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Saunders v. Getchell Agency, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maine

March 23, 2015

KRISTOPHER T. SAUNDERS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
GETCHELL AGENCY, INC., et al., Defendants.

ORDER ON THE RECOMMENDED DECISION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

JON D. LEVY, District Judge.

Before the court are plaintiffs' Motion for Certification of Class Action Under Rule 23 (ECF No. 82) and defendants' Motion to Decertify Conditionally Certified Collective Action (ECF No. 81). On December 12, 2014, United States Magistrate Judge John Nivison issued a Report and Recommended Decision, recommending that plaintiffs' motion be granted and defendants' motion be denied. ECF No. 97. Defendants objected. ECF No. 100. I review the Magistrate Judge's recommendation de novo. See 28 U.S.C.A. § 636(b). After careful consideration, I reach the same conclusions as the Magistrate Judge on both motions. I adopt the Magistrate Judge's opinion as to defendants' motion to decertify in its entirety. However, I write separately on plaintiffs' motion for class certification in order to fully respond to defendants' objections and to ensure the "rigorous analysis" required as a prerequisite to class certification. See Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S.Ct. 2541, 2551 (2011).

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This case arises under both Maine and federal labor law. Plaintiffs, former employees of the Getchell Agency, Inc., allege that the Agency and its Chief Executive Officer Rena Getchell (collectively, "Getchell") violated the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C.A. § 207, the overtime provisions of 26 M.R.S.A. § 664(3), and the minimum wage requirements of 26 M.R.S.A. § 664(1). See ECF No. 32.

The Getchell Agency provides residential care services to disabled persons, whom the agency refers to as "consumers." ECF No. 82-3 at 1. To this end, Getchell manages roughly 44 single family homes, or "residences, " in Bangor, Maine. Id. Consumers live in these residences, and Getchell employs so-called "house managers" to work in the residences providing care. Id.

House managers work an unorthodox weekly schedule, which is the subject of this litigation. Typically, a house manager works a continuous, seven-day shift at a residence. Id. At night, a house manager usually sleeps in the residence, unless certain circumstances exist and the house manager is allowed to go home. Id. at 2. If consumers require care during the night, the house managers are expected to attend to them, unless there is a designated "awake overnight" staff member in the residence for that purpose. Id. at 2-3.

The house managers are generally paid for the hours of 6:00 a.m. through 10:00 p.m., but are not typically paid for eight hours of "sleeping time at night." Id. at 1. Getchell summarizes this policy as follows:

[E]ach [named] plaintiff was told that the regular work schedule would be a seven-day shift, Wednesday noon to Wednesday noon, covering two pay weeks; that they would be paid overtime for hours over 40 hours each pay week; that they would be paid for the 16-hour work period from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.; that there would be no deduction from pay for meal periods and times when the employee was not occupied with work duties during that period; that they would not be paid for the period from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. when the consumers were ordinarily asleep; but that if they had to be up with the consumers in the night they would be paid for that time, and they should put that time on their time sheets.

ECF No. 82-2 at 5.

Plaintiffs, all former house managers, allege that they frequently had to care for consumers at night, see ECF No. 32 at 4-6, and that Getchell routinely failed to compensate them for these hours, id. at 7-8. They filed suit in July, 2013, ECF No. 1, and now seek to certify a class action of "[a]ll persons who were, are, or will be employed by Defendant as House Managers in the State of Maine and who were paid on an hourly basis during the six years prior to the filing of the Complaint in this case, and who were required to be with the consumers for 24 hours per day, " ECF No. 82 at 2.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Class Action Certification

Because the collective action mechanisms of the Fair Labor Standards Act govern plaintiffs' federal claim, see infra, plaintiffs' motion for class certification relates only to their state law claim. See ECF No. 32 at 13-14. This claim alleges that Getchell failed to pay overtime for hours worked in excess of 40 hours a week, in violation of 26 M.R.S.A. § 664(3), and failed to pay the minimum wage for all hours worked, in violation of 26 M.R.S.A. § 664(1). Id.

"To certify a 23(b)(3) class, the district court must undertake a rigorous analysis' to determine whether plaintiffs met the four threshold requirements of Rule 23(a) (numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy of representation)[.]" In re Nexium Antitrust Litig., 777 F.3d 9, 17-18 (1st Cir. 2015) (citing Wal-Mart, 131 S.Ct. at 2551). Moreover, certification is permitted only if

the court finds that the questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3). "Rule 23 does not set forth a mere pleading standard." Wal-Mart, 131 S.Ct. at 2551. Rather, a court should "probe behind the pleadings" to ensure that a plaintiff is "prepared to prove that there are in fact sufficiently numerous parties, common questions of law or fact, etc." Id. (emphasis in original).

The Recommended Decision found that plaintiffs had satisfied each requirement of Rule 23(a) and (b). ECF No. 97 at 17-19. Getchell's objection to the Recommended Decision does not address the Magistrate Judge's findings that the plaintiffs were numerous, typical of the proposed class, and adequate to protect the interests of the ...


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