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Neal v. Air Drilling Associates, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 16, 2015

STEVEN NEAL, DAVID ROBINSON, RODNEY SUTTON, and BRAD GOODYEAR, Plaintiffs
v.
AIR DRILLING ASSOCIATES, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

JAMES M. MUNLEY, District Judge.

Before the court for disposition is plaintiffs' motion for conditional certification of a collective action pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). (Doc. 26). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons stated below, the court will grant plaintiffs' motion.

Background

Plaintiff Steven Neal claims that, as a field worker for Defendant Air Drilling Associates, he often worked shifts longer than twelve hours, but defendant did not pay him for time worked over twelve hours. (Doc. 29-2 Decl. of Steven Neal (hereinafter "Neal Decl.") ¶¶ 1, 3-4). Neal asserts that Clinton Cox, defendant's U.S. Operations Manager, informed him on two occasions, in December 2013 and January 2014, that he would not be paid for working more than twelve hours per day. (Id. ¶ 5). Neal also overheard Cox inform other employees that they would not be paid for more than twelve hours per day. (Id.)

Two other supervisors, Milton DeHerrera, Jr. and Jim Benson, also informed plaintiff he would not be paid for more than twelve hours per day. (Id. ¶ 6). Plaintiff claims he generally worked from 12.5 to more than 16 hours per day from August 2013 through April 2014, but was paid for only twelve hours each day. (Id. ¶¶ 7-8).

Three other individuals, David Robinson, Rodney Sutton, and Brad Goodyear (hereinafter, collectively, "opt-in plaintiffs") filed notices of consent to become party plaintiffs. (Docs. 5-8). All three are former employees of Defendant Air Drilling Associates, where they worked as field workers. (Docs. 29-1 Decl. of Brad Goodyear (hereinafter "Goodyear Decl.") ¶ 1; 29-3 Decl. of David Robinson (hereinafter "Robinson Decl.") ¶ 1; 29-4 Decl. of Rodney Sutton (hereinafter "Sutton Decl.") ¶ 1). All of the opt-in plaintiffs assert that they often worked beyond their twelve hour shift without compensation. (Goodyear Decl. ¶¶ 3-4, 6; Robinson Decl. ¶¶ 2-3, 5; Sutton Decl. ¶¶ 2-3, 5).

The opt-in plaintiffs also claim that Mr. Cox instructed them that they would not be paid for time worked beyond twelve hours. (Goodyear Decl. ¶ 5; Robinson Decl. ¶ 4; Sutton Decl. ¶ 4). Opt-in Plaintiffs Robinson and Sutton submitted timesheets recording time worked in exact twelve-hour increments, which they argue demonstrates that defendant paid them based on their scheduled shift, and not based on the time they actually worked. (Doc. 29-6). All opt-in plaintiffs claim they routinely worked shifts longer than twelve hours without compensation. (Goodyear Decl. ¶ 6; Sutton Decl. ¶ 5; Robinson Decl. ¶ 5).

Plaintiff Neal filed a putative collective and class action complaint on behalf of himself and others similarly situated. (Doc. 1). The opt-in plaintiffs joined on July 3 and July 7, 2014. (Docs. 3-7). Plaintiffs allege that defendant failed to compensate them for all hours worked in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (hereinafter "FLSA"). Presently before the court is plaintiffs' motion for certification of a collective action. Plaintiffs request an order authorizing notice to similarly situated persons pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). These similarly situated persons can then decide whether to opt into this action. The parties have briefed the issue bringing the case to its present posture.

Jurisdiction

The instant suit is brought under the FLSA, which provides that suit "may be maintained against any employer... in any Federal or State court of competent jurisdiction...." 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Accordingly, the court has federal question jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.")

Standard of Review

The FLSA mandates that employers pay their employees for all hours worked, including a minimum of one and a half times their regular rate for each hour over forty per week. See generally 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq. The FLSA provides a private right of action to recover for violations of the FLSA, including a collective action.[1]

Two requirements must be met to maintain an FLSA collective action: (1) plaintiff must be similarly situated to the collective action group; and (2) collective action group members, or "opt-in" plaintiffs, must file a written notice of consent with the court. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Section 216(b) does not define "similarly situated, " although the phrase contemplates individuals "employed under the same terms and conditions." 2 LES A. SCHNEIDER & J. LARRY STINE, WAGE &HOUR LAW: COMPLIANCE & PRACTICE § 20.19.50.

To determine whether a plaintiff is similarly situated to the proposed collective action group, district courts in this circuit have developed and applied a two-step approach.[2] See, e.g., Morisky v. Pub. Serv. Elec. & Gas Co., 111 F.Supp.2d 493, 497 (D.N.J. 2000). These two steps are: (1) to determine whether employees in the complaint are similarly situated to the plaintiff; and (2) to determine whether the plaintiffs who have opted in are similarly situated to the plaintiff. Symczyk v. Genesis HealthCare Corp., 656 F.3d 189, 192 (3d Cir. 2011), rev'd on other grounds, 133 S.Ct. 1523 (2013)); Zavala v. Wal Mart Stores Inc., 691 F.3d 527, 537 (3d Cir. 2012). The first step usually occurs ...


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