United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
S. Shah United States District Judge
Zuri Osterholt and Michelle Benikov taught yoga classes for
defendant CorePower Yoga, LLC, first as interns and later as
instructors. They were paid for their time spent in the yoga
studio, but plaintiffs say that when accounting for the time
they were required to spend outside the studio preparing for
each class, the equivalent hourly rate of their wages fell
below the federal minimum. Plaintiffs brought claims against
CorePower under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C.
§ 201, et seq., the Illinois Minimum Wage Law,
820 ILCS 105/1 et seq., and the Chicago Minimum Wage
Ordinance, Chicago, IL, Municipal Code, § 1-24-020. They
want to pursue their federal claims as a collective action,
and they now move to conditionally certify two classes-one
for interns and one for instructors. For the following
reasons, plaintiffs' motion is granted.
Fair Labor Standards Act allows plaintiffs to recover unpaid
minimum wages on behalf of a class of similarly situated
employees in a collective action against their employer.
See 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Unlike the class
members in a Rule 23 class action, unnamd plaintiffs must opt
in to be bound by an FLSA collective action. Espenscheid
v. DirectSat USA, LLC, 705 F.3d 770, 771 (7th Cir.
2013). Most district courts use a two-stage process for
determining if named plaintiffs are similarly situated to
class members with respect to whether an FLSA violation has
occurred, such that a case may proceed as a collective
action. See, e.g., Jirak v. Abbott Labs., Inc., 566
F.Supp.2d 845, 847 (N.D. Ill. 2008) (collecting cases). In
the first stage, plaintiffs must make a modest factual
showing sufficient to demonstrate that “the putative
class members were together the victims of a single decision,
policy, or plan.” Id. at 848 (quoting
Thiessen v. Gen. Elec. Capital Corp., 267 F.3d 1095,
1102 (10th Cir. 2001)). The purpose of the first stage is to
determine whether any similarly situated class members exist.
See Myers v. Hertz Corp., 624 F.3d 537, 555 (2d Cir.
2010). If plaintiffs meet their burden, then they may send
notice to potential class members, giving those individuals
the opportunity to opt in to the collective action. See
second stage, after the opt-in plaintiffs are identified and
discovery is complete, defendants may move for
decertification. Plaintiffs then must meet a higher standard
for the collective action to proceed, and courts generally
consider three factors: “(1) whether the plaintiffs
share similar or disparate factual and employment settings;
(2) whether the various affirmative defenses available to the
defendant would have to be individually applied to each
plaintiff; and (3) fairness and procedural concerns.”
Mielke v. Laidlaw Transit, Inc., 313 F.Supp.2d 759,
762 (N.D. Ill. 2004). Ultimately, the standard for proceeding
as a collective action is no different from the standard for
certifying a class action under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 23. See Espenscheid, 705 F.3d at 772.
argues that, because the parties have conducted limited
discovery, the flexible, lenient standard typically applied
at the first stage should be heightened to a standard more
stringent than the lenient standard but less stringent than
the second-stage, post-discovery standard. Plaintiffs object
to this approach, as they filed this motion early in the case
and, at the time, the parties' discovery efforts were
limited to information necessary to meet the lenient
standard. Since then, however, the two named plaintiffs and a
third-party witness were deposed, the parties submitted
multiple declarations from other CorePower employees, and
CorePower produced over 10, 000 documents. Plaintiffs were
given the opportunity to file both a reply and a sur-surreply
with much of that discovery in hand. The limited discovery
conducted so far is sufficient to warrant an intermediate
standard. Like other courts that have applied such an
intermediate standard to conditional certification, I
consider the evidence put forth by both parties but remain
mindful of the fact that CorePower has greater access to
evidence than plaintiffs. See, e.g., Steger v. Life Time
Fitness, Inc., No. 14-CV-6056, 2016 WL 245899, at *2
(N.D. Ill. Jan. 21, 2016); Bergman v. Kindred Healthcare,
Inc., 949 F.Supp.2d 852, 856 (N.D. Ill. 2013).
Michelle Benikov and Zuri Osterholt trained to be yoga
teachers by enrolling in and completing a training program
administered by defendant CorePower Yoga, LLC. [54-3] at 11,
Tr. at 43:7-16; [54-4] at 8, Tr. 29:9-30:2. After completing
their training, they joined the CorePower internship program,
which required that they teach 30 yoga classes and qualified
them to be CorePower instructors. See [37-10].
Benikov began the internship program in Chicago in November
2011, and taught her 30th class in January 2012. [54-3] at
11-12, Tr. at 43:17-45:22. Osterholt taught classes as an
intern in Chicago from June 15, 2015 until August 9, 2015.
[37-1] ¶ 2. Following their internships, Osterholt and
Benikov worked for CorePower as instructors. Osterholt worked
in Chicago from August 10, 2015, until February 4, 2016.
Id. Benikov started out in Chicago but later moved
to Portland, Oregon, working as an instructor there from
November 2014 to January 2016. [37-2] ¶ 4. In addition
to teaching yoga classes, Benikov also trained new CorePower
teachers in both cities. [37-2] ¶ 10.
is some evidence that CorePower teachers nationwide received
the same training, using a standardized training manual.
[54-2] at 21, Tr. at 82:14- 82:22. In their training,
plaintiffs learned that preparing for each class included
developing and memorizing a choreography and sequence of yoga
poses, the verbal cues they will use to lead students into
the next pose, the type of physical assistance students may
require for each pose, and the music to be played during the
class. [54-3] at 43, Tr. at 169:19-170:17; id. at
93, Tr. at 369:14-371:14; [54-25]. It was also their
responsibility to develop a theme to which each of these
class components related. [54-18]-[54-20].
standard instructor employment agreement defines an
instructor's essential job duties, one of which is as
follows: “Provide superior yoga instruction by teaching
CorePower Yoga classes, adhering to CPY sequencing
expectations, structure, and quality standards at all
times.” [37-14]. The agreement also requires that
instructors provide students with individual assistance as
appropriate, interact with them before and after each class,
and promote additional CorePower trainings and classes.
Id. And it directs instructors to “[c]omply
with expectations for classroom environment, teacher
substitution, format structure, and other guidelines”
provided in other CorePower documents and communications.
Id. Teaching manuals and other documents sent to
teachers say that each class should provide a “World
Class Experience, ” [54-15], and that “no two
classes will be exactly the same.” [54-17]. To aid the
teachers in preparing for their classes, CorePower regularly
circulated sample playlists and suggested themes. [49-15]
¶ 13; [54-4] at 48, Tr. at 191:3-192:18.
to CorePower's standard intern and instructor employment
agreements, CorePower also required interns and instructors
to work at the front desk for thirty minutes before and after
each class they taught. See [37-10], [37-11]. The
CorePower employee manual states that while staffing the
front desk, employees had to interact with students, market
additional classes and training programs, and perform other
non-teaching activities as required by the studio manager.
[54-13]. Benikov testified that, in her training in Chicago,
she was explicitly informed of a policy prohibiting class
preparation while at the front desk, and that she in turn
informed others of that policy while training teachers in
Portland. [54-3] at 68-70, Tr. at 271:4-279:3. Plaintiffs
also testified that CorePower required interns and
instructors to spend time marketing their classes on social
media and reviewing newsletters and email announcements from
CorePower. [54-3] at 60, Tr. at 237:23-238:11; id.
at 98, Tr. at 389:1-390:4. And if an intern or instructor
could not teach a scheduled class, he had to solicit a
substitute teacher via email. [54-32]. CorePower also
provided the following instruction: “If you ask for a
sub, return the Karma and sub for someone else when you are
testified that she spent an average of four hours preparing
for each class. [54-4] at 43-44, Tr. at 172:4-173:9. Benikov
testified that she spent between four and five hours
preparing for each class. [54-3] at 102, Tr. at 407:4-13.
Third-party witness Fitzgerald, a former studio manager, said
she spent anywhere from three to five hours before each class
preparing. [54-2] at 14, Tr. at 54:3-20. In their
declarations, Osterholt and Benikov stated that CorePower
paid them below all applicable minimum wages, but do not
provide more detail than that. See [37-1] ¶ 12;
[37-2] ¶ 19. And according to plaintiffs and Fitzgerald,
their managers had some awareness of how much time and effort
were required to prepare for a class. [54-2] at 11-12, Tr. at
44:7-45:22; [54-3] at 47, Tr. at 186:4-187:9; [54-4] at
55-56, Tr. at 220:16-221:16.
also testified, based on her experience as a studio manager
and her attendance at corporate meetings, that CorePower paid
interns and instructors only for their time spent in the
studio-either teaching a class or managing the front desk
before and after their classes-and not for any time spent
working outside the studio. [37-3] ¶¶ 5-9.
Plaintiffs provide CorePower documents related to the payroll
system that directed interns and instructors to record their
time spent working at the front desk before and after each
class-one hour total-and their time spent actually
instructing each class-generally, one more hour-, but do not
mention time spent preparing for classes. See
[54-9], [54-10]. Plaintiffs' payroll records reflect that
for the vast majority of classes they taught, CorePower
explicitly compensated them for two hours of work time.
See [54-11], [54-12].
to plaintiffs, CorePower paid all of its interns for the time
they report at an hourly rate equal to the minimum wage
applicable to each jurisdiction in which they work. [37-2]
¶ 12. CorePower paid Osterholt between $8.25 and $10.00
per hour reported when she worked as an intern. 
¶¶ 38-39. CorePower paid instructors on a per-class
basis; Osterholt received $30 ...