In a case for overtime compensation, the Middle District of Florida (Fort Myers Division) held that plaintiffs’ claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 were “mutually exclusive and irreconcilable.” Tamera Goers, et. al. v. L.A. Entertainment Group and Amer Salameh, No. 15-cv-412-FtM-99CM (Aug. 25, 2016).
Contending they were due overtime pay, adult entertainers sought certification of their FLSA claims as a collective action and certification of their state claims under the Florida Minimum Wage Act as a class action under Rule 23. Rule 23 exists to determine the propriety of bringing a matter as a class action and requires such an action to be superior to other methods of adjudication.
By way of background, courts across the nation are split on whether a representative plaintiff can bring a Rule 23 class action concurrently with a collective action under the FLSA. The circuits that have permitted the claims to proceed together have found that the underlying factual bases for the claims are identical and thus it would be neither convenient nor economical to relitigate the state law claims in state court. The Middle District of Florida even recognized that some district courts within the Eleventh Circuit adopt this philosophy.
The plaintiffs in this case relied on a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo, 136 S. Ct. 1036 (2016), which addressed a dual certified class from an Iowa District Court dealing with an Iowa wage payment statute along with the FLSA. The Middle District of Florida, however, interpreted the Supreme Court decision as limiting its ruling so as to not rule on the propriety of a Rule 23 class proceeding simultaneously with a FLSA collective action when it stated:
The parties do not dispute that the standard for certifying a collective action under the FLSA is no more stringent than the standard for certifying a class under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This opinion assumes, without deciding, that this is correct. For purposes of this case then, if certification of respondents’ class action under the Federal Rules was proper, certification of the collective action was proper as well.
The Middle District dismissed this as mere dicta by the Supreme Court. Instead, the Middle District ruled that until the Eleventh Circuit holds otherwise, it would not permit class certification of a Rule 23 class action based on state wage statutes as well as a collective action based on overlapping FLSA claims, because the two were “mutually exclusive and irreconcilable” and would create confusion.
The future of dual filed class and collective actions is uncertain. Nevertheless, it appears that circuits around the country will start pushing the Supreme Court to review a decision on this issue and resolve the split among the circuits.