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McArthur v. Edge Fitness, LLC

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 5, 2018

MELISSA MCARTHUR, individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated individuals, Plaintiff,
v.
EDGE FITNESS, LLC, Defendant.

          RULING GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS FOR CONDITIONAL CERTIFICATION OF FLSA COLLECTIVE ACTION AND FOR NOTICE PURSUANT TO 29 U.S.C. § 216(B)

          JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Melissa McArthur brings this Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) collective action for unpaid overtime wages against defendant Edge Fitness, LLC, which owns and operates 13 fitness clubs in Connecticut. Plaintiff worked for defendant until she was terminated from her position as Membership Advisor (“MA”) on June 5, 2017. Plaintiff asserts that for a period of her employment ending November 24, 2016, defendant wrongly classified her as an “exempt” employee for FLSA purposes and failed to pay her overtime when she worked more than 40 hours a week. Plaintiff further claims that when defendant revised the classification of MAs to “non-exempt” for FLSA purposes, defendant failed to include commissions she earned and therefore under-calculated her overtime pay. Plaintiff moves for conditional certification of this suit as a collective action on behalf of all MAs who have worked for defendant since September 15, 2014, and for this Court to supervise notice to potential opt-in plaintiffs pursuant to FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). I will grant the motion for conditional certification.

         Background

         Plaintiff worked for defendant in varying capacities from October 26, 2015, to June 5, 2017. From October 25, 2015, to October 19, 2016, plaintiff worked as a Membership Advisor. Between October 19, 2016, and April 11, 2017, plaintiff was a Sales Manager, overseeing the work of MAs. Finally, from April 11, 2017, until June 5, 2017, plaintiff worked as a Membership Advisor again.

         Plaintiff alleges that since September 15, 2014, defendant has violated the FLSA by failing to pay MAs overtime and failing to include commission earnings in overtime calculations. There are two periods relevant to plaintiff's complaint. First, plaintiff complains that from September 15, 2014, to November 24, 2016, defendant violated the FLSA by failing to pay MAs overtime when MAs were classified as “exempt” for the purpose of overtime calculations. According to plaintiff, under 29 U.S.C. § 207(i), defendant should have calculated overtime at a rate of time-and-a-half for MAs anytime the commission earnings of MAs did not reach one-half of their total salary earnings for a pay period not less than one month. Doc. #58 at 3-4. Second, plaintiff complains that starting on November 25, 2016, when defendant changed the MAs' status from exempt to non-exempt, defendant failed to include MAs' commission earnings in the calculations of overtime pay. Id. at 4.

         Plaintiff now seeks to conditionally certify two separate classes, pursuant to FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), consisting of:

i. All persons who have worked for defendant as Membership Advisors in Connecticut from September 15, 2014, to November 24, 2016, who were classified as “exempt” and paid a salary and commissions but no overtime pay in violation of state and federal laws.
ii. All persons who have worked for defendant as Membership Advisors in Connecticut from November 25, 2016, to the date of final judgment in this action who were classified as non-exempt but who were not paid overtime on their commissions in violation of state and federal laws.

         Defendant opposes conditional certification. According to defendant, plaintiff's proposed classes will include members who are different enough from plaintiff to defeat plaintiff's attempt to certify even at this preliminary stage. Defendant further argues that even if putative collective class members are similarly situated to the named plaintiff in this case, the Court should decline to order notification because plaintiff has already begun to notify potential opt-in plaintiffs through several means (e.g., via email, through counsel's website, and in notices mailed to addresses provided by defendant in discovery).

         Discussion

         Plaintiff moves for (1) conditional certification of a FLSA collective action consisting of all persons who have been employed as MAs in the previous three years; (2) an order requiring that defendant disclose the names, last known addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, and social security numbers of all persons employed as MAs at the company during the past three years; and (3) authorization to issue notice to these potential opt-in plaintiffs. For the reasons set forth below, I will grant plaintiff's motion, except with regard to certain aspects of her proposed disclosure and notice requests.

         Conditional Certification

         Congress enacted the FLSA to “protect workers and ensure that they are not subjected to working conditions ‘detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency, and general well-being.'” Shahriar v. Smith & Wollensky Rest. Grp., Inc., 659 F.3d 234, 243 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 202(a)). In furtherance of this goal, the FLSA imposes numerous “wage and hour” requirements, including an overtime provision mandating employers to pay non-exempt employees time-and-a-half for each hour worked in excess of 40 hours per week. See 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1).

         Section 16(b) of the FLSA not only authorizes an employee to bring a private cause of action on his or her own behalf but also allows an employee to bring a “collective action” on behalf of similarly situated employees. See 29 U.S.C. § 216(b); Shahriar, 659 F.3d at 243-44. Unlike a Rule 23 class action in which putative class members must opt out in order to remove themselves from the class, a FLSA collective action requires employees to affirmatively opt in to the case in order to join the collective action group. 29 U.S.C. ยง 216(b). A district court in turn has discretion to facilitate notice ...


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