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Sizemore v. Grayhawk Homes Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division

April 27, 2018

MICHAEL CAMERON SIZEMORE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
GRAYHAWK HOMES INC, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          LESLIE J. ABRAMS, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Before the Court are Plaintiffs' Complaint, Doc. 1, Plaintiffs' Motion for Conditional Certification of Collective Action and Issuance of Court-Approved Notice, Doc. 13, and Defendants' Motion for Leave to File Excess Pages for Defendants' Response. Doc. 17. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs' Motion, Doc. 13, and Defendants' Motion, Doc. 17, are GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendants Grayhawk Homes Inc. and David Erickson are residential homebuilders. Doc. 1 at 1. Erickson is Grayhawk's CEO. Id. Prior to this action, Plaintiffs worked for Grayhawk and Erickson as construction superintendents or assistant superintendents. Id. On August 3, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint on behalf of themselves and all other similarly-situated individuals against Defendants for alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. Doc. 1 at 1. Specifically, Plaintiffs alleged that, during the past three years, Plaintiffs and those similarly situated: (1) had the position of construction superintendent or assistant superintendent while employed by Defendants; (2) worked in that capacity at Defendants' insistence, request, or allowance for more than forty hours per week; (3) were misclassified as exempt under the FLSA; and (4) were not paid time-and-a-half for hours worked above forty hours per week in violation of the overtime compensation provision of the FLSA. Id. at 2, 8; see 29 U.S.C. § 207.

         On November 22, 2017, Plaintiffs filed their Motion for Conditional Certification of Collective Action and Issuance of Court-Approved Notice. Doc. 13. Defendants timely filed a Response, and Plaintiffs timely filed a Reply. Docs. 18 & 23. Plaintiffs' Motion is now ripe for review. M.D. Ga. L.R. 7.3.1(A).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         The FLSA's Overtime Provision “requires employers to pay one and one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of forty hours per week.” Prickett v. DeKalb Cty., 349 F.3d 1294, 1296 (11th Cir. 2003); see 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). “Employers who violate these provisions of the FLSA are ‘liable to the employee or employees affected in the amount of their unpaid overtime compensation and in an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.' 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).” Id. (punctuation omitted). “An [opt-in] FLSA action for overtime pay can be maintained by ‘one or more employees for and in behalf of himself or themselves and other employees similarly situated.' 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).” Id. “Congress' purpose in authorizing § 216(b) class actions was to avoid multiple lawsuits where numerous employees have allegedly been harmed by a claimed violation or violations of the FLSA by a particular employer.” Id. at 1297.

         “The Eleventh Circuit applies a two-stage process to FLSA collective action. The first stage in determining whether a collective action should be certified is the notice stage (also referred to as the conditional certification stage) at which time the court determines whether other similarly situated employees should be notified.” Jackson v. Fed. Nat'l Mortg. Ass'n, 181 F.Supp.3d 1044, 1050 (N.D.Ga. 2016) (citations omitted) (citing Morgan v. Family Dollar Stores, Inc., 551 F.3d 1233, 1260 (11th Cir. 2008)). “The second stage of the certification process is typically precipitated by a motion for decertification by the defendant usually filed after discovery is largely complete and the matter is ready for trial.” Id.

         “[A]t the initial stage the district court's decision to certify a class is based primarily on pleadings and affidavits.” Anderson v. Cagle's, Inc., 488 F.3d 945, 953 (11th Cir. 2007). “A plaintiff has the burden of showing a ‘reasonable basis' for his claim that there are other similarly situated employees.” Morgan, 551 F.3d at 1260. “[A]t the initial stage, courts apply a fairly lenient standard for determining whether the plaintiffs are truly similarly situated.” Anderson, 488 F.3d at 953 (punctuation omitted). Thus, “[b]efore granting conditional certification, the court should determine: (1) whether employees sought to be included in the putative class are similarly situated with respect to their job requirements and pay provisions; and (2) whether there are other employees who wish to opt-in to the action.” Jackson, 181 F.Supp.3d at 1052.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Similarly Situated Employees

         The first question is whether the potential opt-in plaintiffs are similarly situated “with respect to their job requirements and pay provisions.” Jackson, 181 F.Supp.3d at 1052. Plaintiffs have made the requisite showing at this stage. Plaintiff proposes a relatively narrow class, consisting of two types of employees-construction superintendents and assistant superintendents, who: (1) are all allegedly misclassified as exempt and were not paid time-and-a-half for hours worked above forty hours per week; (2) worked for Defendants within a certain window of time; and (3) all have similar job duties and manual labor duties alleged to be outside of their roles as exempt employees. See Docs. 1; 13-2 at 11-13; 13-3 to 13-9. Plaintiffs have supported the existence of the class with the declarations of the six named Plaintiffs, see Docs. 1; 13-3 to 13-9, and Defendants have admitted that they did not pay superintendents time-and-a-half for hours worked above forty hours per week. See Doc. 18 at 2, 6. This is enough to satisfy this prong of the conditional certification analysis.

         Defendants object to the certification of the class, arguing primarily that the positions that the named and unnamed Plaintiffs held-construction superintendents and assistant superintendents-were exempt positions under the FLSA. See Doc. 18 at 6-23. These arguments go to the merits of Plaintiffs' FLSA claims, not to whether the potential plaintiffs are similarly situated.

         II. ...


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