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Amaraut v. Sprint/United Management Co.

United States District Court, S.D. California

November 4, 2019

VLADIMIR AMARAUT, KATHERINE ALMONTE, CORBIN BELTZ, KRISTOPHER FOX, DYLAN MCCOLLUM, and QUINN MYERS, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
SPRINT/UNITED MANAGEMENT COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          HON. WILLIAM Q. HAYES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The matter before the Court is the Joint Motion to Conditionally Certify the Collective and Facilitate Notice Pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). (ECF No. 46).

         I. BACKGROUND

         On February 28, 2019, Plaintiff Vladimir Amaraut initiated this action by filing a Collective and Class Action Complaint against Defendant Sprint/United Management Company, bringing claims pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq., and California state wage and hour laws. (ECF No. 1). On March 7, 2019, September 11, 2019, September 12, 2019, September 13, 2019, and September 17, 2019, Plaintiff filed Notices of Filing Consents to Join. (ECF Nos. 3, 33-35, 37). On November 1, 2019, Plaintiffs Vladimir Amaraut, Katherine Almonte, Corbin Beltz, Kristopher Fox, Dylan McCollum, and Quinn Myers filed an Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 45-1, Exhibit 1). Plaintiffs allege that Defendant violated the FLSA by failing to compensate Plaintiff and the putative Collective for all hours worked and failing to pay the legally mandated overtime premium for such work and/or minimum wage. On November 1, 2019, the Parties filed a Joint Motion to Conditionally Certify the Collective and Facilitate Notice Pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). (ECF No. 46).

         II. DISCUSSION

         Section 216(b) of the FLSA provides a private cause of action against an employer “by any one or more employees for and on behalf of himself or themselves and other employees similarly situated.” Collective actions under the FLSA require putative class members to opt in to the case. See 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) (“No employee shall be a party plaintiff to any such action unless he gives his consent in writing to become such a party and such consent is filed in the court in which such action is brought.”). To certify a putative collective action under § 216(b), employees bringing the action must demonstrate they are similarly situated to the proposed class members. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Whether a suit may be maintained as a FLSA collective action is within the discretion of the court. See Leuthold v. Destination Am., 224 F.R.D. 462, 466 (N.D. Cal. 2004).

         The Ninth Circuit has not formally prescribed the standard for managing FLSA collective actions, but most courts follow a two-step approach. See e.g., Leuthold, 224 F.R.D. at 466; Edwards v. City of Long Beach, 467 F.Supp.2d 986, 990 (C.D. Cal. 2006); Daniels v. Aeropostale W., Inc., No. C 12-05755 WHA, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59514, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 24, 2013); Ellerd v. Cty. of L.A., No. CV 08-4289 CAS FFMX, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 136851, at *3 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 9, 2009). At the first step, known as “conditional certification, ” the court determines whether notice of the action should be issued to potential opt-in plaintiffs and whether the action should proceed as a collective action. See Daniels, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59514, at *2. The plaintiff bears the burden of showing that plaintiff and members of the proposed collective action are “similarly situated.” Id. The standard for certification at this stage is “a lenient one that typically results in certification.” Graham v. Overland Sols, Inc., No. 10-CV-672 BEN BLM, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49304, at *2 (S.D. Cal. May 9, 2011). “Courts require nothing more than substantial allegations that the putative class members were together the victims of a single decision, policy, or plan.” Id. (quotation omitted). “All that need be shown by the plaintiff 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.” Id. “[T]he Court notes that it should not consider the merits of Plaintiffs' claims at the conditional certification stage.” Velasquez v. HSBC Fin. Corp., 266 F.R.D. 424, 432 (N.D. Cal. 2010)

         The second stage of the analysis usually occurs at the close of discovery upon the filing of a defendant's motion for decertification. Lewis v. Wells Fargo Co., 669 F.Supp.2d 1124, 1127 (N.D. Cal. 2009). This stage utilizes a more stringent standard than the first stage. Id.

         In this case, the Parties jointly seek conditional certification of the following Collective:

All current and former non-exempt employees of Defendant working in Defendant's retail establishments throughout the United States during the time period from three years prior to the filing of the complaint until resolution of this action.

         Plaintiffs allege that “Plaintiffs' FLSA claims are similar to the claims of the members of the Collective.” (ECF No. 45-1 ¶ 54). Plaintiffs allege that “[t]he members of the FLSA Collective are similarly situated, as they have substantially similar job duties and requirements and are subject to a common policy, practice, or plan that requires them to perform work ‘off-the-clock' and without compensation in violation of the FLSA.” (Id. ¶ 55). Plaintiffs alleges that they are:

former non-exempt employees of Defendant, who worked in positions including, but not limited to, Retail Consultant and Lead Retail Consultant. Plaintiffs were paid approximately $10 to $15 per hour, plus potential commissions that they could earn based on sales. Plaintiffs' duties included, but were not limited to, selling and setting up cellular phones, devices, accessories, and related service plans, assisting customers with phone and service issues, troubleshooting equipment issues, making repairs to broken phones and devices, processing insurance claims, and monitoring customer traffic within the store.

(Id. ¶ 26). Plaintiffs allege that:

[s]imilar to Plaintiffs, the putative Collective and Class Members are current and former non-exempt employees who work, or have worked, at Defendant's retail stores. As Sprint employees, putative Collective and Class Members are expected to sell Sprint's products and services to customers in Sprint's retail locations. Plaintiffs are informed, believe, and thereon allege that the policies and practices of Defendant have at all relevant times been similar ...

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