Class Certification Denied Due to Dissimilarity In Putative "Class." The Way To Go! In a FLSA collective action, a federal judge has denied conditional certification to a class of bus drivers and bus aides, who claimed overtime violations. The denial was founded on the premise that the employees did not make even the modicum of a showing required for the obtaining of conditional certification. This is usually an easy hurdle for the plaintiff(s) so this case becomes instructive for employers on how to fight such actions. The case is White et al. v. Rick Bus Co. and was filed in the District of New Jersey
All that the plaintiffs produced/adduced were paycheck comparisons between the named plaintiff and his co-workers. Even though the standard for conditional certification is a “modest factual nexus,” which is generally interpreted by federal judges to mean a variety of things, such as a few (identical) Affidavits, the evidence submitted here did not even reach that level. The theory of the case is an overtime denial coupled with a contention that the Company’s record keeping system was faulty, thereby resulting in further wages owed to the employees.
The judge concluded that the plaintiff “provided mere generalizations and legal conclusions. ” The plaintiff also failed to “put forth any relevant facts for the court to consider, such as the names of any similarly situated employees.” The judge did note there are two standards for conditional certification “dueling” in the Third Circuit in that some judges require no more than an allegation that the plaintiffs are subjected to the same company practice or policy. Most judges, however, in the Third Circuit, require more than this and need some modicum of a showing of similarity between the named plaintiff and fellow class members.
The plaintiffs have also thrown in a “rounding” allegation, alleging that the Company practice of rounding down time was improper and also violated the FLSA. Employers are allowed to round up and down, provided that, over time, employees are not short-changed. This will be a tougher allegation for the plaintiffs to prevail upon.
I think this case sends a message on what is actually needed to secure even conditional certification. I believe in those cases in which the plaintiff(s) submit only naked Affidavits, which nine times out of ten are identical, the Employer is better able to defeat a motion for conditional certification on the “modest factual showing” test, especially if the employer itself can demonstrate (i.e. deposition testimony) that there were “qualitative” differences between the named plaintiff and the others.