Class Members Don’t Need Identical Claims to Maintain a Class-Action Under the FLSA

Our lawyers are passionate about protecting the rights of workers and are constantly researching new wage and hour decisions rendered by the federal courts here in Illinois. Our Buffalo Grove overtime class-action attorneys recently discovered a case that impacts potential clients seeking to certify wage and hour class actions under the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The Plaintiff in Russell v. Illinois Bell Telephone Co. worked at Defendant’s call center in Arlington Heights, Illinois for five years and was paid hourly wages, commissions, and bonuses. Plaintiff and the other purported class members all had scheduled shifts and lunch breaks, but allegedly were required to perform work tasks both before their shifts and during their lunch breaks. Plaintiffs were not paid for the work they performed pre-shift and during lunch breaks, and filed suit for their unpaid wages. The trial court then conditionally certified the class, and additional discovery commenced.

Through discovery, Plaintiffs learned that Defendant has a written policy that hourly employees must obtain permission from a supervisor before working overtime and any employee who works overtime must be compensated accordingly. Defendant’s Code of Business Conduct also explicitly states that “managers are prohibited from requiring nonexempt employees to work off the clock.” However, after deposing 24 individual Plaintiffs, the record showed that the majority of Plaintiffs had to spend time logging into their computer systems prior to the start of their shift because their supervisors had instructed them to be “open and available” at the start of their shift. To be “open and available,” Plaintiffs had to boot up their computers and get several applications up and running. This system start-up process took between three and twenty minutes to complete depending upon the individual computer.

In addition to the pre-shift issues, the record showed that Plaintiffs would often have to work a few minutes past the end of their shifts to finish handling calls already in progress. Because Defendant has a policy that any overtime worked in an amount less than eight minutes is not compensable and many of the post-shift calls are resolved in less than eight minutes after the end of their shift, Plaintiffs were not compensated for the overtime worked while finishing calls at the end of the day.

After more discovery and the deposition of thirty-nine individual Plaintiffs, Defendants moved to decertify the class based upon individual issues embedded in the case and the absence of a company-wide policy that violates the FLSA. The Court found that the class members shared enough of a factual and legal nexus that pursuing a class-action was proper through the use of subclasses where necessary. The Court went on to decertify the individual claims that did not fall into the enumerated subclasses of pre-shift overtime, post-shift overtime, and work performed while on lunch breaks. Finally, the Court stated that due to the large amount of discovery still to be performed, that they reserved the right to revisit the decertification issue should it become apparent that the case was unmanageable as a class-action.

Lubin Austermuehle is a Chicago wage and hour class action law firm that concentrates in statewide or nationwide class action or collective action lawsuits and has successfully prosecuted disputes all over the country. Our Chicago and Crystal Lake overtime lawyers are intimately familiar with the factual and legal issues in large-scale wage claim litigation. We are adept at processing the large amounts of information common to class-actions and using our persuasive skills to get our clients the wages they rightfully earned. While Lubin Austermuehle is based in Chicago, our attorneys represent clients throughout the country who have not been paid for the overtime hours that they worked. If you believe that you are owed overtime wages, contact one of our Chicago wage and hour attorneys by phone at 1 630-333-0333, or through our online form.

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