United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
JOSEPH A. BONDS, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
GMS MINE REPAIR & MAINTENANCE, INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT
TERRENCE F. McVERRY, District Judge.
Pending before the Court is a MOTION FOR FLSA COLLECTIVE ACTION CERTIFICATION (ECF No. 37) filed by Plaintiff Joseph A. Bonds, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, with brief in support (ECF No. 38). Defendant GMS Mine Repair & Maintenance, Inc. ("GMS") filed a brief in opposition (ECF No. 41); Bonds filed a reply brief (ECF No. 42). At the request of counsel, the Court heard oral argument on May 20, 2014. (ECF Nos. 43, 44). The issues have been fully briefed and well-argued on behalf of the parties. Accordingly, the motion is ripe for disposition.
The following background is drawn from the Court's independent review of the motion, the filings in support and opposition thereto, and the record as a whole.
A. Factual Background
GMS is a private company that services underground and surface mines by providing maintenance and contracting throughout the United States. GMS employs numerous people, including Bonds, to provide these services at the Enlow Fork Mine (the "Mine"), owned and operated by CONSOL Energy, Inc. in East Finley, Pennsylvania.
Bonds was employed as a crew leader at the Pleasant Grove Portal (the "Portal") of the Mine, primarily assigned to the first of three scheduled shifts: 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.; 4:00 p.m. -12:00 a.m.; or 12:00 a.m. - 8:00 a.m. Employees for each shift were paid for eight hours.
The Mine is not of the "walk-in" variety, but instead requires shuttles known as "mantrips" to carry the workers underground. The mantrips promptly depart at the start of each shift. GMS thus expects each underground employee to report at the Portal dressed and ready to enter the Mine, or else they risk being left behind and missing a day of work. To that end, GMS employees enjoy the use of a bathhouse located next to the Portal in which they may change clothes for work, collect equipment, don protective gear, and receive their assignment.
Prior to February 2012, GMS employees who elected to drive to work would enter the Portal through a security gate and proceed to the main parking lot from which they were able to walk to the bathhouse, pick up necessary tools and equipment and begin their shift. This process supposedly took just minutes, allowing workers to arrive shortly before their scheduled start time, prepare for their shift, and commence the workday without delay. Bonds' pre-shift routine was apparently no different: he was able to arrive at the Portal at 7:55 a.m., gather a light, radio and GPS locator (a "Solaris"), and calibrate the equipment, all in time for his 8:00 a.m. start.
Around February 2012, GMS allegedly implemented a number of policy changes affecting its employees' arrival time and means of transportation to the Mine. Those purported changes required GMS employees to arrive fifteen minutes prior the scheduled shift start; to park at a remote on-site location approximately one-quarter mile from the Mine entrance; and to wait for and use an employer-provided van for the three to four minute transit to the worksite, which left an eleven to twelve minute gap between their arrival and start time. See Pl.'s Am. Compl. at ¶ 26, ECF No. 17. Moreover, employees who did not arrive at the remote parking lot or the GMS trailer in conformity with the new policy were deemed late for work. At the end of the day, GMS employees were also required to wait an additional ten to twenty minutes for transport back to the remote parking site by the ten-person van. See id.
The February 2012 changes remained in place for about three months until GMS modified its procedure(s) to require its employees to arrive at the remote parking lot at least thirty minutes prior to their shift start. After this modification, GMS employees spent roughly twenty-six minutes waiting on-site before their work shift and ten to twenty minutes after it ended. According to Bonds, GMS did not compensate its employees for the required wait times caused by its uniform policy in violation of federal and state wage and hour laws.
Bonds further alleges that GMS would require its employees to attend formal, weekly safety meetings lasting ten-fifteen minutes during the "uncompensated wait time." Occasionally, GMS would also mandate that its employees submit to drug tests before and/or after each shift. Limited discovery indicates that at least 339 current or former GMS employees were affected by the alleged policy change(s).
B. Procedural History
Bonds initiated this case at Civil Action No. 13-1217 on August 23, 2012, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, by filing a two-count Complaint in which he alleges that GMS violated the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Act, and the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act. On October 11, 2013, Bonds filed another Complaint against GMS at Civil Action No. 13-1480 in which he avers that it violated the anti-retaliation provision of the FLSA when it changed his shift just days after his counsel "effectuated service" of ...