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Regan v. City of Hanahan

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

April 18, 2017

James Regan and Mason Underwood, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
City of Hanahan, Defendant.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          RICHARD MARK GERGEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         James Regan and Mason Underwood filed this class and collective action on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated against Defendant City of Hanahan (the "City"), alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219 and the South Carolina Payment of Wages Act, SC Code Ann. § 41-10-10, et. seq. ("SCPWA"). Regan, Underwood, and all of the filed Opt-Ins to date (together "Plaintiffs") have filed a motion for Conditional Class Certification and authorization of notice to putative class members ("Notice") under Section 16(b) of the FLSA. (Dkt. Nos. 46, 46-1.) For the reasons set forth below, the court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Plaintiffs' Motion for Conditional Certification and Notice.

         I. Background

         The City of Hanahan employed Plaintiffs as Firefighters and EMS personnel. Plaintiffs allege that the City administered two payment plans which violated the FLSA. The first payment plan, which was in place through July 2015, allegedly incorporated illegal sleep time and meal time deductions, [1] The City implemented a new payment plan in July 2015. Under this plan, Plaintiffs allege that the City did not compensate them for overtime work as required under the FLSA because it inappropriately took advantage of the overtime exception available under 29 U.S.C. § 207(k) for employees responsible for fire protection.

         Plaintiffs have asked the court to certify this matter as a collective action for actual damages, liquidated damages, and attorneys' fees and costs under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) and to define the following two subclasses:

Subclass One: For individuals employed within the time frame of three years prior to their joining the lawsuit through July 1, 2015: All individuals employed by Defendant in its Fire Department, who were non-exempt employees (paid an hourly wage) and who did not receive overtime compensation of at least one and one-half (1.5) times their regular hourly wage for all overtime hours;
Subclass Two: For individuals employed from July 1, 2015 to the present: All individuals employed by Defendant in its Fire Department, but were assigned to EMS ("on the box"), who were non-exempt employees (paid an hourly wage) and who worked in excess of forty (40) hours in any given work week, but who did not receive overtime compensation of at least one and one-half (1.5) times their regular hourly wage for all overtime hours.

(Dkt. No. 46-1 at 5.)

         II. Legal Standard

         Under the FLSA, an action may be maintained by any one or more employees against an employer on behalf of themselves and "other employees similarly situated." 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). This Court follows a two-step approach to decide whether employees are "similarly situated." The first step is notice. If this Court determines that notice should be given to potential members of the class, it will conditionally certify the class to facilitate notice and allow individuals to opt-in to the class action. Purdham v. Fairfax Cly. Pub. Sck, 629 F.Supp.2d 544, 547 (E.D. Va. 2009). Although Plaintiffs' burden at this stage is not particularly onerous, conditional class certification is not a rubber stamp: this Court will not facilitate notice unless the facts and circumstances of the case indicate that a class of employees exists that is made up of individuals who are similarly situated as "victims of a common policy or plan that violated the law, " Id. at 548 (quoting Choimbol v. Fairfield Resorts, Inc., 475 F.Supp.2d 557, 563 (E.D.Va.2006) (citations omitted)). The second step is final class certification. After discovery is completed, the Court determines whether Plaintiffs have met their burden of demonstrating that the class is similarly situated. If so, the Court will then certify the class.

         III. Discussion

         a. Subclass One

         The City has consented to the conditional certification of Subclass One (Dkt. No. 51 at 2). The City has also consented to appropriate Notice for Subclass One subject to the City's minor, reasonable edits which ...


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