FORT MYERS, FLORIDA – A Florida
federal district court has denied the collective action claim of the petitioners in the
case of Tamera Goers, et. al. v. L.A. Entertainment Group and Amer Salameh, a case concerning workers who allegedly were paid only in tips.
The plaintiffs for this
case are entertainers who works at an establishment called Babe’s. They are fighting
for a wage and hour lawsuit, which they filed in accordance with the provisions
of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). They also cited Article X, Section 24,
of the Florida Constitution as part of their case.
According to the
petitioners, they were not paid any salary. Instead, their only manner of
earning money was to rely on the tips left by the patrons of the place. The
defendants allegedly got away with this scheme by misclassifying the status of
the petitioners’ employment. Hence, the defendants did not pay the plaintiffs
even the minimum wage and failed to satisfy any of the overtime requirements
set forth by law, the suit claims.
In their claims filed
under the FLSA provision, the petitioners sought certification for their
lawsuit to be considered a collective action based on 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). In
the same lawsuit, the plaintiffs also want their case to be certified as a
class action under Rule 23(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
The Fort Myers Division
of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida rejected the claims of the petitioners in
relation to the case being regarded as a class action lawsuit. To be specific,
the district court found that the demands of the plaintiffs to be qualified to conditionally
certify a collective action pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) and their motion for
declaration of a class action as to minimum wage claims pursuant to Rule
23(b)(3) were “mutually exclusive and irreconcilable.”
In its order, the
district court noted that the claims from the petitioners were based on overlapping
provisions under two different laws. That is, the implementation of the terms
would cause confusion to the parties concerned. While there remains no hard and
fast rule about the matter, the interpretation of the district court of the
rules was in contrast to the one brought forth by the plaintiffs.
authority to the contrary, and in consideration of the inherent differences
between a Rule 23 class action and the procedures provided for under the FLSA,
the Court echoes both Calderone and LaChapelle, and holds that Plaintiffs’
overlapping FLSA and state minimum wage actions are ‘mutually exclusive and
the Fort Myers court regarding the matter.
In their motion, the
plaintiffs cited a doctrine set forth by the ruling in Tyson Foods, Inc. v.
Bouaphakeo. However, the district court stated that the similarities between the
two cases are minimal. According to the Middle District, both lawsuits are only
similar in terms of them involving dueling classes. Beyond this matter,
however, no other aspect of the cases could be detected to be similar. Moreover,
the district court pointed out that the acceptance of the plaintiffs’ claims to
be identified under both laws would bring about conflicting implementation.
“This conflict exists
because Rule 23 provides for a class action mechanism that automatically
incorporates members of the putative class, forcing unwilling participants to
opt out; while conversely, the FLSA does not automatically incorporate members
of the putative class, and requires desiring participants to opt in,” the
district court explained.
It added, “As a result,
the Court is faced with the same circumstances, where, if the Court would allow
dual certification to proceed, a likelihood of confusion would present itself
to the layman seeking to have his claims administered."