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Blakes v. Illinoiss Bell Telephone Co.

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

January 9, 2015

JAMES BLAKES, et al., for themselves and on behalf of similarly situated others, Plaintiffs,

For James Blakes, Steven Clark, Herman Deckys, Bradley Hunt, Phillipe Porter, Ernest Roberts, Jr., Larry Williams, for themselves and on behalf of similarly situated others, Plaintiffs: Aaron Benjamin Maduff, LEAD ATTORNEY, Maduff & Maduff, LLC, Chicago, IL USA; Michael Lee Maduff, Walker R. Lawrence, Maduff & Maduff LLC, Chicago, IL.

For Illinois Bell Telehone Company doing business as AT& T Illinois, Defendant: Stephen Boyd Mead, LEAD ATTORNEY, AT& T Services, Inc., Chicago, IL USA; Erin Jewel Hendrix, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, Chicago, IL; George A. Stohner, PRO HAC VICE, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, Los Angeles, CA USA; Gregory ¶ Abrams, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, Chicago, IL USA; tu Srivastava, Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, Chicago, IL USA.

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Young B. Kim, United States Magistrate Judge.

James Blakes, Steven Clark, Herman Deckys, Bradley Hunt, Phillipe Porter, Ernest Roberts, Jr., Larry Williams, and a class of opt-in plaintiffs (collectively, " the plaintiffs" ) brought this action against Illinois Bell Telephone Company (" Illinois Bell" ) under the Fair Labor Standards Act (" FLSA" ), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., claiming that Illinois Bell systematically fails to pay its cable splicers for all of their overtime work.

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The parties have consented to this court's jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); (R. 21). This court previously granted in part and denied in part Illinois Bell's motion to decertify the plaintiffs' conditionally certified class of cable splicers, (R. 233), and Illinois Bell has now moved for summary judgment on both the individual and certified claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, (R. 257 to 283). Having already decided Illinois Bell's summary judgment motions regarding the individual claims in a prior decision, (R. 355), this court now turns to Illinois Bell's motion as to the plaintiffs' certified claim. For the following reasons, Illinois Bell's motion for summary judgment on the certified claim is denied:


A. Local Rule 56.1

As an initial matter, the court notes that there are instances in the parties' Local Rule (" L.R." ) 56.1 statements and responses in which the cited record evidence does not actually contradict the stated fact. For example, the plaintiffs attempt to " dispute" many of Illinois Bell's facts but fail in some instances to cite evidence actually demonstrating the dispute. (See, e.g., R. 348, DSOF ¶ ¶ 19, 26, 30-31.)[1] The plaintiffs also state in some of their responses that they deny the implications of a listed fact, (see, e.g., id. ¶ ¶ 11, 14, 19, 25-26, 37), but arguing over the possible implications stemming from an otherwise undisputed fact does not render that fact in dispute, see Sommerfield v. City of Chi., No. 08 CV 3025, 2013 WL 4047606, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 9, 2013). To the extent these facts are not properly disputed, the court deems them admitted. Furthermore, where the plaintiffs include additional facts in their responses that do not bear on whether a dispute exists as to the fact listed by Illinois Bell, these facts should instead have been listed in the plaintiffs' statements of additional facts. (See, e.g., R. 348, DSOF ¶ ¶ 10-11, 22, 28); see Sommerfield, 2013 WL 4047606, at *2. That said, many of the facts the plaintiffs assert in their responses also are set forth in their own responding statement of material facts, and thus are before the court. See Rasic v. City of Northlake, No. 08 CV 104, 2009 WL 3150428, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 25, 2009).

B. Facts

Because the court has set forth this case's factual background in its prior decisions, see Blakes v. Ill. Bell Tel. Co., No. 11 CV 336, 2013 WL 6662831, at *2-4 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 17, 2013); Blakes v. Ill. Bell Tel. Co., No. 11 CV 336, 75F.Supp.3d 792, 2014 WL 6978813, at *2-3 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 10, 2014), only a summary of the facts relevant to the specific issues raised by the current motion will be repeated here. Unless otherwise indicated, the following undisputed facts are taken from the parties' L.R. 56.1 statements and will be viewed, as they must be at this stage, in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs. See O'Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 657 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2011).

Defendant Illinois Bell is one of the largest providers of local telephone services in Illinois. (R. 348, DSOF ¶ 2.) The plaintiffs are non-exempt employees who work or have worked for Illinois Bell as cable splicers, and whose primary duties include installing, maintaining, and repairing Illinois Bell's network of cable, fiber optics, and telephone services. (Id. ¶ 1; see R. 11, Am. Compl. ¶ 10.) Illinois Bell's official policies regarding compensation

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and time-reporting are set out in code of conduct and employee " expectations" documents, and also are codified in a collective bargaining agreement (" CBA" ) with the cable splicers' union. (See R. 348, DSOF ¶ ¶ 18-25.) These policies state that employees should accurately report all hours worked and that any overtime must be approved by a supervisor in advance. (Id. ¶ ¶ 22, 24-25.) The policies also provide that all overtime hours worked by employees must be paid regardless of whether they were pre-approved, and managers are prohibited from " requiring or permitting nonexempt employees to work 'off the clock.'" (Id. ¶ 22.) Overtime hours include any time worked in excess of eight hours a day or forty hours a week. (Id. ¶ 20.) The plaintiffs generally agreed that they were familiar with these policies. (See, e.g., id. ¶ ¶ 26-28, 30-31, 36.)

Before December 2009, cable splicers used paper timesheets to record their time. (Id. ¶ 8.) Beginning in December 2009, Illinois Bell introduced electronic time reporting as part of its Jobs Administration Management System (" JAMS" ), and since then most cable splicers have been entering their time using computers located in their garages. (See id. ¶ ¶ 5-6.) Once a technician submits his or her time, it is sent to a manager for review. (See id. ¶ 11.) If the record is approved, the time is loaded into " eLink," Illinois Bell's system for calculating pay. (See id.) The time submissions that supervisors review do not include a timestamp, aside from the date, indicating when the technician submitted his or her time. (Id. ¶ ¶ 12-13.)

Illinois Bell compensates cable splicers for inputting their timesheets both during and after their shifts, provided that they report any overtime spent doing so. (R. 353, PSOF ¶ 1.) A company manual explains that entering information in JAMS is considered time worked and that Illinois Bell attempts to capture and pay for such work. (Id. ¶ 2.) An Illinois Bell employee expectations document from 2008 also states that cable splicers were expected, based on workload, to return to their garages no earlier than 15 minutes before the end of their scheduled shifts. (See id. ¶ ¶ 10-12.) A similar document from 2011 specifies that technicians should return no earlier than 10 minutes before the end of their shifts, based on workload. (Id. P 13.) Records show that some of the plaintiffs were " coached" about returning to their garage too early, although the parties dispute whether such " counseling" was disciplinary in nature. (Id. ¶ 16.)

Certain plaintiffs testified that they told their managers about not having enough time at the end of the day to enter their time into JAMS. (Id. ¶ 17.) Several plaintiffs also stated that during the relevant time period, the garages where they worked did not have enough computers for technicians to complete their timesheets before the end of their shifts. (Id. ¶ 23.) They testified that on some occasions the computers were slow and would freeze, making it difficult for them to complete their timesheets. (Id. ¶ 24.) Illinois Bell presents declarations from managers denying knowledge of any complaints about insufficient time to complete timesheets, (id. ¶ 17), but two managers admitted that there may have been occasions when computer terminals were unavailable or when the computer system was running slowly, (see id. ¶ 21).

Some plaintiffs further testified that they were instructed not to record any overtime for time they spent inputting timesheets after their shifts. (Id. ¶ 18.) While Illinois Bell admits its managers told cable splicers that timesheets should be completed the same day that work was performed, (see id. ¶ 25), it also ...

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