FERRERAS et al v. AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC.
OPINION AND ORDER denying Plaintiffs' 73 Motion for Entry of Judgment under Rule 54(b) and to permit an immediate appeal. Signed by Judge Jose L. Linares on 05/01/2017. (ek)
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
DANIEL FERRERAS, et al.,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 16-2427 (JLL)
OPINION & ORDER
AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC.,
LINARES, District Judge
Currently pending before this Court is the plaintiffs’ motion (hereinafter, “the
Plaintiffs’ Current Motion”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
1292(b) and Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure (hereinafter, “Rule”) 54(b) to permit an immediate appeal to the Third Circuit
Court of Appeals from an order dated March 28, 2017 (hereinafter, “the March 2017
Order”). (See dkt. 73 through dkt. 73-2; dkt. 79; dkt. 791.)1 The defendant, American
Airlines, Inc. (hereinafter, “American”), opposes the Plaintiffs’ Current Motion.
dkt. 76; dkt. 76-1.)
The plaintiffs alleged in their amended complaint that American violated the New
Jersey Wage and Hour Law (hereinafter, “the NJWHL”) by:
This Court will refer to documents by the docket entry numbers and the page
numbers imposed by the Electronic Case Filing System.
(1) paying them a straight hourly wage for the hours they worked in excess of 40
hours in a given week as a result of their voluntary shift trades with other employees,
rather than paying them at the overtime rate for those excess hours (hereinafter, “the Shift
(2) requiring them to perform work before clocking in, after clocking out, and
during meal breaks without compensation (hereinafter, “the Uncompensated Time
(3) configuring time clocks to round down and reduce the amount of time that the
plaintiffs are credited with performing work (hereinafter, “the Rounding Down Claim”).
In the March 2017 Order, this Court in relevant part granted summary judgment
pursuant to Rule 56 in American’s favor as to the Shift Trade Claim, and denied
summary judgment to the plaintiffs as to the Shift Trade Claim. (See dkt. 72 at 1—2 (the
March 2017 Order); see also dkt. 71 at 1—13 (this Court’s Opinion underlying the March
2017 Order).) The Uncompensated Time Claim and the Rounding Down Claim were not
at issue, and thus those two claims remain viable at this juncture. The plaintiffs seek to
take an immediate appeal from this Court’s determination concerning the Shift Trade
Claim in the March 2017 Order.
This Court will resolve the Plaintiffs’ CulTent Motion upon a review of the papers
and without oral argument. See L.Civ.R. 78.1(b). This Court presumes that the parties
are familiar with the factual context and the procedural history of the action, which have
been set forth at length by this Court in the Opinion underlying the March 2017 Order.
(See dkt. 71 at 1—13.) For the following reasons, the Plaintiffs’ Current Motion is denied
in its entirety.
In order to permit the plaintiffs to pursue an immediate appeal from the portion of
the March 2017 Order that addressed the Shift Trade Claim, this Court would need to
exercise its discretion to find that the reasoning underlying the March 2017 Order
involves a controlling question of law upon which there is a substantial ground for a
difference of opinion, and that an iimriediate appeal would materially advance the
ultimate termination of the litigation. See 28 U.S.C.
1292(b); see also Kapossy v.
McGraw-Hill, Inc., 942 F.Supp. 996, 1001 (D.N.J. 1996) (stating that such permission is
to be granted rarely, because it presents a deviation from the ordinary policy of avoiding
piecemeal appellate review of the decisions of the district courts that do not terminate the
litigation); P. Schoenfeld Asset Mgmt. LLC v. Cendant Corp., 161 F.Supp.2d 355, 358
(D.N.J. 2001) (stating that such permission is intended to be granted in order to facilitate
a decision on a legal issue about which there is a considerable question, without requiring
the parties to participate in a trial that may be unnecessary); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b)
(authorizing the entry of a final judgment on one or more, but fewer than all, of the
claims in an action if the district court expressly determines that there is no just reason for
a delay). A mere disagreement by the moving party with the ruling of a district court is
not a substantial basis to take an immediate appeal. See Kapossy, 942 f.Supp. at 1001.
The plaintiffs argue in support of their Current Motion that “it is clear there is no
just cause to delay the appeal of the issues relating to shift trades,” because “there is no
relationship between Plaintiffs’ time rounding, off-the-clock and uncompensated meal
and the allegations related to shift trades.” (Dkt. 73-1 at 6.) The
plaintiffs also argue that “no future developments at the district court level will moot the
possibility for review of the shift trade allegations and their relationship to [the relevant
regulation found at] N.J.A.C.
12:56-15.3(a),” and thus “an appeal of the issue will
facilitate resolution of the litigation.” (Dkt. 73-1 at 6—7.)
This Court concludes that an immediate appeal from the March 2017 Order would
not materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation. The Uncompensated
Time Claim and the Rounding Down Claim are still being actively litigated, and their
merits would not be resolved or clarified in any way on an immediate appeal concerning
the portion of the March 2017 Order that addressed the Shift Trade Claim. As a result, if
this Court were to grant the Plaintiffs’ Current Motion, this Court would be sidestepping
the duty to refrain from compelling the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to engage in
piecemeal appellate review. See Elliott v. Archdiocese of N.Y., 682 F.3d 213, 220 (3d
Cir. 2012) (holding that a grant of relief under Rule 54(b) is “the exception, not the rule,
to the usual course of proceedings in a district court”); Echavarria v. Williams Sonorna,
Inc No. 15-6441, 2016 WL 3566986, at *4 (D.N.J. June 30, 2016) (denying a motion for
an immediate appeal, and holding that the district courts must “be ‘conservative’ in
utilizing Rule 54(b), particularly when there is a risk of piecemeal appeals”).
At this juncture, this Court sees no reason to exercise the discretion to deviate
from the ordinary policy of avoiding the facilitation of an immediate appeal that simply
will not materially advance the tenriination of this litigation. Indeed, the plaintiffs will
have an opportunity to seek appellate review of this Court’s determination on the Shift
Trade Claim soon enough if they remain diligent in prosecuting their Uncompensated
Time Claim and Rounding Down Claim to the point of a final resolution.
This Court is also not convinced that there is a substantial ground for a difference
of opinion regarding a question of law here. As this Court held in the Opinion underlying
the March 2017 Order, the New Jersey Commissioner of Labor and Workforce
Development (hereinafter, “the Commissioner”) was authorized to promulgate the
regulation concerning voluntary shift trades in the airline industry under New Jersey
Administrative Code 12:56-15.3, and that regulation does not contravene the general
overtime requirements set forth in the NJWHL because it does not completely exempt an
airline such as American from paying overtime wages to its employees. Furthermore,
this Court was persuaded by the fact that the unions that function as advocates on behalf
of the employees of airlines filed briefs in support of American’s policy that penriitted
voluntary shift trades in lieu of overtime wages. In addition, this Court noted that in
Keeley v. Loomis Fargo & Co., 183 F.3d 257 (3d Cir. 1999), the Third Circuit Court of
Appeals acknowledged the regulation at issue here as an example of a promulgated
overtime rule that did not contravene the NJWHL, because the regulation allows the use
of compensatory time off instead of overtime pay for airline employees in certain
circumstances, and it does not provide for a complete exemption from the NJWHL’s
overtime wage provisions. See 183 F.3d at 263 & n.4. (See dkt. 71 at 10—12.) Thus, this
Court holds that there is not a substantial ground for a difference of opinion regarding a
question of law here.
The plaintiffs’ motion to permit an immediate appeal from the March 2017 Order
is denied. For good cause appearing:
IT IS THEREFORE on this
day of May, 2017, ORDERED
that the motion by the plaintiffs to permit an immediate appeal (dkt. 73) is DENIED.
MSE L. LINARES
/‘6nited States District Judge
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