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Chapman v. LHC Group, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

November 13, 2014

CORINNE CHAPMAN,
v.
LHC GROUP, INC., Section:

ORDER

NANNETTE JOLIVETTE BROWN, District Judge.

Before the Court is Plaintiff Corinne Chapman's "Motion to Conditionally Certify a Collective Action and Issue Notice, "[1] wherein Chapman moves this Court to conditionally certify a collective action pursuant to section 216(b) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (the "FLSA")[2] and authorize notice to be sent to putative class members. Having considered the motion, the memoranda in support and opposition, the record, and the applicable law, the Court will grant the motion.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

Chapman worked for 15 years as an office manager for Ochsner Home Health Corp. ("Ochsner") in Covington, Louisiana.[3] Chapman avers that Ochsner was acquired by Defendant LHC Group, Inc. ("LHC") in 2009.[4] According to Chapman, her responsibilities included scheduling, recording, and reporting the work hours of LHC's hourly employees.[5] Chapman alleges that LHC never instructed or trained its payroll employees how to properly record hours worked by hourly employees, or with respect to the record-keeping requirements of the FLSA.[6]

For several years, according to Chapman, LHC has been reducing its employment costs, including reducing its work force and implementing record keeping and compensation policies prohibiting the payment of overtime wages.[7] Despite the reductions in force, LHC allegedly instructed its hourly employees not to record any overtime hours on their time sheets, even if the employees worked hours in excess of the 40 hour work week.[8] Chapman alleges that LHC supervisors, under "direct orders" from LHC's senior management, instructed her to allow and accept inaccurate time records from employees who actually worked in excess of 40 hours per week, but recorded only 40 hours per week on his or her time sheet.[9] Chapman additionally alleges that she was instructed to modify time sheets of any employees who reported working in excess of 40 hours per week so that the time sheets would show only 40 hours worked.[10]

Chapman alleges that she was regularly scheduled to work exactly 8 hours a day and 40 hours every work week, and that she was scheduled to take a 30 minute unpaid lunch break every day.[11] Still, she alleges, she regularly worked in excess of eight hours per day, but was prohibited from reporting this overtime on her time sheet and consequently was not compensated for that time.[12] According to Chapman, prior to June 2013, she reported to supervisors with the title "Director of Nursing."[13] After June 2013, Chapman was supervised by Cheyl Chellette, Director of Ochsner Home Health of Covington and Ochsner Home Health of Kenner.[14] Chapman attests that "[u]pon information and belief, Defendant's record-keeping and compensation policies were dictated and issued by Defendant's senior management and issued to all of defendants's [sic] locations throughout Louisiana and the United States."[15]

B. Procedural History

Chapman filed the pending Motion to Certify Class on April 4, 2014.[16] LHC filed a memorandum in opposition on April 22, 2014, [17] and Chapman filed a memorandum in further support of her motion on May 2, 2014.[18] On July 11, 2014, Chapman filed a supplemental memorandum in support of her motion.[19] LHC filed a second memorandum in opposition on July 30, 2014, [20] and an additional supplemental memorandum on August 1, 2014.[21] Chapman has submitted the sworn statement of opt-in plaintiff Marla Cerise, [22] and has identified Trudy Weiss[23] and Julie Dupuy[24] as additional opt-in Plaintiffs.

II. Parties' Arguments

A. Chapman's Arguments in Support

Chapman seeks to represent a collective class of individual plaintiffs in their FLSA claims against LHC for unpaid overtime and minimum wages for off-the-clock work.[25] According to Chapman, the FLSA affords workers the right to sue collectively on behalf of themselves and others "similarly situated" for violations of the Act's minimum wage provisions and overtime protections.[26] When making the "similarly situated" inquiry and determining whether notice should be given, Chapman avers, district courts in the Fifth Circuit follow the "two stage" Lusardi approach.[27] In the first stage, according to Chapman, the court determines whether notice should be sent to potential members of the collective action who are "similarly situated." Chapman argues that this stage is fairly lenient an typically results in "conditional certification" of a representative class.[28] The second stage occurs after the parties substantially complete discovery, whereby the defendant may move to decertify the collective action if the class members are not actually similarly situated.[29]

Chapman argues that conditional certification is proper in this case because LHC's allegedly unlawful record-keeping and compensation policies and practices were enforced against all of LHC's nonexempt employees nationwide.[30] According to Chapman:

Plaintiff and the other opt-in-plaintiffs work in the regions covered most directly by Defendant's most senior management, and as such, Plaintiff and the other opt-in plaintiffs believe that the record-keeping policies and procedures are mandated or at least condoned by Defendant's most-senior managers. This indicates the policies and practices are in place at all of Defendant's business locations across the country.[31]

Chapman additionally avers that there are other aggrieved individuals who are similarly situated, in that they are nonexempt employees subjected to the same policies and practices regarding record keeping and compensation.[32] Chapman argues that the Plaintiffs, including herself, include two office managers and a file clerk. She contends that:

Although the titles may vary and some fo the job duties may vary by position, all were subjected to the same polices; all aggrieved parties are paid an hourly wage; all aggrieved parties perform administrative office tasks, including filing, completing forms; [sic] data input; answering phones, assisting nurses and therapists with paperwork; and assisting managers with paperwork. All aggrieved parties ...

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