A Virginia District Court has denied conditional certification of a class of chauffeurs in claims for unpaid overtime and has also recognized the application of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2541 (2011), to the calculation of damages under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
In Amir v. Sunny’s Executive Sedan Service, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:13-cv-161 (E.D. Va., July 30, 2013), the plaintiffs were chauffeurs working in the Washington D.C. area who claimed that they were denied overtime and minimum. They sought to represent a class of approximately 50 chauffeurs performing services for the company. Some worked as independent contractors. Some were paid by commission, while others were paid under other arrangements including, at times, hourly rates.
Given the difference in pay structures, the court found that the claims would “necessitate individual factual inquiries and defenses which are inappropriate to resolve as a class.” It thus found that the plaintiffs were not similarly situated and that due to reasons of “judicial economy” even conditional certification was not appropriate.
Interestingly, the court also found that the case could not be resolved on a class basis due to the difficulty in calculating damages. Citing the Dukes case, the court found that “Trial by Formula” was not appropriate and that the case could not be resolved on either liability or damages without an individual inquiry. Finding a lack of similarly situated claims and difficulties with resolving the case on a class-wide basis under Dukes, the court denied conditional certification. While the decision denying conditional certification itself was worthy of note, this additional reason, recognizing Dukes’ application in the conditional certification was particularly significant.
The Bottom Line: Some courts will consider judicial economy and practical issues of case management even at the conditional certification stage.