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Wellman v. Grand Isle Shipyard, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

November 7, 2014

DEAN WELLMAN,
v.
GRAND ISLE SHIPYARD, INC., Section I

ORDER AND REASONS

LANCE M. AFRICK, District Judge.

Before the Court is a motion[1] filed by plaintiff for conditional certification of the abovecaptioned matter as a collective action. Defendant, Grand Isle Shipyard, Inc. ("Grand Isle"), has filed an opposition. For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED IN PART.

BACKGROUND

According to the complaint, Grand Isle "has been supplying personnel to the oil and gas industry for decades" and "provides a full range of construction services' including project management and contract labor."[2] Plaintiff, a former employee of Grand Isle, alleges that he is owed wages for uncompensated overtime hours.[3] Plaintiff alleges that he and other similarly situated workers were compensated pursuant to a "straight time for overtime" policy instead of the time-and-a-half minimum rate for overtime hours required by the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA").[4] See 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(2).[5] Plaintiff contends that defendant willfully violated the FLSA and that it must compensate him and a class of similarly situated workers for unpaid overtime wages, as well as reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.[6] Plaintiff requests that the Court conditionally certify this case as a collective action and authorize notice to "[a]ll persons employed by Grand Isle as Project Managers and paid on an hourly basis at any time from April 10, 2011 to present."[7]

LAW AND ANALYSIS

A. Conditional Certification

The FLSA provides that an action to recover "unpaid overtime compensation... may be maintained against any employer... by any one or more employees for and [on] behalf of himself or themselves and other employees similarly situated." 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). However, the FLSA does not define "similarly situated" or otherwise explain how the certification of such collective actions should proceed.

There are two main lines of authority that prescribe different methods of determining whether a case may proceed as a collective action pursuant to § 216(b). See Mooney v. Aramco Servs. Co., 54 F.3d 1207, 1213 (5th Cir. 1995).[8] The first, referred to as "two-stage class certification, " is typified by Lusardi v. Xerox Corp., 118 F.R.D. 351 (D.N.J. 1987). Mooney explains the typical Lusardi procedure:

Under Lusardi, the trial court approaches the "similarly situated" inquiry via a two-step analysis. The first determination is made at the so-called "notice stage." At the notice stage, the district court makes a decision-usually based only on the pleadings and any affidavits which have been submitted-whether notice of the action should be given to potential class members.
Because the court has minimal evidence, this determination is made using a fairly lenient standard, and typically results in "conditional certification" of a representative class. If the district court "conditionally certifies" the class, putative class members are given notice and the opportunity to "opt-in." The action proceeds as a representative action through discovery.

Mooney, 54 F.3d at 1213-14 (footnote omitted). This "lenient standard" requires "nothing more than substantial allegations that the putative class members were together the victims of a single decision, policy, or plan." Id. at 1214 n.8 (quoting Sperling v. Hoffman-La Roche, Inc., 118 F.R.D. 392, 407 (D.N.J. 1988)).

Mooney continues:

The second determination 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. At this stage, the court has much more information on which to base its decision, and makes a factual determination on the similarly situated question. If the claimants are similarly situated, the district court allows the representative action to proceed to trial. If the claimants are not similarly situated, the district court decertifies the class, and the opt-in plaintiffs are dismissed without prejudice. The class representatives-i.e., the original plaintiffs-proceed to trial on their individual claims.

Id. at 1214. The Fifth Circuit observed that "the Lusardi ... line of cases, by its nature, ... lends itself to ad hoc analysis on a ...


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