United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Alexandria Division
NATASHA TRISLER, ET AL.
LIFESHARE BLOOD CENTERS
PEREZ-MONTES, MAG. JUDGE
the court are two motions filed by defendant, LifeShare Blood
Centers ("LifeShare" or "Defendant") in
the above-captioned case. The first motion seeks partial
summary judgment as to certain claims by Plaintiffs under the
Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §
201, et seq. (Doc. 145). The second motion seeks
partial decertification of the purported class. (Doc. 146).
Both motions are now fully briefed and properly before the
court for decision. (Docs. 154, 155, 159, 164). After
consideration of the motions, briefs in support and
opposition, as well as all applicable law and jurisprudence,
the court finds that defendant's motion for
decertification should be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part
for the reasons set forth below. The court also finds that
defendant's motion for partial summary judgment should be
original Plaintiffs in this motion, Natasha Trisler
("Trisler") and Heather Savage ("Savage")
filed this collective action in Louisiana's Ninth
Judicial District Court on February 16, 2017, in their
individual capacities and on behalf of others similarly
situated. (Doc. 1-2). Trisler and Savage allege that, while
employed as technicians at the Alexandria, Louisiana location
of LifeShare, they were subjected to violations of both the
FLSA and Louisiana law. Specifically, the representative
Plaintiffs allege that LifeShare's policy of
automatically deducting 30 minutes for meal breaks from any
day's time exceeding 6 hours was applied to them, even on
days where they did not receive a bona fide meal break.
Additionally, Plaintiffs allege that such deductions were
made over their requests for compensation on days where they
amended their time sheets to reflect "no lunch
taken." (Id. at ¶¶ 9-15). Plaintiffs
also allege that LifeShare maintained a policy of preventing
employees from working overtime by scheduling them for time
off and by moving worked hours from one week to the next on
timesheets to spread them out into 40-hour weeks. Plaintiffs
further allege that their travel time was wrongfully not
counted on their timesheets. (Id.)
collective action was timely removed to this court and, by
grant of joint motion, the class was conditionally certified
in May of 2017. (Doc. 20). The court approved the
parties' stipulated notice form in January of 2018.
(Docs. 111, 113). Since the removal of the suit,
approximately seventy-four (74) individuals opted into the
purported class. The court extended discovery deadlines
several times to allow for additional discovery prior to the
filing of the instant motions. (Docs. 115, 141).
Defendant's Motion to Decertify Class
FLSA establishes federal minimum wage, maximum hour and
overtime guarantees regarding qualified employers. (29 U.S.C.
§ 201, et seq.). Specifically, covered
employers must pay their employees at the rate of the
established federal minimum wage for all time worked
amounting to forty (40) hours or less in any given week. When
any employee works more than 40 hours in a given week, the
employer must compensate all hours worked in excess of the
40-hour maximum at the rate of one and half times the federal
minimum wage. 29 U.S.C. §§ 206, 207. These
provisions may not be prospectively modified or waived by
contract. Barrentine v. Ark.-Best Freight Sys.,
Inc., 450 U.S. 728 (1981).
are permitted to file FLSA claims individually and on behalf
of other, similarly situated, employees in what are known as
"collective actions." 29 U.S.C. § 216. The
FLSA does not define "similarly situated," but
courts within the Fifth Circuit routinely apply the two-step
analysis employed by the District of New Jersey court in
Lusardi v. Xerox Corporation to assess a putative
class' fulfillment of the standard. Lusardi
advanced the view that FLSA collective actions may be divided
into two stages: the notice stage and the decertification
stage. At the notice stage, the court's imperative is to
determine whether the putative class is similarly situated
based on the allegations of the pleadings, together with any
preliminary evidence, including affidavits. Since discovery
is yet to be conducted at this stage, the court takes a
relatively lenient view of the class certification standard.
Mooney v. Aramco Services Co., 54 F.3d 1207, 1213-14
(5th Cir. 1995) overruled on other grounds by
Desert Palace v. Costa, 539 U.S. 90 (2003); Lusardi, 118
F.R.D. 351, 353-54 (D.N.J. 1987). The court will generally
require a showing that "some factual nexus" that
binds the named plaintiffs and prospective class members
together as victims of an alleged policy or practice,
creating judicial efficiency by the consolidation of these
claims. Barron v. Henry County School System. 242
F.Supp.2d 1096 (M.D. Ala. 2003) citing Sheffield v. Qrius
Corp., 211 F.R.D. 411, 416 (D.Or. 2002). If the court
grants conditional certification of the class, notice is sent
to prospective class members, signaling the start of the
opt-in period and what, in most cases, is the prime discovery
period. After conditional certification, a case will proceed
as a representative action during discovery. Mooney,
54 F.3d at 1214.
second, decertification, stage is often triggered by a motion
to decertify the class on behalf of one or more defendants to
the action. Such motion is usually preceded by substantial
discovery and, thus, the court's vantage point from which
to examine the issue of whether the purported class is, in
fact, similarly situated, is generally improved from the
notice stage. Id. Plaintiffs bear the burden of
demonstrating that they are "similarly situated" in
response to a motion to decertify. Proctor v. Allsups
Convenience Stores. Inc., 250 F.R.D. 278, 28-81 (N.D.
Tex. 2008). At this stage, the court will consider: (1) the
disparate factual and employment settings of individual
plaintiffs; (2) various defenses available to the defendant
employer and the number of plaintiffs as to which these
defenses may apply; and (3) fairness and procedural
considerations that may make certification improper.
Basco, 2004 WL 1497709 *8.
the court determines the class' similarly situated
status, it will grant or deny the motion based upon its
finding. If the court grants the motion to decertify, it will
issue an order decertifying the class and dismissing without
prejudice all claims by plaintiffs who have opted in.
Thereafter, the original plaintiffs may proceed to trial to
litigate their individual claims. Id.
case at bar presents a procedural history aligning with the
Lusardi format. Having conditionally certified the
class, we now return to the issue of "similarly
situated" in the context of a motion for decertification
by Defendant. At this point in the case, a great volume of
discovery is concluded and our access to information about
the purported class enables the court to make a deeper
assessment of the class' fulfillment of the standard.
is a non-profit organization operating blood centers in
Louisiana, east Texas and southern Arkansas. LifeShare
solicits donations of blood and blood components from
volunteer donors at both blood centers and mobile blood
drives. Trisler and Savage, named Plaintiffs in this suit,
were employed at LifeShare's Alexandria, Louisiana
location as donor service technicians until resigning in
2016. Their complaint alleges that a substantial portion of
their employment duties involved collecting blood donations
at mobile blood drives and this suit's allegations center
around that part of their jobs. Specifically, as introduced
above, Plaintiffs allege that LifeShare employees are
involuntarily charged for a 30-minute meal break, even when
they are unable to take such a break, in any day on which
they report 6 or more total hours worked. (Doc. 1-2, 1-3).
Plaintiffs allege that they were rarely permitted to take a
bona fide meal break as that term is defined in the FLSA.
Plaintiffs further alleges that supervisors were aware of the
issue but made the pay deductions regardless of the lack of
meal breaks. (Doc. 1-2 at ¶ 10).
Lusardi and its progeny, we first assess the
disparate factual and employment settings of the individual
plaintiffs. The purported class is comprised of current and
former LifeShare employees from its Alexandria, Lake Charles,
Baton Rouge, Monroe, Shreveport, Beaumont, Texarkana and El
Dorado centers. The evidence before the court shows that all
plaintiffs hold or held jobs with the same or substantially
similar responsibilities in that they assisted donors with
the blood donation process at both the centers and mobile
point out that LifeShare's human resources department is
located at its Shreveport corporate headquarters and is the
origin of the meal deduction policy at issue in this case.
Doc. 155 at pp. 5-6. Plaintiffs offer the deposition of
Margaret Plunkett as evidence that LifeShare regularly sends
human resource representatives to visit each center and
provides each center with coordinated policy, practice and
procedure training. (Doc. 155-1 at 10:4-17; 14:17-25).
Additionally, plaintiffs offer the signed declarations of
various employees at each center, attesting to identical
misapplications of the meal deduction policy. ...