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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Federal court denies collective action claim in suit alleging wage-law violation

By Michelle de Leon | Oct 20, 2016

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. 

“Absent binding 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 irreconcilable,’” declared 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."

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U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida Ft. Myers Division