Beidleman v. City of Modesto

Filing 44

ORDER Granting Plaintiff's 34 Motion for Conditional Certification and Granting the Parties' 43 Stipulation Regarding Early Settlement Conference and Tolling of Claims, signed by District Judge Dale A. Drozd on 3/30/2017. (Settlement Conference set for 5/23/2017, at 10:00 AM in Courtroom 9 (SAB) before Magistrate Judge Stanley A. Boone.) (Thorp, J)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 MICHAEL CHARLES BEIDLEMAN, 12 13 14 15 16 17 No. 1:16-cv-01100-DAD-SKO Plaintiff, v. CITY OF MODESTO, Defendant. ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR CONDITIONAL CERTIFICATION, AND GRANTING THE PARTIES’ STIPULATION REGARDING EARLY SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE AND TOLLING OF CLAIMS (Doc. Nos. 34, 43) 18 19 Plaintiff Michael Charles Beidleman is employed as a fire captain for the defendant City 20 of Modesto (“City”). According to the complaint and to plaintiff’s declaration submitted in 21 support of the instant motion, during plaintiff’s employment, the City offered, and plaintiff 22 accepted, the option to receive monetary compensation in lieu of certain City-sponsored health 23 benefits. (Doc. No. 1 (“Compl.”) ¶ 25; Doc. No. 34-3 (“Beidleman Decl.”) ¶¶ 4, 6.) Plaintiff 24 alleges that, for the three years prior to the commencement of this action, the City failed to 25 include these in-lieu payments in its calculation of plaintiff’s regular rate of pay, resulting in an 26 underpayment of overtime compensation. (Compl. ¶¶ 26; Beidleman Decl. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff further 27 alleges that defendant’s failure to fully compensate him and others similarly situated constitutes a 28 violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (“FLSA”). See Flores v. City 1 1 of San Gabriel, 824 F.3d 890, 895 (9th Cir. 2016) (holding that cash payments in lieu of health 2 benefits “must be included in the regular rate of pay and thus in the calculation of the overtime 3 rate” under the FLSA). 4 On February 16, 2017, plaintiff filed a motion for conditional certification and facilitated 5 notice under the FLSA. (Doc. No. 34.) On March 7, 2017, defendant filed its opposition. (Doc. 6 No. 39.) Therein, defendant indicated that it does not oppose conditional certification but rather 7 sought to stay proceedings in this case pending the completion of a proposed court-ordered early 8 settlement conference. (See id. at 1–2.) On March 14, 2017, plaintiff filed his reply. (Doc. No. 9 40.) 10 A hearing on the motion was held on March 21, 2017. Attorney Ace T. Tate appeared on 11 behalf of plaintiff, and attorney Kevin P. McLaughlin appeared on behalf of defendant. As 12 discussed at the hearing, the parties thereafter filed a stipulation regarding participation in an 13 early settlement conference and the tolling of claims. (Doc. No. 43.) Having considered the 14 parties’ briefs and oral arguments and for the reasons set forth below, the court will grant 15 plaintiff’s motion for conditional certification and adopt the parties’ stipulation. 16 17 CONDITIONAL CERTIFICATION Pursuant to the FLSA, an employee may file a civil action, on behalf of himself and other 18 employees similarly situated, against an employer that fails to adhere to federal minimum wage 19 and overtime law. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b); see also Genesis Healthcare Corp. v. Symczyk, 569 U.S. 20 ___, 133 S. Ct. 1523, 1527 (2013). Unlike a class action brought under Rule 23 of the Federal 21 Rules of Civil Procedure, similarly situated employees can join an FLSA collective action only if 22 they opt-in by giving written consent to be joined. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). 23 The FLSA does not define the term “similarly situated,” and this court finds no binding 24 Ninth Circuit or Supreme Court authority interpreting that term. Accordingly, district courts in 25 this circuit have used a two-step approach to decide whether potential FLSA plaintiffs are 26 similarly situated. See, e.g., Kellgren v. Petco Animal Supplies, Inc., No. 13CV644 L KSC, 2015 27 WL 5167144, at *2 (S.D. Cal. Sept. 3, 2015); Syed v. M-I, L.L.C., No. 1:12-cv-01718-AWI-MJS, 28 2014 WL 6685966, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Nov. 26, 2014); Troy v. Kehe Food Distributors, Inc., 276 2 1 F.R.D. 642, 649 (W.D. Wash. 2011); Lewis v. Wells Fargo Co., 669 F. Supp. 2d 1124, 1127 2 (N.D. Cal. 2009); Leuthold v. Destination Am., Inc., 224 F.R.D. 462, 467–68 (N.D. Cal. 2004); 3 Wynn v. National Broad. Co., 234 F. Supp. 2d 1067, 1082 (C.D. Cal. 2002). In the first step, 4 district courts may conditionally certify the proposed class based on consideration of the parties’ 5 pleadings and affidavits. Leuthold, 224 F.R.D. at 467. This determination is made under a 6 “lenient standard”—requiring a preliminary determination that notice is appropriate and that “the 7 putative class members were together the victims of a single decision, policy, or plan.” Lewis, 8 669 F. Supp. 2d at 1127 (citing Thiessen v. General Elec. Capital Corp., 267 F.3d 1095, 1102 9 (10th Cir. 2001)). “The sole consequence of conditional certification is the sending of court- 10 approved written notice to employees.” Genesis Healthcare, 133 S. Ct. at 1530 (citing 11 Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. v. Sperling, 493 U.S. 165, 171–72 (1989)). District courts have the 12 authority to facilitate notice to potential plaintiffs and may set a deadline for plaintiffs to opt in. 13 Does I thru XXIII v. Advanced Textile Corp., 214 F.3d 1058, 1064 (9th Cir. 2000) (citing 14 Hoffmann-La Roche, 493 U.S. at 169). In the second step, after class members have opted in and 15 discovery has taken place, the party opposing class certification may seek to decertify the class. 16 Leuthold, 224 F.R.D. at 467. 17 Plaintiff Beidleman has met his burden of showing at the first step that conditional 18 certification is warranted. At this stage in the litigation, plaintiff proposes, and defendant does 19 not oppose, defining those “similarly situated” as “any and all current or former employees of the 20 City of Modesto in the job classifications of firefighter trainee, firefighter, fire engineer and fire 21 captain who have worked overtime and received cash payments in lieu of health care benefits 22 within the same pay period at any time since July 28, 2013.” (Doc. No. 34-4 at 1; see also Doc. 23 Nos. 34-1 at 4; 39 at 1.) Plaintiff contends that his decision to receive monetary compensation in 24 lieu of health benefits is part of a broader uniform City policy affecting other fire department 25 employees. (See Beidleman Decl. ¶¶ 9–10.) In addition, based on plaintiff’s personal knowledge 26 and belief, the City similarly excludes such in-lieu compensation from its calculation of regular 27 rates of pay for purposes of overtime compensation. (Id. ¶ 10.) Based on these representations, 28 the court is satisfied and accordingly grants conditional certification of the proposed class. 3 1 STIPULATED EARLY SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE In its opposition to plaintiff’s motion, defendant originally requested a stay of proceedings 2 3 in the case—including discovery, motion practice, and issuance of a notice to the class—until 4 completion of an early settlement conference. At the hearing on this matter, the parties agreed in 5 principle to an early settlement conference. Subsequently, they filed a stipulation regarding their 6 participation in an early settlement conference and the tolling of claims pending the completion of 7 that settlement conference. (Doc. No. 43.) Having carefully reviewed the parties’ stipulation, the 8 court finds good cause to adopt and grant it.1 9 CONCLUSION 10 For the reasons set forth above, 11 1. Plaintiff’s motion for conditional certification (Doc. No. 34) is granted; 12 2. The court conditionally certifies this FLSA collective action for a class comprising 13 any and all current or former employees of defendant City of Modesto in the job 14 classifications of firefighter trainee, firefighter, fire engineer, and fire captain, who 15 have worked overtime and received cash payments in lieu of health care benefits 16 within the same pay period at any time since July 28, 2013; 17 3. Plaintiff Michael Charles Beidleman is appointed collective action representative; 18 4. Plaintiff’s counsel, Mastagni Holstedt, APC, is appointed counsel for this collective 19 action; 20 5. The parties’ stipulation (Doc. No. 43) is granted; 21 6. The parties will participate in a settlement conference with U.S. Magistrate Judge 22 Stanley A. Boone on May 23, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. 23 7. Notice of the action shall not be sent to potential plaintiffs in this conditionally 24 certified collective action until after the settlement conference is conducted. 25 ///// 26 ///// 27 28 1 As a result, the court will deny defendant’s original request for a stay as having been rendered moot. 4 1 8. The claims of any potential plaintiff shall be tolled from the date of entry of this order 2 3 up to and through the date of the settlement conference. 9. No formal discovery will be conducted up to and through the date of the settlement 4 conference; however, upon request, defendant shall informally provide to plaintiff all 5 data and information necessary for plaintiff to analyze the claims of the collective 6 action and to effectively participate in the settlement conference. 7 8 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: March 30, 2017 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5

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