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Smith v. Adventist Midwest Health

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

February 20, 2018

RYAN SMITH, on behalf of himself, individually, and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
ADVENTIST MIDWEST HEALTH, an Illinois nonprofit corporation, d/b/a ADVENTIST HEALTH CARE AT HOME, Defendant.


          Ronald A. Guzmán United States District Judge

         Defendant filed objections to Magistrate Judge Gilbert's Report and Recommendation of November 17, 2017, which addressed plaintiff's revised motion for certification of a class and a collective action. The Court sustains defendant's objections in part; sets aside in part and adopts in part the Report and Recommendation [114]; and denies plaintiff's motion [89].


         Ryan Smith brought this action against Adventist Midwest Health (“Adventist”) under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (“FLSA”), and the Illinois Minimum Wage Law, 820 ILCS § 105/1 et seq. (“IMWL”), to recover allegedly unpaid overtime wages on behalf of himself and all similarly-situated individuals. Smith worked for Adventist as a home health care nurse and seeks to represent other nurses as well as occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech pathologists (collectively, “Clinicians”) who are or were employed by Adventist and classified as exempt employees and who worked more than forty hours per week.

         Smith moved for certification of his IMWL claim as a class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 and for certification of an FLSA collective action under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).[1] The Court referred plaintiffs revised motion to Magistrate Judge Gilbert for a Report and Recommendation. Judge Gilbert issued a Report and Recommendation recommending that this Court grant plaintiffs motion. Adventist filed objections to the Report and Recommendation as provided by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72 and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).


         A. Legal Standards

         1. Standard of Review

         “When a magistrate judge prepares a report and recommendation for a district court, the governing statute provides that the district court ‘shall make a de novo determination' with respect to any contested matter.”. Kanter v. C.I.R., 590 F.3d 410, 416 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)). The Court of Appeals has observed:

De novo review requires the district judge to decide the case based on an independent review of the evidence and arguments without giving any presumptive weight to the magistrate judge's conclusion. The district judge is free, and encouraged, to consider all of the available information about the case when making this independent decision. A district judge may be persuaded by the reasoning of a magistrate judge . . . while still engaging in an independent decision-making process.

Mendez v. Republic Bank, 725 F.3d 651, 661 (7th Cir. 2013). The district judge makes the ultimate decision to adopt, reject, or modify the recommended disposition. Schur v. L.A. Weight Loss Ctrs., Inc., 577 F.3d 752, 760 (7th Cir. 2009); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3). When no objection is made to a portion of a report and recommendation, the district court reviews the unobjected portion for clear error. Johnson v. Zema Sys. Corp., 170 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 1999).

         2.Class-Action and Collective-Action Standards

         To be certified, a proposed class must satisfy each requirement of Rule 23(a) as well as one of the three requirements of Rule 23(b). Messner v. Northshore Univ. HealthSystem, 669 F.3d 802, 811 (7th Cir. 2012). The Rule 23(a) requirements are numerosity, typicality, commonality, and adequacy of representation. Id. After those four requirements are satisfied, proponents of the class seeking certification under Rule 23(b)(3)-the provision on which plaintiff relies here-must also show that (1) questions of law or fact common to the members of the proposed class predominate over questions affecting only individual class members; and (2) a class action is superior to other available methods of resolving the dispute. Id. Plaintiff bears the burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that a proposed class satisfies the Rule 23 requirements. See id.

         In this district, FLSA collective actions generally proceed under a two-step process. Nicks v. Koch Meat Co., 265 F.Supp.3d 841, 848 (N.D. Ill. 2017). First, the court considers whether to conditionally certify a class; to obtain this relief, 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.” Gomez v. PNC Bank, Nat'l Ass'n, 306 F.R.D. 156, 173 (N.D. Ill. 2014). If the plaintiff meets this burden, the court conditionally certifies the case as a collective action and allows the plaintiff to send notice of the case to similarly-situated employees, who may then opt in as plaintiffs. Nicks, 265 ...

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