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Goody v. Jefferson County

April 6, 2010

GREG GOODY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, A POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THE STATE OF IDAHO, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable B. Lynn Winmill Chief U. S. District Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

The Court has before it Greg Goody's Motion for Certification of Collective Action (Docket No. 11). Having reviewed the briefing submitted by the parties, as well as the pleadings and affidavits in this case, the Court has determined that oral argument is unnecessary. Accordingly, the Court enters the following Order.

BACKGROUND

Jefferson County employed Greg Goody in the Probation Department for nearly two years. During part of that employment Goody held a supervisory position. On the occasions when Goody's schedule required him to work more than forty hours in a given week, he was instructed to count his overtime hours as compensatory ("comp") time on a one-to-one basis, receiving one hour of paid time off for each hour of overtime accrued. Goody asserts he was demoted from his supervisory position after he reported improper behavior between two of his co-workers. Goody's position with the County was eventually terminated.

Goody filed suit in this Court alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219, Idaho's Minimum Wage Laws, I.C. §§ 44-1501 to -1510 and §§ 45-601 to -621, and Idaho's Protection of Public Employees Act, I.C. §§ 6-2101 to -2109. Goody seeks certification of a collective action only with regard to his federal wage claim asserting a violation of FLSA § 207 by the County's improper practice of compensating employees for overtime work on a one-to-one basis instead of time-and-a-half.

ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Certification of Collective Action

The FLSA provides a cause of action for an employee against an employer who fails to pay overtime wages. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a), (o). An employee may sue "for and in behalf of himself . . . and other employees similarly situated." Id. § 216(b). This is known as a collective action, and proceeds on an opt-in basis. Id.; see Hoffman-La Roche Inc. v. Sperling, 493 U.S. 165, 169 (1989). "To facilitate this process, a district court may authorize the named plaintiffs in an FLSA collective action to send notice to all potential plaintiffs." Does I through XXIII v. Advanced Textile Corp., 214 F.3d 1058, 1064 (9th Cir. 2000). "It is within the discretion of the district court to determine whether a certification of a § 216(b) collective action is appropriate." Edwards v. City of Long Beach, 467 F. Supp. 2d 986, 989 (C.D. Cal. 2006). Although the Ninth Circuit has not articulated a single standard to guide this Court's "similarly situated" analysis, a majority of courts adopt a two tiered approach. See, e.g., Khadera v. ABM Indus. Inc., No. C08-0417 RSM (W.D. Wash. Feb. 19, 2010); Colson v. Avnet, Inc., No. 09-603-PHX-MHM (D. Ariz. Jan. 27, 2010); Davis v. Westgate Planet Hollywood Las Vegas, LLC, No. 2:08-cv-00722-RCJ-PAL (D. Nev. Jan. 12, 2009); Goudie v. Cable Commc'ns, Inc., No. 08-CV-507-AC (D. Or. Oct. 14, 2008); Hoffman v. Securitas Sec. Servs., No. CV07-502-S-EJL (D. Idaho Aug. 27, 2008); Edwards, 467 F. Supp. 2d at 990.

Under the two-step approach, "the first step is for the court to decide, based primarily on the pleadings and any affidavits submitted by the parties, whether the potential class should be given notice of the action." Edwards, 467 F. Supp. 2d at 990 (internal quotation marks omitted). Given the lack of discovery and limited evidence available to the court at this early stage in the proceedings, "this determination is usually made under a fairly lenient standard and typically results in conditional class certification." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Indeed,

[p]laintiff need not show that his position is or was identical to the putative class members' positions; a class may be certified under the FLSA if the named plaintiff can show that his position was or is similar to those of the absent class members. However, unsupported assertions of widespread violations are not sufficient to meet Plaintiff's burden.

Id. (quoting Freeman v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 256 F. Supp. 2d 941, 945 (W.D. Ark. 2003)). All the plaintiff needs to show, "is that some identifiable factual or legal nexus binds together the various claims of the class members in a way that hearing the claims together promotes judicial efficiency and comports with the broad remedial policies underlying the FLSA." Wertheim v. Arizona, 1993 WL 603552, at *1 (D. Ariz. Sept. 30, 1993).

The second phase of the two-step approach occurs once discovery is complete and the case is ready for trial. At that time, the party opposing ยง 216(b) collective action treatment ...


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