Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hudgins v. Total Quality Logistics, LLC

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

June 14, 2019

BRIAN HUDGINS, individually and on behalf of those similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
TOTAL QUALITY LOGISTICS, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Brian Hudgins sued Total Quality Logistics, LLC (TQL) on behalf of himself and a class of others similarly situated for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act's (FLSA) overtime requirements. They allege that TQL misclassifies employees who served as logistics account executives-and trainees for that position-as exempt from overtime pay requirements under the FLSA's administrative exemption. The Court certified an FLSA collective action, and notice was sent to potential class members, more than 140 of whom opted in. The Court denied TQL's subsequent motion to decertify the class.

         The plaintiffs have moved for summary judgment on the application of the FLSA's administrative exemption to logistics account executives (LAEs) and trainees for that role.[1] For the reasons stated below, the Court denies the motion.

         Background

         A. Factual background

         The following facts are undisputed except where otherwise noted. Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio and with offices in twenty-two states, TQL is one of the largest freight brokerage firms in the country. TQL does not own trucks that move freight but rather acts as an agent connecting its customers to third-party carriers who transport customers' goods. To accomplish this task, TQL maintains a sizable force of logistics account executives (LAEs) and trainees-around three quarters of the company's total workforce-who cultivate and maintain relationships with customers. Aspiring LAEs must first spend several months as trainees before attaining the full privileges and duties of the role.

         Brian Hudgins is a former LAE. He worked as a trainee and then an LAE in TQL's Chicago office from May 2014 to June 2015. Hudgins alleges that LAEs and trainees were required to work more than 40 hours per week and were expected to be available twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week to respond to customers. But they never received overtime compensation. Hudgins alleges that TQL misclassified him and every other LAE and trainee as categorically exempt from overtime compensation under the FLSA in order to avoid paying them the wages they are owed.

         The broad contours of the LAE and trainee positions are not disputed. Employees in both roles are paid a salary of $35, 000 per year, and full LAEs are also eligible to earn commissions. LAEs typically maintain their own books of business, meaning that they "prospect" for clients, then maintain those relationships. The services LAEs sell to customers include advising customers on which third-party carriers to use, negotiating prices with those carriers, assessing the applicability of relevant state and federal regulations, acting as a liaison between their customers and third-party shippers, and otherwise responding to customers' varying needs. Trainees perform a somewhat narrower subset of these same tasks, though the degree of latitude they are given may vary to some extent because each trainee is assigned to an LAE who is in control of the pace of training.

         Although there appears to be agreement, at least in broad terms, about what LAEs and trainees do, the parties disagree forcefully about what duties lie at the core of these roles. As discussed below, this disagreement proves important to the question of whether the FLSA's administrative exemption can properly be applied to the LAEs and trainees. TQL asserts that the LAEs and trainees are essentially advisors for the company's clients, providing logistics consultations and recommendations on a wide variety of issues. It emphasizes that individuals in these roles act with significant autonomy and serve as the single contact point between TQL and the clients with whom they work. The plaintiffs, on the other hand, characterize all of the LAEs' and trainees' primary task as "sales." They contend that both prospecting for new clients and providing logistics services are part of a single sales process and thus frame the roles' primary duty as simply that of selling logistics services. To support this assertion, the plaintiffs point to standardized job listings and other record evidence characterizing the LAE position as a sales job.

         B. Procedural history

         Hudgins sued TQL in July 2016. In September 2016, he moved to certify a collective action comprising two subclasses under the FLSA. The first subclass would include all LAEs employed by TQL nationwide in the preceding three years, and the second would include trainees for the LAE position employed nationwide in the same timeframe. Hudgins sought to exclude three groups: (1) otherwise qualified LAEs who worked for TQL in Ohio, where a state-court collective action was already underway; (2) otherwise qualified LAEs who had already joined the Ohio action; and (3) any LAE who earned more than $100, 000 per year for the entire three-year period. The Court granted conditional certification. Hudgins v. Total Quality Logistics, LLC (Hudgins I), No. 16 C 7331, 2016 WL 7426135, at *8 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 23, 2016). The parties then collaborated to send notice to members of the putative class.

         In the meantime, TQL argued that arbitration agreements signed by some of the putative class members barred collective action. The Court ordered briefing on the enforceability of those agreements and on the Court's authority to rule on validity. Ultimately, the Court held that the agreements were enforceable and decertified the members of the class who had signed arbitration agreements. See Hudgins v. Total Quality Logistics, LLC (Hudgins II), No. 16 C 7331, 2017 WL 514191, at *4 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 8, 2017). TQL subsequently supplemented its list of class members who had signed arbitration agreements, knocking out two more members of the class. See Hudgins v. Total Quality Logistics, LLC (Hudgins III), No. 16 C 7331, 2018 WL 1706368, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 9, 2018).

         In August 2018, TQL moved to decertify the collective and both subclasses, arguing that members' claims had insufficient common questions of law and fact to support collective action under the FLSA. The Court denied that motion, concluding that common factual and employment circumstances predominated sufficiently to render the suit amenable to collective resolution. See Hudgins v. Total Quality Logistics, LLC (Hudgins IV), No. 16 C 7331, 2019 WL 354958, at *4-10 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 29, 2019). The Court noted, however, that two additional members of the plaintiff collective were subject to unique statute of limitations defenses and therefore removed them from the class. See Id. at *7; dkt. no. 202 (voluntarily removing these two plaintiffs).

         The plaintiffs have moved for summary judgment regarding the applicability of the FLSA's ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.