Class Action Complaint Alleging Violations of FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) based on Misclassification of Store Managers and Consequent Failure to Pay Overtime Satisfied First-Tier’s “Lenient Standard” for Conditional Class Action Certification Florida Federal Court Holds
Plaintiff filed a class action against Starbucks alleging violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA); the class action complaint asserted that Starbucks misclassified him (and other store managers) as exempt and failed to pay him overtime. Reed v. Starbucks Coffee Co., ___ F.R.D. ___ (S.D.Fla. April 23, 2009) [Slip Opn., at 1]. According to plaintiff, a similar class action was filed over this issue in 2004 entitled Pendlebury v. Starbucks, which was settled in August 2008. Id., at 1-2. The present class action seeks overtime pay for store managers who worked for Starbucks on or after January 15, 2006, id., at 2. Plaintiff filed a motion with the district court for conditional certification of the litigation as a class action, id., at 1, and provided notices from five other individuals who consented to joining in the action since the class action complaint had been filed, id., at 2. The district court determined that conditional class action treatment was warranted and therefore granted plaintiffs’ conditional class action certification motion.
The district court explained that the Eleventh Circuit “has endorsed a two-tiered approach to certification of collective actions” under the FLSA. Reed, at 3 (citation omitted). The first stage employs “a fairly lenient standard” that requires the district court to determine whether the lawsuit is “suitable” for class action treatment. Id. This requires “some evidence that there are other employees of the defendant-employer who wish to opt-in the action.” Id. (citation omitted). The federal court found persuasive not only the five notices of consent to join filed in the present case, but “the fact that a previous suit resulted in 900 opt-in plaintiffs.” Id. The first stage requires also a showing that the members of the proposed class are “similarly situated,” id. In this regard, the district court found adequate plaintiff’s allegation “that there is a company-wide pay policy that results in all store managers being improperly classified as exempt and thus denied overtime compensation.” Id., at 4. The federal court therefore found that plaintiff had adequately established a basis for granting conditional class action certification to the lawsuit, id., at 4-5. Accordingly, the district court granted plaintiff’s motion and authorized the sending of notification to potential class members, id., at 5.