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Lashon Jacks, Morrie Bell, and v. Directsat Usa

June 19, 2012

LASHON JACKS, MORRIE BELL, AND
ERRICK RHODES, INDIVIDUALLY, AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DIRECTSAT USA, LLC, UNITED USA, LLC, JAY HEABERLIN, LLOYD RIDDLE, AND DAN YANNANTUONO, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan B. Gottschall

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiffs Lashon Jacks, Morrie Bell, and Errick Rhodes ("named Plaintiffs") sued Defendants DirectSat USA, LLC; its parent company Unitek USA, LLC; and DirectSat executives Jay Heaberlin, Lloyd Riddle, and Dan Yannantuono (collectively "DirectSat") for alleged violations of the Illinois Minimum Wage Law ("IMWL"), 820 ILCS 105/1 et seq., and the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (2000). Plaintiffs now move for class certification of their state-law claims. The court finds that the proposed class meets the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 and grants the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

This case is highly similar to a case filed in the Northern District of Illinois in 2008 by other DirectSat technicians asserting claims under the IMWL. In that case, Judge St. Eve certified a class including technicians employed by DirectSat between December 3, 2006, and June 11, 2008. Farmer v. DirectSat USA, LLC, 08-cv-3962, ECF No. 40 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 30, 2008). Judge St. Eve later denied a motion to decertify the class. Farmer v. DirectSat USA, LLC, 08-cv-3962, ECF No. 212 (N.D. Ill. October 4, 2010).*fn1

The complaint in this case is nearly identical to that in Farmer. It alleges that DirectSat and its parent corporation UniTek, both headquartered in Pennsylvania, are in the business of installing and servicing satellite dishes in the state of Illinois and have numerous offices throughout the state. (Notice of Removal Ex. A (Compl.) ¶¶ 5-6, ECF No.1.) DirectSat employed the named Plaintiffs as hourly non-exempt service technicians, responsible for installing and servicing residential satellite dishes. (Id. at ¶¶ 1-3.) Plaintiffs were paid an hourly rate based on their productivity, which was calculated using the number of jobs they completed on a weekly basis and the number of hours they reported on their time sheets. Each day, Plaintiffs were provided with work orders and then traveled to customers' homes to complete the orders. (Id. at ¶¶ 11-13.)

Plaintiffs allege that they were obligated by DirectSat to record less time on their weekly time sheets, including overtime, than they actually worked. Some of the unrecorded time was spent traveling to and from work sites. (Id. at ¶¶ 14.) Plaintiffs allege that they performed additional unpaid "off-the-clock" work completing various tasks that DirectSat required of its technicians. These tasks included receiving work orders at home, planning service routes, preparing satellite dishes, loading and unloading service vehicles, inventorying equipment, cleaning and maintaining the vehicles, completing paperwork, and attending weekly meetings. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-16.) They claim that Defendants "willfully encouraged their technicians" to work off the clock and that they "routinely worked more than 40 hours per week" without receiving pay for all the overtime actually worked. (Id. at ¶¶ 17-18.) Plaintiffs claim that the underreporting of their time resulted from DirectSat's "uniform policies and practices." (Id. at ¶ 20.)

In support of their motion to certify the class, Plaintiffs submit the declarations of named Plaintiffs Jacks, Bell, and Rhodes; various DirectSat company policies covering customer communications, vehicle use, and the reporting of hours; excerpts from the depositions of DirectSat executives Haeberlin and Yannantuono; and emails from DirectSat's corporate office. (See Pls.' Mot. Class Certification (Exhibits), ECF Nos. 24, 28; Pls.' Reply Br. (Exhibits), ECF No. 50.) Defendants' Brief in Opposition to Class Certification relies on DirectSat's employee handbooks and policies, pay records, and the deposition testimony of the named Plaintiffs. (See Defs.' Br. Opp. Class Certification (Exhibits), ECF No. 38.)

Plaintiffs ask the court to certify a class defined as: All individuals who were employed or are currently employed by one or more of the Defendants, their subsidiaries or affiliated companies, in the state of Illinois as technicians or other similarly titled positions at any time from June 12, 2008 to the present. (Pls.' Mot. for Class Certification 2, ECF No. 23.)

II.LEGAL STANDARD FOR CLASS CERTIFICATION

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 allows class certification when the proposed class satisfies all of the requirements of Rule 23(a) and at least one of the requirements of Rule 23(b). Wal-Mart, Inc. v. Dukes, __ U.S. __, 131 S. Ct. 2541, 2548 (2011). The court need not accept the allegations in the complaint as true. Szabo v. Bridgeport Mach., Inc., 249 F.3d 672, 675 (7th Cir. 2001). Under Wal-Mart, the party seeking class certification must demonstrate with proof, at the class-certification stage, that the requirements of Rule 23 are satisfied. The court is to engage in a "rigorous analysis" that touches on the merits of the underlying claim. Id. at 2551-52.

Rule 23(a) lists as prerequisites for certification "(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable, (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class, (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class, and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class." Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a); Wal-Mart, 131 S. Ct. at 2548. These four requirements "effectively limit the class claims to those fairly encompassed by the named plaintiff's claims." Wal-Mart, 131 S. Ct. at 2550 (internal quotation marks omitted).

Plaintiffs request certification pursuant to Rule 23(b)(3), which applies when "the questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and [when] a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy." Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3). Relevant to this inquiry are: "(A) the class members' interests in individually controlling the prosecution or defense of separate actions; (B) the extent and nature of any litigation concerning the controversy already begun by or against class members; (C) the desirability or undesirability of concentrating the litigation of the claims in the particular forum; and (D) the likely difficulties in managing a class action." Id.

III.ANALYSIS

A. Rule 23(a)

Defendants argue that the class proposed by Plaintiffs fails to meet the requirements of Rule 23(a) because the evidence presented in support of class certification does not show that a uniform policy existed that forced technicians to underreport their hours, or that it affected the putative class in a typical manner. (Defs.' Br. Opp. Class Certification 3-6, ECF No. 38.) Defendants also argue that because Plaintiffs have submitted with their motion only three declarations from technicians who worked in DirectSat's Bedford Park office, they ...


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