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Carter v. Anderson Merchandisers

May 11, 2010

KEVIN CARTER, JUSTINE CLOUSE, AND DEBORAH LANASA, INDIVIDUALLY, AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, AND ON BEHALF OF THE GENERAL PUBLIC, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ANDERSON MERCHANDISERS, LP, AND DOES 1 THROUGH 10, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.
TERRI MASSOUD, JACQUELINE OUGEL, AND JOYCE SPEARS, INDIVIDUALLY, AND ON BEHALF OF OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ANDERSON MERCHANDISERS, LP, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: VIRGINIA A. Phillips United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR FINAL SETTLEMENT APPROVAL AND DISMISSING ACTION

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTIONS (1)TO CERTIFY CONDITIONAL AND FINAL CLASS; and (2) FOR FINAL SETTLEMENT APPROVAL AND DISMISSING ACTION

[Motions filed on March 22, 2010]

The Carter Plaintiffs' Motion for Final Settlement Approval, and the Massoud Plaintiffs' Motions to Certify a Conditional and Final Settlement Class and for Final Settlement Approval came before the Court for a final fairness hearing on April 19, 2010. After reviewing and considering all papers filed in support of the Motions, as well as the arguments advanced by counsel at the hearing, the Court GRANTS all three motions, as set forth below.

Plaintiffs in these related wage and hour class actions are current and former full-time, salaried sales representatives (or "representatives") who worked for Defendant Anderson Merchandisers, LP ("Anderson"), in connection with Anderson's supply of various media products to Wal-Mart retail stores nationwide. On January 7, 2010, the Court granted the motions of Plaintiffs in both cases and preliminarily approved the parties' joint stipulations of settlement and release. On March 22, Plaintiffs in both cases filed motions for final approval of the joint stipulations of settlement and release, as well as applications for attorney's fees and costs, which are addressed in a separate order. In addition, consistent with the Court's January 7, 2010 Order, the Massoud Plaintiffs filed a motion to certify a conditional and final settlement class. On March 25, 2010, Defendant filed notices of non-opposition to each of the pending motions and applications. No potential class member has either opted-out or objected to the terms of settlement.

I. BACKGROUND

A. The Carter Action

On January 10, 2008, Plaintiffs Kevin Carter, Justin Clouse, Deborah Lanasa, and Michael Styles*fn1 filed suit in this Court, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, against Anderson and ten unnamed Does. The Complaint alleged violations of California, Oregon, and federal law for failure to pay overtime wages and provide appropriate meal and rest breaks to employees.

On July 10, 2008, the Court conditionally certified a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") on behalf of a class defined as:

All persons who Defendant employs or has employed as a Sales Representative, who Defendant misclassified as exempt since June 1, 2005, and who were therefore denied compensation required by federal wage and hour laws.

This class is the "FLSA class." There were 302 eligible members of the FLSA class who opted-in to this action. (Morgan Decl. in Support of Carter Mot. for Final Approval of Settlement ("Morgan Carter Approval Decl.") ¶ 2.)

On November 18, 2008, the Court certified a class for Plaintiffs' overtime claim brought under Cal. Labor Code § 510 and Industrial Wage Order No. 4 pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a). That class is defined as:

All current and former California sales representatives who Defendant classified as exempt between January 10, 2004 and August 27, 2006.

This class is referred to as the "California class."*fn2 There are one hundred seventy-three members of the California class. (Morgan Carter Approval Decl. ¶ 3.)

The parties engaged in mediation and, on October 12, 2009, filed a stipulation to stay the case pending the approval of the joint settlement in this case and Massoud.

B. The Massoud Action

On November 26, 2008, Plaintiffs Terri Massoud,*fn3 Jacqueline Ougel, and Joyce Spears filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, against Anderson. The putative collective action only included claims under the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1), for a failure to pay overtime. (Massoud Compl. ¶ 13.)

Plaintiffs alleged a number of sales representatives had missed the deadline to join the Carter action, and those representatives were the plaintiffs in the second case. (Massoud Compl. ¶¶ 10-11.)

Defendant moved to transfer the Massoud action to this Court, and the motion was granted on January 28, 2009. The parties engaged in mediation, and on October 12, 2009, the parties filed a stipulation to stay the case pending the approval of the joint settlement in this case and Carter.

C. The January 7, 2010 Order

In its January 7, 2010 Order, the Court granted preliminary approval of the parties' settlement, and directed dissemination of the class notice and claim form. In so doing, the Court noted that, prior to final approval of the Carter Settlement, Plaintiffs would be required to "produce additional evidence to justify final certification of the FLSA class." (Jan. 7, 2010 Order at 11.)

The Court also granted preliminary approval of the Massoud class, defined as Plaintiffs/Claimants who have worked for Defendant as salaried, exempt sales representatives between November 26, 2005, and October 9, 2009; who have filed consent to join forms in the Massoud action; and who did not successfully opt in to the Carter FLSA class. (Id. at 11-12.) There are twenty-five members of this class. (Morgan Decl. in Supp. of Mot. for Class Cert. in Massoud ("Morgan Massoud Class Cert. Decl.") Decl. ¶ 2; Morgan Carter Approval Decl. ¶ 2.) Prior to final approval of the Massoud Settlement, though, the Court noted Plaintiffs would be required to "properly move for conditional and final certification of the [Massoud] class." (Jan. 7, 2010 Order at 12.) This statement was a clerical error, as the Court's "preliminary" approval served as the required conditional certification. Thus, only the final certification of both FLSA classes remains.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

Where "the parties reach a settlement agreement prior to class certification, courts must peruse the proposed compromise to ratify both the propriety of the certification and the fairness of the settlement." Staton v. Boeing Co., 327 F.3d 938, 952 (9th Cir. 2003).

A. Class Certification

The Carter settlement class is comprised of two subclasses: one collective class under the FLSA and one Rule 23 class. The Massoud settlement ...


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