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Mayfield-Dillard v. Direct Home Health Care, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 10, 2016

Leila Mayfield-Dillard and Cornell Dillard, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
Direct Home Health Care, Inc., Defendant.

          Michele R. Fisher, Nichols Kaster, PLLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Philip Bohrer, Scott E. Brady, Bohrer Brady LLC, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for Plaintiffs.

          Thomas A. Revnew, Martin D. Kappenman, Andrew G. Chase, Seaton, Peters & Revnew, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          RICHARD H. KYLE United States District Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         In this action, Plaintiffs Leila Mayfield-Dillard and Cornell Dillard, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, allege that Defendant Direct Home Health Care, Inc. (“DHHC”) violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., by failing to pay them overtime. Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to (1) conditionally certify this case as a collective action and (2) authorize notice to potential class members. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Motion.

         BACKGROUND

         DHHC provides in-home healthcare and related assistance to the elderly and persons with special needs. The precise services it provides are tailored to the individual receiving care (under a document known as a “Care Plan” or “Plan of Care”) and may include meal preparation, driving, housework, feeding, bathing and similar tasks.

         Mayfield-Dillard and Dillard currently are employed by DHHC as Personal Care Attendants (“PCAs”), providing home healthcare to DHHC's clients, sometimes “around the clock.” They allege that they, and other similarly situated persons employed by DHHC, routinely worked more than 40 hours per week but were not paid overtime by the company. This is because, according to Plaintiffs, DHHC has failed to comply with a Department of Labor regulation, 29 C.F.R. § 552.109 (the “Regulation”), which was modified effective January 1, 2015, to provide that home healthcare workers employed by third parties or healthcare agencies (such as DHHC) are subject to the FLSA's overtime requirements. Plaintiffs allege that this decision affects all home healthcare workers employed by DHHC. Since Mayfield-Dillard and Dillard commenced this action, at least thirteen other current and former DHHC employees have filed notices of their intent to join this action to seek unpaid overtime.

         Plaintiffs now move for conditional certification of this matter as a collective action under the FLSA, as well as for Court-authorized notice to putative class members. Their Motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under the FLSA, an action for unpaid overtime may be brought “by any one or more employees” individually and on behalf of “other employees similarly situated.” 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Such a “collective” action differs from a class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Unlike a class action, no person becomes party to a collective action unless “he gives his consent in writing to become such a party and such consent is filed in the court in which [the] action is brought, ” Smith v. Heartland Auto. Servs., Inc., 404 F.Supp.2d 1144, 1149 (D. Minn. 2005) (Kyle, J.) (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 216(b)), which is known as the “opt in” process, e.g., West v. Border Foods, Inc., Civ. No. 05-2525, 2006 WL 1892527, at *2 (D. Minn. July 10, 2006) (Frank, J.).

         Because an individual cannot become party to a collective action without opting in to the case, a court may authorize notice to putative class members to afford them the opportunity to join the litigation. E.g., Hoffman-La Roche, Inc. v. Sperling, 493 U.S. 165, 169 (1989); Smith, 404 F.Supp.2d at 1149-50. Before authorizing such notice, a court must assure itself the matter is appropriate for collective-action treatment by making a preliminary determination that the plaintiffs are, in fact, “similarly situated” under the FLSA. Smith, 404 F.Supp.2d at 1149. At this initial, pre-discovery stage, a collective may be conditionally certified, and notice provided to the class, if the plaintiffs “establish a colorable basis for their claim that the putative class members were the victims of a single decision, policy, or plan.” Burch v. Qwest Commc'n Int'l, Inc., 500 F.Supp.2d 1181, 1186 (D. Minn. 2012) (Davis, J.) (citations omitted). The Court does not make credibility determinations, find facts, or assess the merits of the case at this early juncture, see, e.g., Chin v. Tile Shop, LLC, 57 F.Supp.3d 1075, 1083 (D. Minn. 2014) (Nelson, J.) (citations omitted); Loomis v. CUSA LLC, 257 F.R.D. 674, 678 (D. Minn. 2009) (Kyle, J.), but rather makes a preliminary determination that a sufficient factual or legal nexus binds the plaintiffs and class members together to deem them “similarly situated, e.g., In re RBC Dain Rauscher Overtime Litig., 703 F.Supp.2d 910, 963 (D. Minn. 2010) (Tunheim, J.); West, 2006 WL 1892527, at *3. The plaintiffs bear the burden of showing class members are similarly situated, Smith, 404 F.Supp.2d at 1149, although that burden is not onerous due to the early stage of the case, Dominquez v. Minn. Beef Indus., Inc., Civ. No. 06-1002, 2007 WL 2422837, at *2 (D. Minn. Aug. 21, 2007) (Kyle, J.).

         If conditional certification is granted, putative class members are notified of the matter and the case proceeds as a collective through discovery. Id. Then, at a later stage, usually after discovery is complete, the defendant typically moves to decertify the collective. E.g., In re RBC, 703 F.Supp.2d at 963. At that stage, the Court applies a stricter standard and makes a factual ...


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