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Balderrama-Baca v. Clarence Davids and Co.

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

March 10, 2017

RAMIRO BALDERRAMA-BACA, a/k/a ROMAN BALDERRAMA-BACA, SALVADOR MATEOS SR., and PEDRO ESCUTIA, on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated plaintiffs known and unknown, Plaintiffs,
v.
CLARENCE DAVIDS AND COMPANY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John Z. Lee United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs are current and former employees of Defendant Clarence Davids and Company (“Clarence Davids”) who have filed a lawsuit alleging that Clarence Davids required them to perform off-the-clock work without 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 Ill. Comp. Stat. 105/1 et seq. They also allege that Clarence Davids covered the cost of employees' uniforms by taking payroll deductions without first obtaining contemporaneous written authorization as required by the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA), 820 Ill. Comp. Stat. 115/1 et seq.

         Plaintiffs have filed a motion for class certification pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 23(b)(3), seeking certification solely with respect to their IWPCA claims. For the reasons provided herein, Plaintiffs' motion is granted.

         I. Background

         A. Payroll Deduction Policies

         Clarence Davids is a “full-service landscaping company offering landscape design, installation, and maintenance services throughout the Chicagoland area.” Def.'s Br. Opp. at 2, ECF No. 37. The company presently employs approximately 150 individuals who work on crews providing landscaping or maintenance services. Pls.' Mem. Supp. at 2, ECF No. 28. Since at least 2004, Clarence Davids has required its landscaping and maintenance crew members to wear uniforms. Def.'s Br. Opp. at 2. Clarence Davids acknowledges that it has taken deductions from its employees' paychecks to cover the cost of these uniforms. Id. When deductions were taken, they were documented on employees' payroll records and coded with the letter “U” for “uniform.” Pls.' Mem. Supp., Ex. 1, at 29.

         Clarence Davids has used several different uniform deduction policies since 2005. First, from 2005 to 2010, only “new employees” (as opposed to “returning employees”) were charged for uniforms.[1] These charges were taken in two payroll deductions of $37.50 each. It does not appear that employees were required to fill out any forms in connection with the uniform deductions taken during this period. See Def.'s Br. Opp. at 2-3; see also id., Ex. 1, 2002 Crew Member Uniform Policy.

         Second, from 2011 to the end of 2012, all employees-both new and returning-were charged for the purchase of their uniforms through payroll deductions. In this period, employees were required to complete and sign a form entitled “Uniform Record.” This form contained a chart where employees could indicate the quantity and size of the uniforms they needed. Id. at 3; see also id., Ex. 5, CD000088, Uniform Record. The cost of the uniforms that employees ordered was deducted from their paychecks. Pls.' Mem. Supp. at 2-3.

         Third, Clarence Davids had two closely related policies that governed new and returning employees, respectively, from 2013 and onward. During this period, new employees were charged for the full cost of their uniforms via two deductions of $62.50 each. New employees were also required to sign a one-page form setting forth Clarence Davids's uniform requirements and stating: “The deduction for uniforms will be taken out of the employee's first two payroll checks after receiving their uniforms. Total deductions of $125.00 (62.50 each).” Def.'s Br. Opp. at 3; id., Ex. 7, New Crew Member Uniform/Dress Policy. Similarly, during this period, returning employees were charged for the rental cost of their uniforms via biweekly payroll deductions. Returning employees signed a one-page form setting forth Clarence Davids's uniform requirements and stating: “The employee will have a payroll deduction of $14.00 per payroll for the uniform rental service.” Id. at 4; id., Ex. 8, Seasonal Crew Member Uniform/Dress Policy. The form that returning employees signed bears a close resemblance to the form that new employees signed, in that the two forms contain substantially similar language and information and also require an employee signature. See id., Ex. 7-8.

         B. Proposed Class and Subclass Definitions

         On March 24, 2016, Plaintiffs moved for class certification of their IWPCA claims pursuant to Rule 23(b)(3). In their memorandum in support of class certification, Plaintiffs offered the following definition of the proposed class:

All employees who work or worked for Clarence Davids [and] Company as maintenance crew members and/or landscape crew members, and who experienced one or more deductions from pay for uniform costs without providing a contemporaneous written authorization, from July 2, 2005 to the date this Court enters an Order approving the Plaintiff class pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23.

Pls.' Mem. Supp. at 4 (emphasis added).

         In its response brief, Clarence Davids argued that Plaintiffs' motion should be denied on the ground that Plaintiffs had proposed a “fail-safe” class definition.[2] Def.'s Br. Opp. at 8. Accordingly, in their reply, Plaintiffs proposed an amended class definition to address this objection. The amended definition omitted the phrase “without providing a contemporaneous written authorization” and read as follows:

All employees who work or worked for Clarence Davids and Company as maintenance crew members and/or landscape crew members, and who experienced one or more deductions from pay for uniform costs, from July 2, 2005 to the date this Court enters an Order approving the Plaintiff class pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23.

Pls.' Reply at 4, ECF No. 41.

         After Plaintiffs proposed this amended definition, however, the Court requested supplemental briefing from the parties regarding the appropriateness of certifying subclasses in this case. In their supplemental brief, Plaintiffs proposed certification of the following subclasses:

Subclass I: 2005-2010/2013-16 Landscaping Seasons New Employees: All employees who work or worked for Clarence Davids and Company as maintenance crew members and/or landscape crew members, and who experienced one or more deductions from pay for uniform costs, from July 2, 2005 through the end of the 2010 landscaping season and/or from 2013 through the end of the 2016 landscaping season, as new hires.
Subclass II: 2011-12 Landscaping Seasons: All employees who work or worked for Clarence Davids and Company as maintenance crew members and/or landscape crew members, and who experienced one or more deductions from pay for uniform costs, in the 2011 and 2012 landscaping seasons.
Subclass III: 2013-16 Landscaping Seasons Return Employees: All employees who work or worked for Clarence Davids and Company as maintenance crew members and/or landscape crew members, from the 2013 landscaping season through the end of the 2016 landscaping season, as return employees.

         With these proposed subclass definitions in mind, the Court now turns to the merits of Plaintiffs' motion for class certification.

         II. ...


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