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Rasberry v. Columbia County

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division

July 31, 2017

MICHELLE RASBERRY, individually and on Behalf of Others Similarly Situated PLAINTIFF
v.
COLUMBIA COUNTY, ARKANSAS DEFENDANT

          ORDER

          Susan O. Hickey United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Rule 23 Class Certification. ECF No. 18. Defendant has filed a response. ECF No. 20. Plaintiff has filed a reply. ECF No. 23. Defendant has further filed a supplemental response. ECF No. 32. Plaintiff has, likewise, filed a supplemental reply.[1] ECF No. 34. The Court finds this matter ripe for consideration.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed her Complaint on August 4, 2016. ECF No. 1. Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq., and the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act (“AMWA”), Ark. Code Ann. §§ 11-4-201, et seq. ECF No. 1, ¶ 1. Plaintiff claims that Defendant failed to pay her, and others similarly situated, overtime compensation for all hours worked in excess of 171 hours in a twenty-eight consecutive day work period. ECF No. 1, ¶ 1. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant has “misclassified [Plaintiff and all those similarly situated] as exempt from the overtime requirements of the FLSA . . . and the AMWA[.]” ECF No. 1, ¶ 9. Plaintiff claims that she was a salaried employee employed by Defendant and “was routinely required to work off-the-clock in excess of 171 hours in a 28-day work period and was not allowed to report all hours worked, including overtime.” ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 15, 18. The Court conditionally certified Plaintiff's FLSA collective action on January 31, 2017. ECF No. 25. Upon completion of the FLSA opt-in period, only six individuals, including Plaintiff, had consented to be part of Plaintiff's FLSA collective action. ECF Nos. 11, 12, 27, 28, 29.

         As for Plaintiff's AMWA claim, Plaintiff seeks recovery individually and collectively, proposing to “represent the class [of] salaried jailors who are/were employed by Defendant within the relevant time period.” ECF No. 1, ¶ 51. In the present motion, Plaintiff asks the Court to certify a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) 23 AMWA class with the following description:

All of Defendant's salaried jailors (or similar positions) who worked in the State of Arkansas at the Columbia County Jail at any time after August 04, 2013.

ECF No. 18, ¶ 5.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Class certification is governed by Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 (“Rule 23”) states, in relevant part, that:

One or more members of a class may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf of all members only if: (1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class; (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a). These requirements for class certification under Rule 23(a) are commonly referred to as “numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy of representation.” Gen. Tel. Co. v. EEOC, 446 U.S. 318, 330 (1980). In order to be certified under Rule 23, the class must satisfy all four requirements of Rule 23(a) and one of the three subsections of Rule 23(b). In re St. Jude Med., Inc., 425 F.3d 1116, 1119 (8th Cir. 2005). In the present action, Plaintiff asserts that she has met the requirements of Rule 23(b)(3). ECF No. 19, p. 14. Rule 23(b)(3) states:

A class action may be maintained if Rule 23(a) is satisfied and if . . . the court finds that the questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy. The matters pertinent to these findings include: (A) the class members' interests in individually controlling the prosecution or defense of separate actions; (B) the extent and nature of any litigation concerning the controversy already begun by or against class members; (C) the desirability or undesirability of concentrating the litigation of the claims in the particular forum; and (D) the likely difficulties in managing a class action.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3).

         On a motion for class certification, the movant has the burden to affirmatively demonstrate that the requirements of Rule 23 are met. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 350 (2011) (“A party seeking class certification must affirmatively demonstrate his compliance with the Rule-that is, he must be prepared to prove that there are in fact sufficiently numerous parties, common questions of law or fact, etc.” (emphasis in original)). A court considering a Rule 23 motion must conduct a rigorous analysis to determine whether the movant has satisfied the requirements of Rule 23. Id. at 350-51. In order to make this determination, the court may find it necessary to “probe behind the pleadings.” Id. at 350. The decision whether to certify a class action is within the broad discretion of the district court. In re Milk Prods. Antitrust Litig., 195 F.3d 430, 436 (8th Cir. 1999). In determining whether to certify a class action, “the question is not whether the plaintiff or plaintiffs have stated a cause of action or will prevail on the merits, but rather whether the requirements of Rule 23 are met.” Eisen v. Carlisle & Jacquelin, 417 U.S. 156, 178 (1974) (internal citations omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Court will address each of the requirements of Rule 23 in turn, first discussing whether Plaintiff has satisfied the requirements of Rule 23(a) and then moving on to Rule 23(b)(3).

         A. Requirements of Rule 23(a)

         i. ...


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