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Boyington v. Percheron Field Services, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

April 12, 2017

ERIC BOYINGTON, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
PERCHERON FIELD SERVICES, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KIM R. GIBSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case arises out of Eric Boyington's employment by Percheron Field Services, LLC. Boyington filed this case in this Court on May 7, 2014, alleging that Percheron improperly classified him and his co-workers as exempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-19, and the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act (PMWA), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 333.101-15. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 1.) Boyington seeks damages for non-payment of overtime wages for himself and all others similarly situated, as well as liquidated damages and reasonable attorneys' fees and costs under the FLSA. (Id. ¶ 75.)

         On December 15, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a motion to compel Percheron to produce certain documents for two purported opt-in plaintiffs, Jeremy Scott Riley and John Stewart. (ECF No. 213.) In response, Percheron filed a motion to dismiss Riley and Stewart from the case (ECF No. 214), arguing that they should be dismissed because their opt-in consent forms were filed approximately seven and one-half months after the court-ordered opt-in deadline.

         For the reasons that follow, Percheron's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 214) is DENIED and Plaintiffs' motion to compel (ECF No. 213) is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         On June 16, 2015, this Court granted Boyington's motion to conditionally certify a class under the FLSA in this case.[1] (ECF No. 97, Boyington v. Percheron Field Servs., LLC, No. 14-cv-90, 2015 WL 3756330, at *3 (W.D. Pa. June 16, 2015).) In support of his conditional-certification motion, Boyington argued that the class should be given notice by both regular mail and email “[b]ecause the Proposed FLSA Notice Group includes many persons who[m] are no longer employed by Percheron, and for whom Percheron may not have an accurate mailing address.” (ECF No. 46 at 16.) Percheron opposed notice by email, and argued that Boyington had failed to show a compelling reason why notice by email was necessary. (ECF No. 66 at 12-14.)

         This Court determined that Percheron was correct on the email-notice issue, and found that “requiring the provision of email addresses of the members of the conditionally certified class [would be] overly intrusive.” Boyington, 2015 WL 3756330, at *3. The Court instructed Boyington to notify class members via first-class mail, but noted that it was “willing to revisit the issue should notification via first-class mail prove to be insufficient.” Id. The Court further instructed the parties to meet to reach an agreement on the logistics of contacting the class. Id. That instruction resulted in the parties filing a joint motion for approval of court-facilitated notice (ECF No. 110), which included a proposed opt-in consent form. The proposed opt-in consent form gave recipients sixty days from the date on which the notice was mailed out to opt into the class by returning the consent form to the notice administrator. (ECF No. 110-1.) The Court approved the parties' proposed notice and opt-in consent form on August 26, 2015 (ECF No. 115), and the notices and forms were mailed out on September 1, 2015 (ECF No. 215-1). Thus, the deadline for class members to opt into the class was October 31, 2015. (E.g., ECF No. 116.)

         Many opt-in notices were filed during September, October, and November 2015. (See ECF Nos. 115-16, 119, 121-28.) Most of the notices filed during those months were signed and dated before the October 31, 2015 deadline. (See ECF Nos. 115-16, 119, 121-26.) Some were not: the opt-in notice for Christina Kibel (ECF No. 127) was dated November 9, 2015, and the opt-in notices for Barbara and Lowell Parlow (ECF No. 128) were dated November 18, 2015.[2]Then, on June 13 and 16, 2016, two more belated opt-in notices were filed: one on behalf of Jeremy Scott Riley (ECF No. 160) dated June 10, 2016, and one on behalf of John Stewart (ECF No. 161) dated June 15, 2016. Until now, no party raised any issue or offered any explanation regarding the opt-in notices signed and filed after October 31, 2015.

         The parties were actively engaged in discovery while conditional-certification briefing was taking place. On October 6, 2014, Plaintiffs served Percheron with their first request for production of documents (ECF No. 213-2). That request sought, among other things, several categories of class members' work records. (Id. at 7.) Percheron responded to Plaintiffs' first request for production of documents on December 22, 2015. (ECF No. 213-3.) Percheron's response thus predates the opt-in notices for Riley and Stewart. After noting some objections, Percheron stated in its response that “to the extent that Defendant has documents responsive to this request, they have been produced herewith, including the personnel files, pay records and work records of the plaintiffs who have opted into this action.” (Id. at 3-4.)

         Discovery in this case has been contentious. After extensive briefing about a discovery dispute regarding Percheron's discovery obligations, the Court on October 14, 2016, issued a memorandum opinion and order resolving the dispute. (ECF No. 191, Boyington v. Percheron Field Servs., LLC, No. 14-cv-90, 2016 WL 6068813, at *1 (W.D. Pa. Oct. 14, 2016).) The Court's opinion was based in part on an agreement reached between the parties in March 2016. (See ECF No. 191 at 20, Boyington, 2016 WL 6068813, at *10.) Subject to some disclaimers, the substance of the March 2016 agreement was that neither side would promulgate new discovery requests-though the parties remained free to pursue perceived deficiencies in earlier discovery requests. (See id.)

         After issuing the October 14, 2016 opinion, the Court held a discovery status conference and issued a case-management order (ECF No. 203) which established new deadlines and defined the scope of discovery going forward. Regarding the scope of discovery, the order provided that

[d]uring the remaining fact-discovery period, in accordance with the parties' March 2016 agreement, the scope of document discovery is limited strictly to information covered by, and any alleged deficiencies in, discovery requests that were propounded before March 2016. This scope includes discovery produced pursuant to the Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order dated October 14, 2016 (ECF No. 191).

         (ECF No. 203 at 2.)

         On December 15, 2016, Plaintiffs filed the motion to compel currently before the Court (ECF No. 213). In their motion, Plaintiffs explain that Percheron has produced work records for all opt-in plaintiffs except Riley and Stewart and state that Percheron has refused to produce records for Riley and Stewart on the basis that their opt-in forms were filed after the opt-in deadline. (Id.) Plaintiffs seek an order directing Percheron to produce the work records for Riley and Stewart. Plaintiffs argue that Riley and Stewart are proper plaintiffs and that ...


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