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Terry v. TMX Finance LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

May 19, 2014

DEREK TERRY, on behalf of himself, and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
TMX FINANCE LLC, TITLEMAX OF ILLINOIS, INC., and DOES 1-10, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

HARRY D. LEINENWEBER, District Judge.

Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Conditional Class Certification. For the reasons stated herein, the Motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Derek Terry brings this putative class action to remedy alleged violations of the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). Plaintiff was employed by Defendant TitleMax of Illinois as a General Manager in Training, or GMIT. As alleged in the Complaint, TitleMax originates and services automobile title loans by lending money secured by a lien on the customer's automobile. Defendant TMX Finance LLC owns TitleMax of Illinois as well as several other TitleMax subsidiaries located in other states, such as TitleMax of Georgia, TitleMax of Texas, and others. Though TMX Finance calls itself a holding company, Plaintiff alleges that TMX Finance controlled his employment and participated in the alleged FLSA violations.

Since the Complaint was filed, several other plaintiffs have opted-in to this case. Some of them worked as GMITs for TitleMax of Illinois, and others have worked for TitleMax subsidiaries in other states. Plaintiff seeks to represent a class of current and former GMITs who were classified improperly as salaried exempt employees prior to January 2013, when Defendants changed their compensation structure and policies. He asks the Court to certify conditionally a nationwide collective action for unpaid overtime wages, which would require Defendants to produce the names of all potential class members and provide for Court-supervised notice to the potential class members.

II. JURISDICTION

Defendant argues that because this Court is exercising specific personal jurisdiction over TMX Finance, the case against TMX Finance must be limited to its alleged activity within Illinois. Though TMX Finance devoted only six lines of text to this argument and did not cite a single case, the Court sees fit to address it.

A court may exercise specific personal jurisdiction over a defendant only if "the defendant has purposefully directed his activities at the residents of the forum... and the litigation results from alleged injuries that arise out of or relate to those activities." Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472 (1985). In this case, it is alleged that TMX Finance engaged in a nationwide practice of underpaying its GMITs, with resulting injuries suffered in a several other states. Because the alleged misconduct is the same whether it occurred in Illinois or Alabama, the injuries sustained outside Illinois "relate to" the injuries sustained within Illinois. Thus, the Court's jurisdiction covers the full scope of TMX Finance's allegedly nationwide practice. See also, Keeton v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 465 U.S. 770, (1984) (allowing an exercise of specific personal jurisdiction where the plaintiff sought damages for injuries sustained nationwide, even though only a small portion of damages were due to defendant's alleged conduct in the forum state, because "the cause of action arises out of the very activity being conducted, in part, in [the forum state").

III. CONDITIONAL CERTIFICATION

A. Legal Standard

The Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") provides that a civil action may be maintained by an individual "for and in behalf of himself or themselves and other employees similarly situated, " but no employee shall become a part of the class "unless he gives his consent in writing." 29 U.S.C. ยง 216(b). This opt-in requirement replaces the procedure prescribed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 for ordinary class actions. See, Acevedo v. Ace Coffee Bar, Inc., 248 F.R.D. 550, 553 (N.D. Ill. 2008).

In this District, FLSA collective actions proceed under a two-step process. Russell v. Ill. Bell Telephone Co., 575 F.Supp.2d 930, 933 (N.D. Ill. 2008). At the first stage, the plaintiff must show that there are similarly situated employees who are potential claimants. Id. To meet this burden, a plaintiff must make "a modest factual showing sufficient to demonstrate that [he] and potential plaintiffs together were victims of a common policy or plan that violated the law." Id. Upon such a showing, the Court may allow notice of the case to be sent to the similarly situated employees, who then have the opportunity to opt-in as plaintiffs. Heckler v. DK Funding, LLC, 502 F.Supp.2d 777, 779 (N.D. Ill. 2007). The second stage, in which the court determines whether "there is sufficient similarity between the named and opt-in plaintiffs to allow the matter to proceed to trial on a collective basis, " comes into play after the opt-in process has been completed. Russell, 575 F.Supp.2d at 933. The parties agree that the present Motion for Conditional Certification involves only the first stage.

B. Analysis

Plaintiff advances two primary reasons why GMITs from across the country are similarly situated: (1) GMITs held the same job title and performed the same or similar job duties, and (2) all GMITs were victims of a standardized, companywide practice. In support, Plaintiff submitted several declarations from GMITs who describe substantially similar experiences working for Defendants. All of the GMITs contend that they were employed by both TMX Finance and the TitleMax entity operating in their state. In a typical week, they were scheduled to work at least 48-50 hours. The GMITs performed similar job duties, including learning how to process transactions, learning various techniques for ...


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