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Fields v. Bancsource, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois

June 5, 2015

JUAMANDA FIELDS, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
BANCSOURCE, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

RONALD A. GUZMN, District Judge.

For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's motion for conditional collective action certification [23] is granted. The Court orders the parties to meet and confer in an effort to agree on a proposed notice consistent with this Order. The parties shall submit such agreed proposed notice to the Court within ten days of the issuance of this order, or if unable to reach agreement shall each separately submit a proposed notice and brief statement in support within the same ten-day period.

STATEMENT

Juamanda Fields ("Plaintiff") brings this action under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq., seeking damages for the alleged failure of Bancsource Inc. ("Defendant") to pay Plaintiff and similarly situated employees overtime wages for work in excess of 40 hours per week. (Compl., Dkt. # 1.) This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's motion for conditional certification as a collective action, filed March 27, 2015. (Mot. Certify Class, Dkt. # 23.) For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Plaintiff's motion and conditionally certifies the class for purposes of facilitating notice.

Background

Plaintiff was formerly employed by Defendant, a corporation that provides installation, maintenance, and repair services for bank equipment such as automatic teller machines. (Def.'s Resp., Dkt. # 27, at 2.) Plaintiff worked as a field technician in the Chicago area, during which time his primary duty was to travel to customer banks each day and repair or service automatic teller machines. (Mot. Certify, Dkt. # 23 at 1.) According to Plaintiff, his routine as a field technician involved receiving text messages early in the morning with his daily assignment, after which he logged on to Defendant's work processing software called Techs Only in order to review detailed information about the assignments and enter his estimated times of arrival for each customer. (Id. at 3.) After doing so, he would map out his driving route, load up his vehicle with the necessary equipment, and drive to the first customer needing equipment repaired. (Id. )

In this suit, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by: (1) failing to pay Plaintiff for time he worked prior to arriving at his first assignment each day, including time spent accessing Techs Only to review his day's assignments, reporting estimated times of arrival, entering time on timekeeping software, communicating with his supervisors and customers, loading his work vehicle with equipment, and travelling to the location of his first assignment; (2) automatically deducting one hour from his daily working time for lunch, whether or not he actually took a lunch break; and (3) failing to pay Plaintiff for work he was required to do after his shift was officially over, such as driving home, completing paperwork and unloading his vehicle. (Mot. Certify, Dkt. # 23 at 1.)

On November 24, 2014, the Court permitted Plaintiff to conduct limited discovery regarding conditional class certification prior to his filing the instant motion. (Dkt. # 16.) Now before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for conditional certification, which alleges that the practices of which he complains were aspects of company policy that applied to all field technicians.

Legal Standard

The FLSA expressly permits one employee to file suit "on behalf of himself... and other employees similarly situated, " provided each similarly situated employee opts into the suit in writing. See 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Because the FLSA does not specify how collective actions are to proceed, the management of these actions has been left to the discretion of the district courts. See Hoffmann-La Roche v. Sperling, 493 U.S. 165, 170-72 (1989). Courts in this district have generally employed a two-step process for determining whether an FLSA suit should be certified as a collective action. See Jirak v. Abbott Labs., Inc., 566 F.Supp.2d 845, 848 (N.D. Ill. 2008).

The parties agree that this action is currently at the first of the two stages, in which Plaintiff is only required "to make a minimal showing that others in the potential class are similarly situated." See Mielke v. Laidlaw Transit, Inc., 313 F.Supp.2d 759, 762 (N.D. Ill. 2004). In making this determination, courts are to use a "lenient interpretation" of the term "similarly situated, " as this stage requires "nothing more than substantial allegations that the putative class members were together the victims of a single decision, policy, or plan." Jirak, 566 F.Supp.2d at 847 (quoting Thiessen v. Gen. Elec. Capital Corp., 267 F.3d 1095, 1102 (10th Cir. 2001)). In light of this relaxed level of scrutiny, "plaintiffs can be similarly situated for purposes of the FLSA even though there are distinctions in their job titles, functions or pay." Id. at 848-49.

Discussion

Plaintiff seeks to send opt-in notices to and conditionally certify a nationwide class consisting of:

All individuals who currently work or formerly worked for Bancsource as Field Technicians, Field Service Technicians, Customer Service Engineers, Field Engineers, Technicians, or any other ...

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