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Smallwood v. Illinois Bell Telephone Co.

May 6, 2010

KENTON SMALLWOOD, CATHERINE CHRISTENSON, RAHSAAN RENFORD AND BERTHIL IVARSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF THE CLASS, AND OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ILLINOIS BELL TELEPHONE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Morton Denlow

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Kenton Smallwood ("Smallwood"), Catherine Christenson ("Christenson"), Rahsaan Renford ("Renford"), and Berthil Ivarson ("Iverson") (collectively "Plaintiffs") filed this lawsuit on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated persons against Defendant Illinois Bell Telephone Company ("Defendant" or "Illinois Bell") alleging that Defendant misclassified Outside Plant Engineers as exempt from overtime pay in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq. and the Illinois Minimum Wage Law ("IMWL"), 820 ILCS 105/1, et seq. Plaintiffs now move this Court to grant conditional class certification and authorize notice to similarly situated current and former employees pursuant to Section 216(b) of the FLSA.

Plaintiffs also seek this Court's approval of a proposed 90-day opt-in period for putative claimants, as well as the form and content of their proposed judicial notice and two reminder notices. Finally, Plaintiffs move this Court to compel Defendant to produce a list of the putative collective class within 7 days of the Court's order, including each individual's name, address, employee identification number, and dates of employment as an Outside Plant Engineer.

An oral argument was held on April 27, 2010, at which time the Court delivered an oral ruling. This opinion provides further explanation. For the reasons given on April 27 and in this opinion, Plaintiffs' motion for conditional certification and judicial notice pursuant to Section 216(b) is granted. The Court finds the suggested letter of notice provided by the Plaintiffs to be suitable, but finds that a 60-day opt-in period is more appropriate. The Court also holds that Plaintiffs may not send out any reminder notices. Finally, Defendant shall produce the necessary contact information on or before May 11, 2010.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

Plaintiffs bring claims against Illinois Bell stemming from their employment as Outside Plant Engineers ("OSP Engineers").*fn1 Dkt. 56, at 1.*fn2 They are all currently employed by Defendant, and continue to work for Defendant under the general job description of "Manager OSP Planning and Eng Design," in offices located in Elgin and Des Plaines, Illinois. Dkt. 68, Ex. A. They are joined by sixty-nine other "opt-in" Plaintiffs ("opt-in Plaintiffs"), who have joined the case by filing written consent forms with the Court. These opt-in Plaintiffs also work, or have worked, under the same job description as the named plaintiffs in a number of Illinois locations.*fn3

The Manager OSP Planning and Eng Design - 2008 job description states in relevant part:

Job Description

Responsible for the planning, design and analysis of the outside plant facilities/network. This position supervises the detailed design and the preparation of engineering job orders and associated work prints which conform to approved long-range plans to meet the growth, modernization and replacement demands of the outside plant network. Conducts job costing activities. Requires full understanding for outside plant installation and maintenance technician activities. May include Loop Electronics Engineering/Coordination and Transmission Equipment Engineering. May be responsible for preparing construction budget and project management activities. May be responsible for right-of-way functions including investigating and acquiring easement interests in real property.

Dkt. 68, Ex. A.

Defendant is an Illinois corporation with its principal place of business located in Chicago, Illinois. It is wholly owned by AT & T Teleholdings, Inc., which in turn is wholly owned by AT & T, Inc. Defendant assigned one job key title to all of its OSP Engineers: Manager, Outside Plant Planning and Engineering Design. This job key, however, contains four different positions: Planner, Design Engineer, Right of Way Engineer ("ROW Engineer"), and Loop Electronics Engineer. Each of the four named Plaintiffs is currently a Design Engineer, and did not work under any of the other job titles during the relevant time period. Some of the opt-in Plaintiffs work, or have worked, under the job title of Design Engineer, while others work, or have worked, under the job titles of Planner, ROW Engineer, or Loop Electronics Engineer, within the broader job description.

Prior to approximately May 16, 2009, Defendant classified all OSP Engineers --including Planners, Design Engineers, ROW Engineers, and Loop Electronics Engineers--as exempt from the overtime requirements of the FLSA. On or about May 16, 2009, Defendant uniformly reclassified all OSP Engineers--including Planners, Design Engineers, ROW Engineers, and Loop Electronics Engineers--as non-exempt employees, thereby making them eligible for overtime payments. Prior to this reclassification, some or all of ...


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