United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. Reeves United States District Judge
parties have tendered a stipulation and proposed agreed order
to stay litigation and toll the statute of limitations. The
parties' filing has been docketed as a motion. [Record
No. 37] The stipulation and proposed agreed order state that
the parties have conferred and agreed to a framework for
exploring settlement through alternative dispute resolution,
including mediation. Further, the parties indicate that a
stay would allow them to focus on the mediation process and
would promote judicial economy. They also request that the
Court set aside the deadline to conduct the Rule 26(f)
meeting and extend the submission deadline for a proposed
discovery plan until the stay has been lifted. Having
considered the matter, the parties' request will be
granted in part and denied in part.
plaintiffs filed a purported class action Complaint,
asserting that the defendants have violated the Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the Kentucky Wage and
Hour Act (“KWHA”). [Record No. 1] They contend
that they worked over 40 hours per week as independent
contractors for the defendants, but their pay did not include
an overtime premium. [Id.] While the plaintiffs
assert that they were classified as independent contractors,
they contend that the plaintiffs and members of the class are
actually employees as a matter of economic reality.
The Proposed Stay of the Proceeding
power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power inherent
in every court to control the disposition of the causes on
its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for
counsel, and for litigants.” Landis v. North
American Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936). Additionally,
“[t]here is a strong public interest in encouraging
settlement of complex litigation and class action suits
because they are notoriously difficult and unpredictable and
settlement conserves judicial resources.” Dick v.
Sprint Commc'n. Co. L.P., 297 F.R.D. 283, 297 (W.D.
Ky. 2014) (internal quotations omitted). Because the present
case is asserted to be a class action (if subsequently
certified), there is a strong public interest in encouraging
settlement. Further, staying the proceedings would conserves
judicial resources while allowing the parties to attempt
settlement through alternative dispute resolution.
Accordingly, a stay would promote judicial economy and is in
the public and the parties' best interest.
The Proposed Tolling of the Statute of Limitations for the
parties also propose that the Court toll the statute of
limitations of the FLSA for the length of the stay. The FLSA
has a two-year statute of limitations; however, if the
violation is willful, the limitations period extends to three
years. 29 U.S.C. § 255(a). “The FLSA statutory
structure creates inherent hurdles for opt-in plaintiffs
because the statute of limitations continues to run for those
who haven't yet filed their consent.” In re
Amazon.com, No: 14-md-02504, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
100716, at *16-17 (W.D. Ky. July 23, 2014).
a litigant seeking equitable tolling bears the burden of
establishing two elements: (1) that he has been pursuing his
rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary
circumstances stood in his way.” Pace v.
DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 418 (2005). The decision to
equitably toll a statute of limitations must be made on a
case-by case basis and should be granted sparingly. Amini
v. Oberlin College, 259 F.3d 493, 500 (6th Cir. 2001).
the parties jointly seek to toll the FLSA statute of
limitations in the present case, the Court can deduce that
the parties believe that tolling “will encourage
settlement and lessen concerns about forfeiting the chance to
assert certain claims due to settlement discussions.”
Sparacino v. Sheperd Communications, Inc., No:
3:14-cv-298, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17050, at *9 (W.D. Ky.
Feb. 12, 2015). While the Court understands this concern, the
plaintiffs must demonstrate that the Pace factors
are satisfied, and they have failed to meet that burden.
plaintiffs filed this action against the defendants which
indicates that they have pursued their rights. However, it is
ultimately unnecessary to conclude whether this is sufficient
to satisfy the first element of the Pace test
because the second element has not been briefed. The parties
fail to indicate whether some extraordinary circumstance
stood in the way of the plaintiffs asserting their claims.
Instead, they indicate that they wish to toll the statute of
limitations for a specific period of time while they explore
the possibility of settlement. While courts encourage
settlement (especially in purported class actions), the
plaintiffs do not allege deception or wrongdoing by the
defendants causing a delay in asserting their FLSA claims.
Accordingly, the parties have failed to demonstrate that
equitable tolling is appropriate.
this Court specifically rejects tolling for all the putative
opt-in plaintiffs. “It appears premature to grant
blanket tolling for plaintiffs who are currently hypothetical
and have not yet come before this court.” In re
Amazon.com, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 100716 at *21. While
other courts in this circuit have allowed tolling to unknown
opt-in plaintiffs, those cases are distinguishable. In many
of the cases, the courts had already granted conditional
certification or a motion for certification had been pending
for a significant period of time. Id. at *20-21
(citing Struck v. PNC Bank N.A., 931 F.Supp.2d 842,
844, 848-49 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 19, 2013). Because the Court
cannot identify the putative opt-in plaintiffs, it cannot
determine whether they have diligently pursued their rights
or whether some extraordinary circumstance stood in the way.
The Proposed Tolling of the Statute of ...