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Bonds v. Langston Companies, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division

September 24, 2019

JAYLIN BONDS, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated PLAINTIFF
v.
LANGSTON COMPANIES, INC. DEFENDANT

          ORDER

          Kristine G. Baker United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Jaylin Bonds brings this proposed collective action against defendant Langston Companies, Inc. (“Langston”). Mr. Bonds alleges that the payroll system used by Langston rounded time worked in a way that resulted in several hours of unpaid work each month for hourly-paid employees, including weeks hourly-paid employees worked more than 40 hours, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), and the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act (“AMWA”), Ark. Code Ann. § 11-4-201, et seq.

         Before the Court is Mr. Bonds’s motion for conditional certification, for disclosure of contact information, and to send notices (Dkt. No. 7). Langston responded in opposition to the motion (Dkt. No. 11), and Mr. Bonds replied (Dkt. No. 12). For the reasons that follow, the Court grants in part and denies in part Mr. Bonds’s motion for conditional certification, for disclosure of contact information, and to send notices (Dkt. No. 7).

         I. Factual Background

         Mr. Bonds is a former employee of Langston who worked as a manufacturing plant employee from around March 2018 until October 2018 (Dkt. No. 7-6, ¶ 4). Mr. Bonds asserts that his job duties included performing the manual labor necessary to the manufacturing and finishing process, including operating the machinery to manufacture and finish various bags (Id., ¶ 6). Mr. Bonds alleges that the payroll system used by Langston rounded time worked by hourly-paid manufacturing plant employees in favor of Langston (Id., ¶ 10). Mr. Bonds contends that the time that was rounded in Langston’s favor resulted in several hours of unpaid work each month for hourly-paid employees, including weeks hourly-paid employees worked more than 40 hours (Id., ¶ 12). In his present motion, Mr. Bonds seeks conditional certification for the following collective: “[a]ll hourly-paid manufacturing plant employees who worked more than thirty nine (39) hours in any week for [d]efendant[] at any time since October 5, 2015” (Dkt. No. 7, ¶ 3).

         II. Analysis

         A. FLSA Conditional Certification

         Under the FLSA:

An action to recover the liability prescribed . . . may be maintained against any employer . . . in any Federal or State court of competent jurisdiction by any one or more employees for and in behalf of himself or themselves and other employees similarly situated. 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.

29 U.S.C. § 216(b).

         Many district courts in the Eighth Circuit utilize a two-step approach in collective action cases. At the notice stage, the Court must determine, based on the pleadings and affidavits, whether notice should be given to potential class members. The key issue is whether the members of the proposed class are similarly situated. If the Court allows notification, then a representative class is conditionally certified, and Mr. Bonds will send notice to the putative opt-in plaintiffs. At the second stage, the Court determines whether to decertify the class once discovery is largely complete. Smith v. Frac Tech Services, Ltd., No. 4:09-cv-679, 2009 WL 4251017, at *2 (E.D. Ark. Nov. 24, 2009) (citation omitted). This Court has previously adopted this approach. See McChesney v. Holtger Bros., Inc., No. 4:17-cv-824, 2019 WL 118408, at *2 (E.D. Ark. Jan. 7, 2019); Watson v. Surf-Frac Wellhead Equip. Co., No. 4:11-cv-843, 2012 WL 5185869, at *1 (E.D. Ark. Oct. 18, 2012); Cruthis v. Vision’s, No. 4:12-cv-244, 2013 WL 4028523, at *1-2 (E.D. Ark. Aug. 7, 2013).

         “‘To establish that conditional certification is appropriate, the plaintiff[] must provide some factual basis from which the court can determine if similarly situated potential plaintiffs exist.’” Tegtmeier v. PJ Iowa, L.C., 208 F.Supp. 3d 1012');">208 F.Supp. 3d 1012, 1018 (S.D. Iowa 2016) (alteration in original) (quoting Robinson v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 254 F.R.D. 97, 99 (S.D. Iowa 2008)). Mr. Bonds’s burden at the notice stage is lenient and may be met by making a “modest factual showing, ” typically by the submission of affidavits, that he and the putative class were victims of a common decision, policy, or plan of the employer that affected all class members in a similar fashion. Resendiz-Ramirez v. P & H Forestry, LLC, 515 F.Supp.2d 937, 941 (W.D. Ark. 2007) (citing Thiessen v. General Electric Capital Corp., 267 F.3d 1095, 1106-08 (10th Cir. 2001)). However, while this is a “lenient standard, . . . ‘more than mere allegations’ are required.” Tegtmeier, 208 F.Supp. 3d at 1018 (quoting Robinson, 254 F.R.D. at 99).

         “Typically, district courts will make the determination of whether to conditionally certify a class based solely on the affidavits presented by the plaintiffs.” Huang v. Gateway Hotel Holdings, 248 F.R.D. 225, 227 (E.D. Mo. 2008) (citation omitted). The Court can consider a variety of non-exclusive factors in determining whether employees are similarly situated. Such factors include: (1) whether the employees held the same job title; (2) whether they worked in the same geographic location; (3) whether the alleged violations occurred during the same time period; (4) whether the employees were subjected to the same policies and practices and, if so, whether the policies and practices were established in the same manner and by the same decision maker; and (5) the extent to which the acts constituting the alleged violations are similar. Stone v. First Union Corp., 203 F.R.D. 532, 542-43 (S.D. Fla. 2001) (citing Hipp v. Liberty Nat’l Life Ins. Co., 252 F.3d 1208, 1217 (11th Cir. 2001); Grayson v. K Mart Corp., 79 F.3d 1086, 1090, 1097-99 (11th Cir. 1996)). “The Court does not need to determine whether class members are actually similarly situated until the ‘merits stage’ of the litigation, when defendants typically move to decertify the class.” Tinsley v. Covenant Care Servs., LLC, No. 1:14-cv-00026-ACL, 2015 WL 1433988, at *1 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 27, 2015) (emphasis in original) (citing Littlefield v. Dealer Warranty Servs., LLC, 679 F.Supp.2d 1014, 1016-17 (E.D. Mo. 2010)).

         In a sworn affidavit, Mr. Bonds avers that he worked as an hourly-paid manufacturing plant employee in Arkansas for Langston from about March 2018 until October 2018 (Dkt. No. 7-6, ¶ 4). Mr. Bonds alleges that his job duties included performing the manual labor necessary to the manufacturing and finishing process, including operating the machinery to manufacture and finish various bags (Id., ¶ 6). Mr. Bonds asserts that the payroll system used by Langston rounded the time worked by himself and other hourly-paid manufacturing plant employees in favor of Langston (Id., ¶ 10). Mr. Bonds asserts that the amount of time that was rounded in Langston’s favor resulted in ...


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