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Helton v. Factor 5, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California, Oakland Division

April 29, 2014

JESSE HELTON; ALISHA PICCIRILLO; CHAD LOWE; individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
FACTOR 5, INC.; FACTOR 5, LLC; BLUHARVEST, LLC; WHITEHARVEST, LLC; JULIAN EGGEBRECHT; HOLGER SCHMIDT; THOMAS ENGEL; and DOES 1-100, Defendants.

ORDER

SAUNDRA BROWN ARMSTRONG, District Judge.

The parties are presently before the Court on Plaintiffs'[1] request to allow the late-filing opt-in plaintiffs to join the conditionally certified Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") collective action. Dkt. 194. The individual Defendants[2] oppose Plaintiffs' request and have filed a motion to strike the late-filed consent to join forms. Dkt. 193, 197. Having read and considered the papers filed in connection with these matters and being fully informed, the Court hereby GRANTS Plaintiffs' request to allow the late-filing opt-in plaintiffs to join the FLSA collective action, and DENIES the individual Defendants' motion to strike the late-filed consent to join forms, for the reasons stated below. The Court, in its discretion, finds these matters suitable for resolution without oral argument. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b); N.D. Cal. Civ. L.R. 7-1(b).

I. BACKGROUND[3]

On January 21, 2009, Plaintiffs commenced the instant action in the Superior Court of California, County of Marin. Compl., Dkt. 1. On October 29, 2010, the action was removed to this Court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction after the Plaintiffs amended their complaint to add FLSA claims. Notice of Removal, Dkt. 1. On October 26, 2011, Plaintiffs filed a motion for conditional certification of a collective action under the FLSA. Dkt. 34. However, because the motion was not scheduled to be heard prior to the expiration of the FLSA's three-year statute of limitations, the Court granted Plaintiffs' request to toll the statute of limitations for opt-in claimants wishing to join the collective action on account of procedural delay. Dkt. 52. The Court tolled the FLSA statute of limitations until a decision was rendered on Plaintiffs' motion. Id.

On June 26, 2012, the Court granted conditional certification of a FLSA collection action, and found that facilitation of notice to the potential FLSA plaintiffs was appropriate. Dkt. 91. The Court ordered the Plaintiffs to modify their proposed notice form in several ways and directed the individual Defendants to produce the names and contact information of all potential plaintiffs. Id . The individual Defendants were directed to provide the contact information to Plaintiffs' counsel no later than fourteen (14) days from June 26, 2012. Id . The Court further directed that the modified notice and consent to join forms were to be mailed by Plaintiffs' counsel within fourteen (14) days of receipt of the contact information. Id . The Order provides that the potential plaintiffs had sixty (60) days from the mailing of the notice and consent to join forms to opt-in to the FLSA collective action by returning the forms to Plaintiffs' counsel. Id . The Order further provides that Plaintiffs' counsel must "promptly" file all such forms with the Court. Id . Thus, pursuant to the Court's Order, Plaintiffs' counsel had until on or shortly after September 22, 2012 to file any consent to join forms with the Court.

No consent to join form was filed with the Court before, on, or shortly after September 22, 2012. Instead, approximately nine months later on June 12, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a "Notice Regarding Responses and Opt-Ins Related to Notice of Conditional Collective FLSA Certification." Dkt. 94. The notice states that a "certified list of opt-ins" is attached. Id . While the attachment to Plaintiffs' notice contains the names of eleven individuals that purportedly completed an opt-in form, it does not contain any consent to join forms. See id. On July 22, 2013, Plaintiffs filed an "Updated Notice Regarding Responses and Opt-Ins Related to Notice of Conditional Collective FLSA Certification, " which states that Jason Lacroix "wishes to opt-out of the collective action." Dkt. 115.

On February 10, 2014, the Court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs on their FLSA minimum wage claim and awarded each of them $3, 353.60 in damages for the individual Defendants' willful violation of the FLSA. Dkt. 173. On February 20, 2014, Plaintiffs and the individual Defendants' appeared via telephone for a Case Management Conference. During the conference, Plaintiffs stated that they no longer intend to prosecute their overtime claim under the FLSA, and that they would file a dismissal of said claim.[4] With respect to the opt-in plaintiffs, the parties disagreed as to whether any putative members of the FLSA collective action are proper parties to the instant action. Later that same day, Plaintiffs filed a "Corrected Notice Regarding Response and Opt-Ins Related to Conditional Collective FLSA Certification." Dkt. 189. Attached to this document are ten executed consent to join forms, stamped received by CPT Group, Inc. on various dates from October 16, 2012 to November 7, 2012. Id.

On February 21, 2014, the Court directed the parties to submit briefing on the issue of whether any potential plaintiff has timely opted-in to the FLSA collective action. Dkt. 192. On February 26, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a responsive brief. Dkt. 194. On March 4, 2014, the individual Defendants filed a responsive brief. Dkt. 197.

II. DISCUSSION

In their briefing, Plaintiffs request an order permitting the late opt-in plaintiffs to join the FLSA collective action. In response, the individual Defendants contend that the late opt-in plaintiffs should not be permitted to join the FLSA collective action because their consent to join forms were filed long after the Court-imposed deadline. The individual Defendants request that the Court issue an order striking the untimely forms.

29 U.S.C. § 255(a) sets the limitations period for a claim for unpaid minimum wages, unpaid overtime compensation, or liquidated damages under the FLSA. Such a claim "may be commenced within two years after the cause of action accrued, and every such action shall be forever barred unless commenced within two years after the cause of action accrued, except that a cause of action arising out of a willful violation may be commenced within three years after the cause of action accrued." 29 U.S.C. § 255(a).

For a collective action instituted under the FLSA, the action is considered commenced in the case of any individual claimant:

(a) on the date when the complaint is filed, if he is specifically named as a party plaintiff in the complaint and his written consent to become a party plaintiff is filed on such date in the court in which the action is brought; or
(b) if such written consent was not so filed or if his name did not so appear - on the subsequent date on which such written consent is filed in the ...

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