The below case analysis discusses a conditionally certified class action of satellite installers paid fixed amounts per satellite install or repair under the FLSA handled by another firm. Attorney Kevin J. Dolley handles FLSA unpaid overtime claims on a contingency fee basis nationwide.
Iowa Overtime Law
Putnam v. Galaxy 1 Marketing, Inc. 276 F.R.D. 264 (S.D. Iowa August 23, 2011) was filed under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for payment of minimum and overtime wages not properly paid to employees. Plaintiffs sought: 1) the granting of an opt-in notice for conditional certification and 2) an equitable tolling of the three year statute of limitations for the FLSA claims.
Plaintiffs were employed by defendants as Iowa satellite installation technicians. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants did not compensate them at a rate one and a half times the regular pay rate of pay for hours worked exceeding 40 hers per workweek. The cable installer plaintiffs were paid varying rates based on a three-tier system that gauged quality of job, customer satisfaction, and connectivity.
Eighth Circuit (Iowa) FLSA Conditional Certification
Plaintiffs served as satellite installers for Galaxy 1 Marketing, but were classified as independent contractors. Despite the existence of the three-tiered system, installers at each level were paid identical rates, and defendant did not factor in the installers' experience or time with the company. Defendant retained complete control of the classification of the levels, and advanced or demoted the installers' pay scale at will.
Regarding conditional certification, Plaintiffs presented two counts relevant to conditional class certification: 1) an allegation that Defendants violated the FLSA by failing to pay overtime wages, and 2) by paying less than the federally mandated minimum wage.
Plaintiffs supported their claim through affidavits showing evidence that: Plaintiffs were paid no wages for the time they spent training while in Defendants' employ; Plaintiffs worked jobs that required them to work a large number of hours for a single job, jobs were often twenty or thirty miles apart, defendant determined the pay rates for each particular job and determined when and how plaintiffs were compensated, plaintiffs worked longer than 40 hours per week and, upon information and belief, these jobs caused Plaintiffs' regular rate to drop below the federal minimum wage rate.
The court found that the practices appeared similar in the two offices at which the Plaintiffs worked. The fact that Area Managers across the different locations may have different management styles or policies was not fatal to Plaintiffs' motion. There was a common practice or policy in treating satellite installation technicians as independent contractors instead of employees.
Tolling of Statute of Limitations
Regarding the tolling of the statute of limitations, Plaintiffs sought equitable tolling on the grounds that Defendants delayed providing contact information for potential opt-in plaintiffs. Further, Plaintiffs asserted that Defendants' failure to provide a class list required Plaintiffs to engage in lengthy and burdensome discovery prior to moving for conditional certification.
The Eighth Circuit does not possess clear authority on the issue. The Iowa court looked at a ruling from the Southern District of New York stating:
FLSA defendants are not obligated from the inception of a litigation either to provide contact information of putative collective action members or to toll potential claims voluntarily. To grant the exceptional remedy of equitable tolling any time an FLSA defendant declines to provide contact information or to toll claims would, in effect, require that the statute of limitations for FLSA claims be tolled as a matter of course for all potential plaintiffs whenever the first plaintiff files her complaint-a result plainly contrary to the procedural rules that govern FLSA collective actions.
The Iowa court agreed that a failure to disclose contact information is not an "exceptional circumstance" warranting equitable tolling.