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Lundine v. Gates Corp.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

July 11, 2019

PEGGY LUNDINE, on behalf of herself and others similarly situated, Plaintiff,



         Before the Court is Plaintiff Peggy Lundine's Motion for Conditional Class Certification (Doc. 23). Lundine brings this collective class action lawsuit under § 216(b) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) on behalf of all similarly situated nonexempt manufacturing employees working at Defendant Gates Corporation's (“Gates”) 14 manufacturing facilities in 11 states. For the following reasons, the Court grants Lundine's motion for conditional class certification.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Peggy Lundine worked for Gates from February 17, 1992, to December 1, 2017, in an hourly, nonexempt manufacturing role. Gates is a manufacturer of fluid and power transmission solutions such as hydraulic hoses and belts. It is incorporated under the laws of Delaware and headquartered in Denver, Colorado. Gates operates 14 manufacturing facilities in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Kansas. Lundine worked for Gates in its Iola, Kansas manufacturing facility.

         Lundine asserts that Gates failed to compensate her and other similarly situated employees for overtime work. Lundine alleges that Gates regularly required her to work before and after her scheduled shift while prohibiting her from reporting the overtime work. She alleges that by this policy and practice, Gates routinely denied overtime compensation to many hourly, nonexempt manufacturing employees across Gates's various nationwide facilities. To support her claims, Lundine submits affidavits from the following 12 Gates employees: John Stranghoner and Jim Atkins, also employed at the Iola facility; Zachary Teehe and Hannah Arnold, employed at Gates's manufacturing facility in Siloam Springs, Arkansas; Anthony Rodgers, Ethan Hammock, Jeremy Chamblee, and Courtney Belue, all of whom worked at Gates's Red Bay, Alabama facility; Shawn Tubbs and Andrew Despain, employed at Gates's facility in Poplar Bluff, Missouri; as well as Mary Von Kannon-Marchland and Elizabeth Lydy, who worked at Gates's Galesburg, Illinois facility.

         Lundine filed this lawsuit against Gates on August 21, 2018, seeking damages under the FLSA and the Kansas Wage Payment Act. She now moves for conditional class certification under the FLSA to proceed with the lawsuit on behalf of herself and others similarly situated.

         II. Legal Standard

         The FLSA permits legal action “against any employer . . . by any one or more employees for and in behalf of himself or themselves and other employees similarly situated.”[1] Unlike class actions pursuant to Rule 23(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a collective action brought under the FLSA includes only those similarly-situated individuals who opt into the class.[2]But the FLSA does not define what it means to be “similarly situated.” Instead, the Tenth Circuit has approved an ad hoc, two-step approach to § 216(b) certification claims.[3] The ad hoc approach employs a two-step analysis for determining whether putative opt-in plaintiffs are similarly situated to the named plaintiff.[4]

         First, in the initial “notice stage, ” the court “determines whether a collective action should be certified for purposes of sending notice of the action to potential class members.”[5] The notice stage “require[s] nothing more than substantial allegations that the putative class members were together the victims of a single decision, policy, or plan.”[6] The standard for conditional certification at the notice stage is lenient and typically results in certification for the purpose of notifying potential plaintiffs.[7]

         The second step of the ad hoc approach occurs after discovery.[8] At this stage, the district court applies a stricter standard and reviews the following factors to determine whether the opt-in plaintiffs are similarly situated: (1) the disparate factual and employment conditions of the individual plaintiffs, (2) defenses available to the defendant that are individual to each plaintiff, and (3) other fairness and procedural conditions.[9]

         III. Analysis

         A. Lundine has made Substantial Allegations that the Putative Class Members were together Victims of a Gates's Policy or Plan

         The standard for certification at the notice stage is lenient and typically permits conditional certification of a representative class.[10] “This is, at least in part, due to the fact that the Court has minimal evidence at this stage.”[11] “The Court may choose to consider only pleadings and affidavits filed by the Plaintiff to evaluate whether the Plaintiffs have made substantial allegations, because it is not yet at the evidence-weighing stage.”[12] If conditional certification is granted, the Court employs a more stringent “similarly situated” standard after the parties complete discovery.

         The Court concludes that Lundine has made substantial allegations to support conditional class certification. Lundine alleges that Gates required her to work overtime without pay. She attaches affidavits from 12 other employees alleging the same thing. Using herself and the other 12 employees as examples, Lundine alleges that Gates has a policy or plan that violates the FLSA. At this stage in the proceedings, Lundine has presented more than enough substance ...

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