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Gunn v. Stevens Security & Training Services, Inc.

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

June 17, 2019

MICHELLE GUNN, MICHAEL WATSON, and JACOB SAUNDERS, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
STEVENS SECURITY & TRAINING SERVICES, INC., and AL STEVENS, Defendants,

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SHARON JOHNSON COLEMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs Michelle Gunn, Michael Watson, and Jacob Saunders filed this suit against Defendants Stevens Security & Training Services, Inc., and Al Stevens (collectively “Stevens Security”), asserting that Stevens Security violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Illinois Minimum Wage Law (the “IMWL”), the Chicago Minimum Wage Ordinance, and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (the “IWPCA”). The Court granted summary judgment to Stevens Security on the Wage Ordinance claim on January 22, 2019. Plaintiffs move to certify the remaining claims as a class action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3). For the reasons stated herein, the Court grants Plaintiffs' motion [131].

         Background

         Stevens Security is a security guard company that provides a range of security guard services. The company maintains one office in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago, and the guards work at various locations depending on the needs of Stevens Security's clients. Approximately 85 percent of the guards perform services for Twentieth Century Fox film and television crews working in Chicago. Each of those guards have the same job duty, watching equipment. Stevens Security classifies all of its security guards as independent contractors and pays all of its guards the same rate for all hours worked during a workweek. Stevens Security provides its guards with uniforms that include a Stevens Security branded shirt and hat that the guards wear for servicing most clients. The guards rent the uniforms from the company, paying $240 for the uniform through payroll deductions during their first three payroll periods.

         When Stevens Security hires new security guards, the guards attend a “meet and greet” session. Prior to this litigation, Stevens Security typically required the guards to sign several forms, including documents titled Employment & Wage Agreement, Employee Agreement, Employment Application, and Uniform Rental Agreement. The Employment & Wage Agreement lists Stevens Security as the employer and informs guards that they “shall comply with all Employer policies, procedures, rules and regulations, both written and oral, as are announced by the Employer from time to time.” (Dkt. 132-1 at 53.) Likewise, the Employee Agreement lists Stevens Security as the employer and includes a clause restricting guards' use of confidential information learned during their employment with Stevens Security. (Dkt. 132-1 at 65.) Stevens Security also maintained an Employee Handbook that was often distributed to new security guards. (Dkt. 132-1 at 55-64.) The handbook lists numerous rules, including deductions from pay for infractions; company president Al Stevens testified that the handbook intended to prevent certain behavior, but was not enforced as stated. A payroll deductions spreadsheet, however, shows that Stevens Security made deductions from various guards' paychecks for uniform items, for a specific number of hours of pay, and for unidentified reasons. (Dkt. 134.)

         Stevens Security employee Kimberly Coleman schedules the security guards, including sending text messages to the guards regarding mandatory meetings for which the guards were required to come to the Stevens Security office. In a series of six text messages, Coleman referred to the meeting or other requirement described in the message as mandatory, and one message referred to the “Stevens Security employees.” (Dkt. 132-2 at 17-21; Dkt. 171-2.)

         Plaintiffs are all former security guards who provided security services for Stevens Security's clients in and around Chicago. They worked as guards for various lengths of time: Michelle Gunn from March 2016 until August 2017; Michael Watson from November 2016 until August 2017; and Jacob Saunders from November 2014 until November 2017. Saunders had deductions made from his pay for breaking rules, including $72 for using social media on the job in March 2016 and $36 for sleeping on the job in September 2017. (Dkt. 132-10 at 4, 7.) Stevens Security deducted $60 from Watson's pay to cover money that Al Stevens personally paid him, which Watson testified had been given to him to cover gas for transporting other employees to a work site. (Dkt. 132-14 at 3.) Each Plaintiffs' pay was reduced to cover uniform deductions. (Dkt. 132-9, 132-10, 132-14.) Plaintiffs signed a blank piece of paper when they received their pay minus any deductions, functioning as a “check log” sheet. Gunn, Watson, and Saunders also signed a Confidentiality Agreement.

         Some Stevens Security guards signed declarations indicating that they were required to follow certain rules set by Stevens Security while other guards signed declarations stating that they were not punished when they did not follow rules set by the company, such as failing to attend a mandatory meeting. Further, there is conflicting testimony regarding additional rules, especially regarding confidentiality, and whether Stevens Security or their client Twentieth Century Fox set those rules. The parties, however, do not dispute that rules prohibiting certain conduct existed for all guards working on Twentieth Century Fox jobs. Stevens Security provided a “cheat sheet” of these rules to all security guards at the initial “meet and greet” event. (Dkt. 132-4, Ex. 5 at 44.)

         On September 30, 2017, approximately sixty security guards who were performing security services on behalf of Stevens Security clients executed an Independent Contractor Agreement, including Plaintiff Saunders. (Dkt. 168, Ex. B at 82.) The guards' duties did not change as a result of signing the agreement.

         Plaintiffs seek to certify two classes under Rule 23(b)(3):

(1) All individuals who worked as security guards for Stevens Security between August 31, 2014 and the present, who were paid by the hour, and who worked for Stevens Security in excess of forty hours in any workweek or who earned less than $8.25 per hour during any of their first six weeks of work due to uniform deductions (the “IMWL Class”).
(2) All individuals who worked as security guards for Stevens Security between August 31, 2014 and the present, who were paid by the hour, and whose pay records show that Stevens Security made deductions from their hourly wages (other than for child support payments mandated by law and other than for three $80 deductions for uniforms) (the “IWPCA Class”).

         Legal Standard

         To be certified, Plaintiffs must demonstrate that they satisfy all of the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and one of the three alternatives set forth in Rule 23(b). Messner v. Northshore Univ. Health Sys., 669 F.3d 802, 811 (7th Cir. 2012). Rule 23(a) requires that a proposed class meet requirements of numerosity, typicality, commonality, and adequacy of representation. Id. When certification is sought under Rule 23(b)(3), the proponents of the class must also show that questions of law or fact common to the members of the proposed class predominate over questions affecting only individual class members and, relatedly, that a ...


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