Brown v. Citicorp Credit Services, Inc. (USA)
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER denying 39 Motion to Certify Class; deeming as moot 45 Motion for Leave to File. Signed by Judge B. Lynn Winmill. (caused to be mailed to non Registered Participants at the addresses listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) by (cjm)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF IDAHO
Case No. 1:12-cv-00062-BLW
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND
CITICORP CREDIT SERVICES, INC.,
The Court has before it plaintiff Brown’s motion to conditionally certify a
collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The motion is fully briefed
and at issue. For the reasons explained below, the Court will deny the motion.
Citicorp is subject to the FLSA and currently employs approximately 795 nonexempt employees at the Meridian, Idaho call center. See Bergman Declaration (Dkt.
No. 42-1). Plaintiff Brown is a former Citicorp employee who worked at the Meridian,
Idaho call center from February 2008 until September 2011. See Brown Declaration
(Dkt. No. 39-2) at ¶ 1. On June 1, 2012, Brown filed her second amended complaint
against Citicorp for a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Brown alleges that she and other past and present employees of Citicorp were not
compensated fully for the hours worked beyond forty hours per week in violation of the
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 1
FLSA. She asserts that Citicorp employees were required to arrive early and leave late
after their scheduled shifts so they could log into and out of computer applications.
Brown states that this time—approximately twenty (20) minutes per day—was not
calculated into the weekly hours for each employee. Therefore, each employee was
required to spend extra time on the job without compensation. Brown seeks in this
lawsuit to remedy that lack of compensation. Her motion asks the Court to conditionally
certify a collective action of employees who were forced to work off-the-clock.
Under section 16(b) of the FLSA, employees may sue employers for violations of
the Act “for and in behalf of himself or themselves and other employees similarly
situated.” 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). This is known as a collective action, and it proceeds
somewhat differently than a Rule 23 class action because an employee who wishes to join
an FLSA collective action must affirmatively opt in by filing a written consent. See
Hoffman–La Roche Inc. v. Sperling, 493 U.S. 165 (1989).
District courts have the discretion to facilitate the process by which potential
plaintiffs are notified of FLSA collective actions. Id. at 169. More specifically, district
courts “may authorize the named plaintiffs in an FLSA collective action to send notice to
all potential plaintiffs.” Does v. Advanced Textile Corp., 214 F.3d 1058, 1064 (9th Cir.
2000). The Ninth Circuit has not articulated a single standard to guide this inquiry, but a
majority of courts adopt a two-step approach. See Goody v. Jefferson County, Case No.
09–cv–437–E–BLW, 2010 WL 1418395, at *1 (citing cases). First, the district court
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 2
determines whether members of the proposed class are “similarly situated.” See, e.g.,
Leuthold v. Destination Am., Inc., 224 F.R.D. 462, 466 (N.D. Cal. 2004). Plaintiff's
burden at this point is minimal; the court is simply deciding whether the potential class
should be notified of the pending action. At the second step—typically initiated by a
motion to decertify after discovery is complete—the court engages in a more searching
inquiry. Id. at 467.
The FLSA does not define “similarly situated,” and the Ninth Circuit has not
spoken on the issue. The Supreme Court has not yet defined the term, but has indicated
that a proper collective action encourages judicial efficiency by addressing in a single
proceeding claims of multiple plaintiffs who share “common issues of law and fact
arising from the same alleged activity.” Hoffman–LaRoche, 493 U.S. at 486. Practically
speaking, however, and given the lack of discovery and limited evidence available to the
Court at this early stage in the proceedings, the first-step determination “is usually made
under a fairly lenient standard and typically results in conditional class certification.”
Edwards v. City of Long Beach, 467 F.Supp.2d 986, 990 (C.D. Cal. 2006).
However, even under this lenient standard, “[t]he lack of any evidence of
similarity or even other potential class members precludes class certification.” Bishop,
582 F.Supp.2d at 1296.
Brown asks this court to certify a class composed of all current and former
Collections employees and Customer Service Representatives who worked at Citigroup’s
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 3
Meridian, Idaho call center from January 12, 2009 to the present. Brown must show that
the putative class members are similarly situated, i.e., that they were not compensated for
the time they spent logging into and out of their computers during their work shift.
In support of this proposed class, Brown alleges in her own Declaration that
Citicorp implemented a policy that required employees to work without pay. See Brown
Declaration (Dkt. No. 39-2). Brown bases this allegation on the “hard phone” log-in
policy. Id. ¶ 3-4. Under that policy, the workers’ pay period for a particular day did not
begin until they logged into their phone systems. But they could not do so until they had
logged into the computer network. So the time they spent logging into their computers
before logging into the phone system was uncompensated time.
The same off-the-clock work occurred on the back end of a typical day. Workers
were required to log out of their computers before leaving, but could not do so until they
had logged out of their phone systems, at which time their pay period ceased. Thus, the
time they spent logging out of their computer systems at the end of a day was
Brown claims that all employees in her perspective class are similarly situated
because they were all subjected to this Citigroup policy. Id. ¶ 4. Brown states that the
policy required employees to work in close proximity, use identical equipment, and
required each employee to talk to Citigroup card users. Id. Brown also claims, based on
her personal observations, that “Citi[corp] knew that [her] hourly paid customer service
telephone operator coworkers . . . were working in excess of forty (40) hours per week
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 4
without being paid overtime.” Id. ¶ 5. She states that Citicorp’s managers observed her
and her coworkers working off the clock, and “reprimanded [them] if [they] were logged
into the phone system and not taking calls.” Id. However, Brown offers no other
Declarations from either current or former employees of the Meridian, Idaho call center
to support her allegations.
Brown does allege that she “know[s] of former coworkers who desire to receive
their unpaid overtime wages.” Brown Declaration, supra, at ¶ 6. However, she has
failed to identify any of these coworkers.
Brown did file affidavits from two Citicorp call center employees from
Greensboro, North Carolina, who allege the same practices. See Whitfield Declaration
(Dkt. No. 41-2); Kraemer Declaration (Dkt. No. 41-3). While both of these employees
allege that Citicorp had a nationwide policy, neither has any personal knowledge beyond
the North Carolina call center where each worked. They failed to explain how they
would have any knowledge of the practices at the Meridian call center at issue here, and
failed to explain the basis for their conclusion that “all hourly paid customer service
telephone operators” were subjected to the same off-the-clock practices. Because they do
not explain the basis for their personal knowledge of a nationwide practice, their
testimony on this point is unreliable and irrelevant. See Young v. Cate, 2013 WL 684450
(E.D.Cal. Feb. 22, 2013) (holding that lack of personal knowledge of declarants
warranted denial of conditional certification in FLSA action). In a previous FLSA
conditional certification proceeding, this Court refused to rely on representations that
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 5
indicated a lack of personal knowledge. Fenn v. Hewlett-Packard Co. (“Fenn II”), 2012
WL 1883530, at *3 (D. Id. May 17 2012). Accordingly, the Court will not consider these
This leaves Brown with only her own allegations to support her claim that other
workers were similarly subjected to the off-the-clock practices she describes. Even given
the lenient standard that applies at this stage of the proceedings, courts demand some
modest evidentiary showing that the putative class members are similarly situated. See
Bishop v. Petro-Chemical Transport, LLC, 582 F.Supp.2d 1290, 1296 (“[t]he lack of any
evidence of similarity . . . precludes class certification”); see also Carillo v. Schneider
Logistics, 2012 WL 556309, at *11 (C.D.Cal. Jan.31, 2012) (holding that two
declarations were sufficient to warrant conditional certification).
This Court encountered a similar issue in Fenn II. There, plaintiff Fenn made the
same claim Brown makes in this case – that call center employees were not paid for the
time they spent in logging in and out of their computers. Fenn, like Brown here, failed to
identify even a single co-worker who had similar off-the-clock experiences. There was
evidence, however, that a supervisor “acknowledged” that call center employees “may
have been working without pay at one point.” Id. at *2. That was sufficient for this
Court to grant conditional certification.
Brown does not cite a single case that allows conditional certification based
entirely on the plaintiff’s allegations. Indeed, the case law is contrary. Guess v. U.S.
Bancorp, 2008 WL 544475 at *4 (N.D.Cal. Feb. 26, 2008) (denying FLSA conditional
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certification where plaintiff submitted nothing beyond his own allegations); Colson v
Avnet, Inc., 687 F.Supp.2d 914, 930 (D.Ariz. 2010) (same).
Although the burden for conditional certification is minimal, Brown has failed to
satisfy that burden. Consequently, her motion will be denied.1
In accordance with the Memorandum Decision set forth above,
NOW THEREFORE IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, that plaintiff’s motion for
conditional certification (docket no. 39) is DENIED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, that the motion for leave to file sur-reply brief
(docket no. 45) is DEEMED MOOT.
DATED: August 29, 2013
B. Lynn Winmill
United States District Court
Citicorp filed a motion for leave to file a sur-reply brief. Given that the Court has denied
Brown’s motion without relying on the sur-reply brief, the Court will deem moot Citicorp’s motion.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 7
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