Seguin v. County of Tulare

Filing 32

ORDER Granting 24 Stipulation for Conditional Certification and Approval of Facilitated Class Notice, signed by District Judge Dale A. Drozd on 5/17/2017. (Gaumnitz, R)

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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 HENRY SEGUIN, 12 13 14 15 No. 1:16-cv-01262-DAD-SAB Plaintiff, v. COUNTY OF TULARE, ORDER GRANTING STIPULATION FOR CONDITIONAL CERTIFICATION AND APPROVAL OF FACILITATED CLASS NOTICE Defendant. (Doc. No. 24) 16 17 18 Plaintiff Henry Seguin is an employee of defendant County of Tulare (“County”). (Doc. 19 No. 1 ¶ 3.) In accordance with County policy, plaintiff and those similarly situated received 20 monetary compensation in lieu of some or all of certain County-sponsored health benefits. (See 21 id. ¶¶ 24–25.) Plaintiffs allege that, for the three years prior to the commencement of this action, 22 the County failed to include these in-lieu payments in its calculation of plaintiffs’ regular rate of 23 pay, resulting in an underpayment of overtime compensation. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 21, 26.) Plaintiffs 24 further allege that defendant’s failure to fully compensate them and others similarly situated 25 constitutes a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (“FLSA”). See 26 Flores v. City of San Gabriel, 824 F.3d 890, 895 (9th Cir. 2016) (holding that cash payments in 27 lieu of health benefits “must be included in the regular rate of pay and thus in the calculation of 28 the overtime rate” under the FLSA). 1 1 Now before the court is the parties’ stipulation for conditional certification of a collective 2 action and for approval of class notice pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act. (Doc. No. 24.) 3 Therein, the parties agree that this FLSA collective action should be conditionally certified on 4 behalf of “all current and former non-exempt employees of the Defendant who were paid 5 overtime pursuant to the FLSA and received cash in lieu of health benefits payments within the 6 same pay period, at any time since August 25, 2013.” (See Doc. No. 24-1 ¶ 2.) In addition, the 7 parties submit a proposed notice to potential plaintiffs outlining the nature of the collective action 8 and steps by which similarly situated individuals may take to participate in this lawsuit. (See 9 Doc. No. 24-2.) 10 Pursuant to the FLSA, an employee may file a civil action, on behalf of himself and other 11 employees similarly situated, against an employer that fails to adhere to federal minimum wage 12 and overtime law. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b); see also Genesis Healthcare Corp. v. Symczyk, 569 U.S. 13 ___, ___, 133 S. Ct. 1523, 1527 (2013). Unlike a class action brought under Rule 23 of the 14 Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, similarly situated employees can join an FLSA collective action 15 only if they opt-in by giving written consent to be joined. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). 16 The FLSA does not define the term “similarly situated,” and this court has identified no 17 binding Ninth Circuit or Supreme Court authority interpreting that term. However, district courts 18 in this circuit have used a two-step approach to decide whether potential FLSA plaintiffs are 19 similarly situated. See, e.g., Kellgren v. Petco Animal Supplies, Inc., No. 13CV644 L KSC, 2015 20 WL 5167144, at *2 (S.D. Cal. Sept. 3, 2015); Syed v. M-I, L.L.C., No. 1:12-cv-01718-AWI-MJS, 21 2014 WL 6685966, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Nov. 26, 2014); Troy v. Kehe Food Distributors, Inc., 276 22 F.R.D. 642, 649 (W.D. Wash. 2011); Lewis v. Wells Fargo Co., 669 F. Supp. 2d 1124, 1127 23 (N.D. Cal. 2009); Leuthold v. Destination Am., Inc., 224 F.R.D. 462, 467–68 (N.D. Cal. 2004); 24 Wynn v. National Broad. Co., 234 F. Supp. 2d 1067, 1082 (C.D. Cal. 2002). In the first step, 25 district courts may conditionally certify the proposed class based on consideration of the parties’ 26 pleadings and affidavits. Leuthold, 224 F.R.D. at 467. This determination is made under a 27 “lenient standard”—requiring a preliminary determination that notice is appropriate and that “the 28 putative class members were together the victims of a single decision, policy, or plan.” Lewis, 2 1 669 F. Supp. 2d at 1127 (citing Thiessen v. General Elec. Capital Corp., 267 F.3d 1095, 1102 2 (10th Cir. 2001)). “The sole consequence of conditional certification is the sending of court- 3 approved written notice to employees.” Genesis Healthcare, 133 S. Ct. at 1530 (citing 4 Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. v. Sperling, 493 U.S. 165, 171–72 (1989)). District courts have the 5 authority to facilitate notice to potential plaintiffs and may set a deadline for plaintiffs to opt in. 6 Does I thru XXIII v. Advanced Textile Corp., 214 F.3d 1058, 1064 (9th Cir. 2000) (citing 7 Hoffmann-La Roche, 493 U.S. at 169). In the second step, after class members have opted in and 8 discovery has taken place, the party opposing class certification may seek to decertify the class. 9 Leuthold, 224 F.R.D. at 467. 10 Based on the parties’ pleadings and stipulation, the court is satisfied that conditional 11 certification of the collective action is warranted. In addition, the court finds that good cause 12 exists to approve the proposed notice of collective action, and that the parties have proposed a 13 reasonable deadline for potential plaintiffs to opt in to the case. 14 Accordingly, 15 1. The parties’ stipulation for conditional certification of a collective action and for 16 17 approval of facilitated class notice (Doc. No. 24) is granted; 2. The court conditionally certifies this FLSA collective action for a class comprising all 18 current and former non-exempt employees of the Defendant who were paid overtime 19 pursuant to the FLSA and received cash in lieu of health benefits payments within the 20 same pay period, at any time since August 25, 2013; 21 3. The court approves the proposed class notice (Doc. No. 24-2); and 22 4. The parties are ordered to prepare and distribute the class notice to potential plaintiffs in a manner consistent with the parties’ stipulation. 23 24 25 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: May 17, 2017 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 26 27 28 3

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