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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Spellman v. American Eagle: Dukes Does Not Apply to FLSA Conditional Certification Order

Spellman v. American Eagle Express, No. 10-1764 (E.D. Pa. July 21, 2011) is a FLSA collective action in which the plaintiffs allege that American Eagle (AEX) misclassified them and their co-workers as independent contractors, rather than employees. In May, the court granted conditional certification. After the Supreme Court issued its decision in Walmart v. Dukes, the defendant moved for reconsideration. The court denied the motion:
On May 11, 2011, this Court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for conditional certification of a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) collective class, represented by the named Plaintiffs and consisting of all former and current AEX delivery drivers who may be owed unpaid overtime wages under the FLSA. AEX asks this Court to reconsider its Order, arguing the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2541 (2011), renders conditional certification inappropriate. In Dukes, the Supreme Court declined to certify a class pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 on the basis that Rule 23(a)(2)’s commonality requirement could not be satisfied. Id. at **18.

The instant case is a collective action brought pursuant to the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Unlike Rule 23 class actions. the FLSA requires collective action members to affirmatively opt in to the case. See § 216(b). To determine whether the proposed group of plaintiffs is “similarly situated,” and therefore qualified to proceed as a conditional collective action, a district court applies a two-step test. See Smith v. Sovereign Bancorp, Inc., No. 03-2420, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21010 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 13, 2003). In the first step, which is assessed early in the litigation process, the plaintiff at most must make only a “modest factual showing” that the similarly situated requirement is satisfied. See Bosley v. Chubb Corp., No. 04 - 4598, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10974, at *7-9 (E.D. Pa. Jun. 3, 2005). The Plaintiffs have made this modest factual showing, and this Court’s analysis is not affected by Dukes. The second step of the collective action certification process will be conducted at the close of class-related discovery, at which time this Court will conduct “a specific factual analysis of each employee’s claim to ensure that each proposed plaintiff is an appropriate party.” Harris v. Healthcare Servs. Grp., Inc., No. 06-2903, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55221, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Jul. 31, 2007). At this second stage, AEX may argue that Dukes’s analysis of what constitutes a “common question” is persuasive to this Court’s analysis of whether an FLSA collective action should be certified. In the interim, AEX’s motion for reconsideration is denied.
Slip. op at 1 fn. 1.

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