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MacGregor v. Farmers Insurance Exchange

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

August 20, 2014

DAVID MacGREGOR, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
FARMERS INSURANCE EXCHANGE, Defendants.

ORDER

DAVID C. NORTON, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on defendant's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the court denies the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

On December 3, 2010, named plaintiffs David MacGregor, James Cantrell, and Debra Carnahan filed a purported class action complaint against Farmers Insurance Exchange ("Farmers") for alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA" or "the Act"). The complaint also alleged an alternative quantum meruit claim based on South Carolina common law. The named plaintiffs amended their complaint on February 14, 2011. On March 4, 2011, they moved for conditional certification of a class of all Farmers property claims representatives who have unlawfully been denied overtime pay. Though the named plaintiffs each worked in the Atlanta regional zone the last three years and under the same supervisor for some time, they initially requested certification of a nationwide class. The court denied that motion on July 22, 2011 because the named plaintiffs failed to allege a common policy or plan materially uniting the proposed nationwide class.

On January 31, 2012, the plaintiffs moved for reconsideration of the court's ruling on conditional certification or, in the alternative, for conditional certification of a narrower class. On April 30, 2012, the court denied the motion for reconsideration, but granted leave to resubmit the motion to renew if the named plaintiffs could outline the parameters of a narrower class. On May 15, 2012, the named plaintiffs moved for conditional certification of a more limited class "including all property claims representatives who worked under the Plaintiffs' supervisory chain headed by Michael Flynn, Defendant's Branch Claims Manager of its Atlanta Zone, during the three years predating the filing of this motion." Pls.' Renewed Mot. for Conditional Certification 1. On July 20, 2012, the court conditionally certified this narrower class.

On March 28, 2013, the court approved the parties' Joint Motion to Approve Notice to Potential Members of Conditionally-Certified Collective Action. On April 24, 2013, plaintiff John Hodges filed notice of his consent to opt in as a plaintiff in this suit.

On December 16, 2013, Farmers moved for summary judgment on all plaintiffs' FLSA claims. Plaintiffs opposed the motion on January 24, 2014. Farmers filed a reply on February 7, 2014. This matter has been fully briefed and the court had the benefit of the parties' oral argument at a hearing held on March 20, 2014. The matter is ripe for the court's review.[1]

B. Factual Background

Because the court must construe all facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, these facts are drawn from plaintiffs' brief. MacGregor, Cantrell, Carnahan, and Hodges all used to work as property claims representatives ("PCRs") for Foremost Insurance Company ("Foremost"), a Farmers subsidiary. Because plaintiffs all worked in Foremost's Atlanta zone, they all reported to supervisors who in turn reported to Michael Flynn, the Branch Claims Manager for the Atlanta zone.

As PCRs, plaintiffs handled insurance claims made by Foremost customers, inspected newly-insured properties, and handled appraisals for desk adjusters. The work of a PCR is somewhat unpredictable, as no one can forecast how many claims will be made on any particular day or week. In addition, PCRs are required to do a great deal of driving, as they must physically inspect their customers' newly-insured properties as well as properties for which claims are made.

Farmers required its PCRs to have any overtime hours approved before those hours were worked. Plaintiffs were required to submit their estimated weekly time cards by 9:00 a.m. on Monday morning - before any work had been done. If, during the week, plaintiffs realized that their actual work hours were going to vary from their estimated work hours, they were required to request approval for additional overtime. Farmers did not maintain an official policy regarding how additional overtime requests were evaluated. Farmers' employment materials explain that:

Normally, all overtime hours must be pre-approved in writing. One hour of overtime per week may be worked without prior approval, but with the supervisor's post-written approval. This circumstance is most likely to occur in situations out of our control, which need to be immediately addressed.... Written ...

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