkes-Barre Hospital, First Hospital, and CHOICES... during any workweek in the three years preceding this Court's conditional certification ruling" (Doc. 62, 3, n. 2); and (2) a "uniform maintenance class" composed of "all persons who have worked as hourly uniformed employees at Wilkes-Barre Hospital... during any workweek in the three years preceding this Court's conditional certification ruling" (Doc. 60, 7, n. 5). The Court will grant Plaintiffs' motion and will conditionally certify the meal period work and uniform maintenance classes because Plaintiffs have made a modest factual showing that the putative class members are similarly situated to the Plaintiffs.

I. Background

Plaintiffs assert that employees at WBGH, First Hospital, and CHOICES were governed by a common policy requiring them to perform any and all extra work necessary for the operation of their department or facility. (Doc. 62, 3.) Plaintiffs claim that employees had a common entitlement to receive an unpaid thirty (30) minute meal break after working continuously for six or more hours, and that employees kept their time on a common timekeeping system that automatically deducted a thirty (30) minute meal period from each shift of more than six hours, regardless of whether employees actually received their uninterrupted meal periods. (Doc. 62, 4.) In addition, Plaintiffs claim that Defendants employed a written time card "exception" procedure which "ostensibly permitted" employees to recover wages owed for missed or shortened meal periods, but that this procedure was "so unwieldy and confusing that employees rarely took advantage of it" and Defendants' managers and supervisors discouraged them from using it. Id. Overall, Plaintiffs claim that they "were suffered or permitted to work during 95% of their unpaid meal periods" yet because of the "flawed exception'" procedure, they only received "a total of 31 period exceptions' over the past five years." (Doc. 62, 6.) Plaintiffs further contend that during the relevant period Defendants knew that Plaintiffs and the proposed class members regularly worked during unpaid meal periods because Defendants' managers and supervisors regularly encouraged and instructed meal period work to be done, regularly observed them doing such work, and did not provide staffing to ensure that Plaintiffs and the proposed class members could regularly take uninterrupted meal periods. (Doc. 62, 6.) In addition, Plaintiffs assert that Defendants failed to sufficiently track the meal period work that employees were performing or pay them for such work. (Doc. 62, 7.)

With respect to uniform maintenance work, Plaintiffs contend that employees were governed by common policies requiring them to wear certain articles of clothing to work and to "maintain a professional, business-like appearance while on duty and to meet high standards for personal hygiene and cleanliness." (Doc. 62, 7.) Plaintiffs assert that they were not allowed to maintain their uniform components "on the clock" or at their work sites. (Doc. 62, 8.) To comply with this policy, Plaintiffs claim that they spent about eight (8) hours each month washing, spot cleaning, drying, and ironing their work uniforms. (Doc. 62, 8.)

Plaintiffs allege that Defendants knew that employees regularly performed uniform maintenance work "off the clock" because employees did not have access to washing and ironing facilities and were not given time to wash or maintain their uniform components at work. (Doc. 62, 9.) They also allege that they regularly complained to supervisors about this work and their supervisors regularly saw the results, encouraged, and instructed such work to be done. (Doc. 62, 9.)

In support of their motion for conditional certification, Plaintiffs present the following evidence:

(1) Deposition Testimony of Plaintiff Lynn Potoski (Doc. 62, Ex. A);
(2) Deposition Testimony of Plaintiff Denise Gaiteri (Doc. 62, Ex. B);
(3) Deposition Testimony of HR Representative Lisa Goble (Doc. 62, Ex. C);
(4) Plaintiffs' Rule 26(a)(1) Initial Disclosures (Doc. 62, Ex. D);
(5) Break/Meal Periods Policy D.13 (Doc. 62, Ex. E);
(6) Workweek/Overtime Policy D.5 (Doc. 62, Ex. F);
(7) Wilkes-Barre Employee Handbook (Doc. 62, Ex. G);
(8) Exception Form (Doc. 62, Ex. H);
(9) Plaintiffs' Exception Reports (Doc. 62, Ex. I);
(10) Uniform Color-Coding Master Sheet ...

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