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Wang v. Jessy Corp.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 6, 2019

YAN MING WANG on behalf of himself and other similarly situated employees, Plaintiff,
v.
JESSY CORPORATION d/b/a China Buffet, JOHN DOE CORPORATION d/b/a China Buffet, CHANG QIN LIN a/k/a Jim Lin, NGAI FAT MEI, and JOYCE ZHENG Defendants.

          Rachhana T. Srey, NICHOLS KASTER, PLLP, John Troy and Aaron B. Schweitzer, TROY LAW, PLLC, for plaintiff.

          Boris Parker and Jordan W. Anderson, PARKER & WENNER, P.A., for defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S SECOND MOTION FOR CONDITIONAL CLASS CERTIFICATION

          JOHN R. TUNHEIM CHIEF JUDGE

         Plaintiff Yan Ming Wang brings this action against his former employer, Defendant Jessy Corp., d/b/a China Buffet (“China Buffet”), alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and various Minnesota wage and overtime laws. Before the Court now is Ming Wang's second motion seeking to certify the case as a collective action pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Because Wang has not adequately shown that there exist opt-in plaintiffs interested in joining his case, the Court will deny the motion without prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         The Court previously summarized Wang's allegations in its Order denying Wang's first motion to certify a conditional class and incorporates that factual background here. See Yan Ming Wang v. Jessy Corp., 2018 WL 5617567, at *1-*2 (D. Minn. Oct. 30, 2018). Wang alleges that he and other China Buffet employees worked more than 40 hours per week and that China Buffet did not provide overtime pay for those overtime hours.

         The Court denied Wang's first motion because Wang had not provided sufficient evidence that similarly situated employees existed, i.e. that other employees had also been denied overtime pay. Therefore, the Court found that Wang's case was not appropriate for collective action. Although the Court denied Wang's first motion, the Court noted that the motion had been brought at an early stage of discovery, and that it was possible that Wang would develop a stronger factual basis for certification with more time. Accordingly, the Court denied the motion without prejudice.

         Wang now brings a second motion to certify a conditional class. (2nd Mot. to Certify, Feb. 15, 2019, Docket No. 48.) Most of the facts and allegations supporting the second motion are the same as those that supported the first motion. Wang does, however, submit the deposition transcript of Chang Qin Lin, the owner and operator of China Buffet. (Decl. of John Troy ¶ 3, Ex. D (“Lin Dep.”), Feb. 15, 2019, Docket No. 49-4.) As relevant to the present motion, Lin testified in his deposition on topics such as how he pays his employees and how many hours his employees work. (See Id. at 12-14.) While Lin did not state that his employees work eleven-hour days, as Wang alleges, he did admit that the employees work eight hours a day for six days a week. (Id. at 13-14.) Lin also admitted that he does not provide overtime pay. (Id. at 14-15.) Additionally, Lin corroborated other aspects of Wang's complaint, including that China Buffet pays employees in cash, that Lin drives all of the employees to and from work, and that all of the employees live in Lin's house. (Id. at 10- 12.)

         Wang now argues that the Lin deposition, when combined with the complaint's allegations and the affidavits he previously provided, satisfy the standard for conditional certification.

         DISCUSSION

         I. FAIR LABOR STANDARDS ACT

         The FLSA permits an employee alleging wage and hour violations to assert claims on behalf of himself “and other employees similarly situated” by starting a collective action. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). The FLSA collective action process allows individuals to “opt-in” to a lawsuit started by someone else, but unlike class actions the outcome is not binding on those who do not opt-in. Bouaphakeo v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 564 F.Supp.2d 870, 887 (N.D. Iowa 2008) The purpose of the FLSA collective action is to provide plaintiffs with “the advantage of lower individual costs to vindicate rights [through] the pooling of resources.” Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. v. Sperling, 493 U.S. 165, 170 (1989).

         Providing notice to potential plaintiffs of the collective action is a vital part of the FLSA collective action process. See Id. at 170. Because of this, courts are encouraged to “monitor[] preparation and distribution of the notice” to “ensure that it is timely, accurate, and informative.” Id. at 172.

         Before providing court authorization for any notice, however, courts in this District must look at the facts of the case and determine whether to conditionally certify it for collective action treatment. To determine whether a case should be certified under the FLSA, courts typically employ a two-step process. Burch v. Qwest Commc'ns Int'l, Inc., 500 F.Supp.2d 1181, 1186 (D. Minn. 2007). “First, the court determines whether the class should be conditionally certified for the purposes of notification and discovery.” Dege v. Hutchinson Tech., Inc., Civ. No. 06-3754, 2007 WL 586787, at *1 (D. Minn. Feb. 22, 2007). At this stage, a plaintiff need only establish that his or her proposed class is similarly ...


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