United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
CAROL LEAR and JAMES TINCHER, On behalf of themselves & all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
HITACHI AUTOMOTIVE SYSTEMS, AMERICAS, INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. HOOD, SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
case is before the Court upon various motions of both parties
[DE 20, 32, 46, 48, 51, 56, and 63]. All of the motions are
either ripe or moot. The substantive motions which require
analysis are the Plaintiffs' Motion to Certify Class [DE
32] and Motion to Modify the Scope of the Collective Class
an action for unpaid overtime wages brought by Plaintiffs
Carol Lear and James Tincher (“Plaintiffs”) on
behalf of themselves and other similarly situated employees,
including without limitation, Production Supervisors employed
by Defendant Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas, Inc.
(“Defendant” or “Hitachi”) at its
Berea, Kentucky manufacturing facilities. This collective
action challenges Defendant's policy of failing to pay
Plaintiffs and other similarly situated employees overtime
pay for hours over 40 worked in a workweek in violation of
the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C.
§ 201, et seq. and the Kentucky Wage and Hour
Act, KRS § 337.010, et seq. To date, more than
40 current and former supervisors from Defendant's Berea,
Kentucky manufacturing facilities, including Production
Supervisors, Quality Supervisors, and Warehouse Supervisors,
have filed consent forms to join this action and recover
unpaid overtime wages that they are owed. Plaintiffs allege
the putative class and opt-in plaintiffs are current or
former employees of Defendant with the job title of
supervisor who work or worked at one or more of
Defendant's Berea, Kentucky manufacturing facilities
(referred to herein as the “BK” and “BM
North” facilities; the parties agreed to exclude
“BM South”). According to the Complaint,
Plaintiffs and other supervisors routinely work in excess of
40 hours per workweek, sometimes as much as 60 or more hours
per workweek, but are not compensated at the required
time-and-a-half rates for the hours over 40. The supervisors
are instead paid their “straight time” or regular
hourly wage. Plaintiffs allege they did not receive a salary,
only hourly wages, and that their pay was reduced if they
missed worktime, including partial days. Plaintiffs admit
Hitachi told them they were paid a salary and were classified
as exempt workers, but aver that this is untrue. Plaintiffs
support their claims with several sworn statements from
Hitachi supervisors. Hitachi responded that Plaintiffs and
other supervisors are, in fact, paid a salary and properly
classified as exempt employees under federal and state laws,
and supported this contention with a sworn statement from
Hitachi's human resources director.
Plaintiffs initially moved the Court to certify a collective
action pursuant to FLSA. Pursuant to the Kentucky Supreme
Court's August 24, 2017 decision in McCann v.
Sullivan Univ. Sys. Inc., 528 S.W.3d 331 (Ky. Aug.
2017), Plaintiffs filed a motion to modify the scope of the
collective class [DE 48] to include supplemental state law
claims. In McCann, the Kentucky Supreme Court
reversed the Kentucky Court of Appeals and held that it is
permissible to bring KWHA claims on a representative basis.
vehemently oppose the motion to modify the scope of the
putative class because the statute of limitations for KWHA
claims is five years and the FLSA statute of limitations is
three years. Plaintiffs ask the Court to apply the five-year
limitations period set forth under the KWHA and conditionally
certify a FLSA collective class of supervisors who worked at
BK and BM North between April 24, 2012 and present. In
addition, the standard for class certification pursuant to
Rule 23's one-step process is substantially more onerous
than the standard for conditional certification as an FLSA
collective action (step one of two in FLSA certification),
and Defendant argues Plaintiffs attempt to circumvent the
more stringent standard by notifying the FLSA and KWHA
putative class members during this stage of the litigation.
enacted the FLSA in 1938 with the goal of ‘protect[ing]
all covered workers from substandard wages and oppressive
working hours.'” Christopher v. SmithKline
Beecham Corp., 32 S.Ct. 2156');">132 S.Ct. 2156, 2162 (2012) (quoting
Barrentine v. Arkansas-Best Freight Sys., Inc., 450
U.S. 728, 739 (1981)); see also 29 U.S.C. §
202(a). Chief among the FLSA's provisions is the overtime
wage requirement, which generally obligates “employers
to compensate employees for hours in excess of 40 per week at
a rate of 1½ times the employees' regular
wages.” Id.; see also 29 U.S.C. § 207(a).
one or more employees” may seek redress for violations
of the FLSA by initiating a collective action “on
behalf of himself or themselves and other employees similarly
situated.” 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Similarly situated
employees may “opt-into” such suits by
“signal[ing] in writing their affirmative consent to
participate in the action.” Comer v. Wal-Mart
Stores, Inc., 454 F.3d 544, 546 (6th Cir. 2006) (noting
that this type of suit “is distinguished from the
opt-out approach utilized in class actions under Fed.R.Civ.P.
of FLSA collective actions typically proceeds in two phases.
Comer, 454 F.3d at 546-47. “[A]t the notice
stage, the certification is conditional and by no means
final.” Id. (internal quotations omitted).
“The plaintiff must show only that his position is
similar, not identical, to the positions held by the putative
class members.” Id. (internal quotations
omitted) (emphasis added). “[T]his determination is
made using a fairly lenient standard, and typically results
in conditional certification of a representative
class.” Id. (stating further that
“authorization of notice need only be based on a modest
factual showing”) (internal quotations omitted).
the second stage, following discovery, trial courts examine
more closely the question of whether particular members of
the class are, in fact, similarly situated.”
Id. at 547. The final-certification decision depends
upon “a variety of factors, including the factual and
employment settings of the individual plaintiffs, the
different defenses to which the plaintiffs may be subject on
an individual basis, [and] the degree of fairness and
procedural impact of certifying the action as a collective
action.” O'Brien v. Ed Donnelly Enter.,
Inc., 575 F.3d 567, 584 (6th Cir. 2009) (internal
quotations omitted), overruled on other grounds by
Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, 136 S.Ct. 663 (2016).
FLSA “grant[s] the court the requisite procedural
authority to manage the process of joining multiple parties
in a manner that is orderly, sensible and not otherwise
contrary to the statutory commands or the provisions of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” Hoffman-LaRoche
v. Sperling, 493 U.S. 165, 171 (1989) (discussing 29
U.S.C. § 216(b), the FLSA's enforcement provision,
as incorporated into the ADEA). Thus, “district courts
have discretion, in appropriate cases, to implement 29 U.S.C.
216(b) … by facilitating notice to potential
plaintiffs.” Id. “Court authorization of
notice serves the legitimate goal of avoiding a multiplicity
of duplicative suits and setting cutoff dates to expedite
disposition of the action.” Id.
case sits at the notice stage of the bifurcated-certification
process. Plaintiffs ask the Court to conditionally certify
their FLSA claim for unpaid overtime wages as a ...