United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
TRAMINE C. HARP and SHANTOYA HILL, Plaintiffs,
BRAN HOSPITALITY, INC., et al., Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR CONDITIONAL CLASS CERTIFICATION
AND DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO AMEND AS MOOT
E. SELF, III, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
filed suit against Defendants for alleged violations of the
Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et
seq. (“FLSA”), during their employment as
housekeepers at Defendant Bran Hospitality, Inc.'s
Hampton Inn hotel. Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion
to Amend Complaint and for Conditional Certification [Doc.
16], wherein Plaintiffs seek conditional class certification
and to add several entities co-owned and co-managed by Bran
Hospitality's management as defendants to this action.
For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Plaintiffs'
request in part.
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
following facts are taken from Plaintiffs' Amended
Complaint [Doc. 7] and the parties' briefs and are
assumed to be true for the limited purpose of ruling on the
instant motion. Throughout 2017, Defendant Bran Hospitality
employed Plaintiffs as housekeepers at a Hampton Inn hotel in
Americus, Georgia. [Doc. 7 at ¶ 8]. During that time,
Defendant allegedly paid Plaintiffs $3.65 per room
cleaned-what Bran Hospitality refers to as a
“piece-rate” system-rather than on an hourly
basis. [Id. at ¶¶ 10, 13; Doc. 24 at 2].
Upon receiving his first paycheck, Plaintiff Harp allegedly
informed Bran Hospitality management that his pay did not
reflect the actual number of hours he worked. [Doc. 7 at
¶ 9]. Plaintiff Harp received three more paychecks and
complained each time that his checks were incorrect.
[Id. at ¶ 13]. After he complained the fourth
time, Bran Hospitality terminated Harp's employment.
their Amended Complaint [Doc. 7], Plaintiffs seek to
institute a collective action against Bran Hospitality for
compensatory damages, liquidated damages, and attorney's
fees as a result of several alleged FLSA violations.
Specifically, Plaintiffs jointly allege causes of action for
minimum wage and overtime pay violations, and Plaintiff Harp
individually asserts a cause of action for retaliation.
order to facilitate the institution of a collective action,
Plaintiffs now move for “conditional class
certification, ” which would allow Plaintiffs to give
potential plaintiffs notice of the lawsuit and an opportunity
to join. Bran Hospitality does not oppose Plaintiffs'
request to give notice to Bran's present and former
employees. [Doc. 24 at 7]. Instead, the crux of the present
dispute is whether the class of potential plaintiffs should
include employees of five additional entities, each of which
is commonly owned and managed by Bran Hospitality management,
shares a principal place of business and registered agent
with Bran Hospitality, and allegedly shares “the common
unlawful practice” Bran Hospitality is accused of
committing in this case. [Doc. 16 at 2-4]. Plaintiffs also
request that, in the event they are permitted to give notice
to these other entities' (hereinafter the “Bran
Entities”) employees, the Court also allow them to add
the Bran Entities as defendants to this action.
Standard of Review
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2), the court should freely grant leave to
amended when justice so requires. However, the court may deny
leave if the amendment would be overly prejudicial against
the non-moving party or if the reason for amending is futile.
Burger King Corp. v. Weaver, 169 F.3d 1310, 1318
(11th Cir. 1999). Additionally, under Fed.R.Civ.P. 21, the
court may, on its own discretion and at any time, add or drop
FLSA Conditional Certification
provides a right of action to the “employee or
employees” affected by their employer's FLSA
violations. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Such an action may be
brought by “any one or more employees for and in behalf
of himself or themselves and other employees similarly
situated.” Id. Plaintiffs seeking to join a
collective action under this provision must affirmatively opt
into the action by providing the Court with their written
consent. Id. To facilitate this opt-in mechanism,
district courts “have the power to give . . . notice to
other potential members of the plaintiff class” and may
exercise that power “under appropriate
conditions.” Dybach v. State of Fla. Dep't of
Corr., 942 F.2d 1562, 1567 (11th Cir. 1991). These
conditions are satisfied upon a showing that there are
“other employees of the [employer]” who desire to
join the action and that those other employees are
“similarly situated with respect to their job
requirements and with regard to their pay provisions.”
Id. at 1567-68 (internal quotations omitted). This
is known as the “notice stage” and is subject to
a “fairly lenient standard” since the Court's
decision is based only on the complaint and accompanying
affidavits rather than hard evidence. Hipp v. Liberty
Nat'l Life Ins. Co., 252 F.3d 1208, 1218 (11th Cir.
2001) (quoting Mooney v. Aramco Servs. Co., 54 F.3d
1207, 1213-14 (5th Cir. 1995)).
the notice stage and subsequent discovery, the Court enters
the “decertification stage” and considers the
similarly situated question in more depth, using evidence
obtained by the parties in discovery. Id. If the
Court determines that the opt-in plaintiffs are not actually
similarly situated to the named plaintiffs, the Court
decertifies the class, dismisses the opt-in plaintiffs
without prejudice, and allows the named plaintiffs to proceed
to trial on their individual claims. Id.
initial matter, Defendant Bran Hospitality makes no objection
to conditional certification as to its own housekeepers, but
does object to Plaintiffs amending their complaint to add the
other Bran Entities as defendants and to allowing the other
entities' housekeepers to receive notice of this action.
Therefore, the remainder of the Court's analysis pertains
only to conditional certification as it relates to employees
of the other Bran Entities.