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Cooper v. Coil Chem, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

April 25, 2007

ALAN COOPER, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
COIL CHEM, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER

          TIMOTHY D. DeGIUSTI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Conditional Certification [Doc. No. 34]. Defendant has filed its response in opposition [Doc. No. 42], to which Plaintiff has replied [Doc. No. 48]. The matter is fully briefed and at issue.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff brings this collective action on behalf of himself and a putative class to recover unpaid overtime wages and other damages under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. (“FLSA” or “the Act”) and the New Mexico Minimum Wage Act, N.M. Stat. Ann. §§ 50-4-1 et seq. (“NMMWA”). Defendant provides various chemical and delivery systems in support of oil and gas operations. As part of its business, Defendant employs field operators, whose main job duties involve preparing tools for deployment in the field, mixing chemicals and ensuring the placement of equipment in accordance with Defendant and its clients' specifications. Plaintiff alleges Defendant required Plaintiff and his co-workers to work substantial overtime without compensation. Defendant denies any wrongdoing. Based on the allegations of the Second Amended Complaint, his Motion and supporting declarations, Plaintiff seeks certification of a collective action that consists of:

All Field Operators performing completions work employed by Coil Chem, LLC in the past 3 years who were paid a salary and a job bonus.

Second Amend. Compl., ¶ 14.

         STANDARD OF DECISION

         Whether an employee may maintain a FLSA collective action depends on whether he is “similarly situated” to other members of the putative class. See 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Although § 216(b) does not define the term “similarly situated, ” the Tenth Circuit has endorsed the ad hoc method of determination. Thiessen v. General Electric Capital Corp., 267 F.3d 1095, 1105 (10th Cir. 2001). Under this approach, the Court engages in a two-step process. First, it makes an initial “notice stage” determination on whether a plaintiff is “similarly situated, ” which requires nothing more than substantial allegations that the putative class members were together the victims of a single decision, policy or plan. Thiessen, 267 F.3d at 1102.

         “By this determination, the court decides whether a collective action should be certified for purposes of sending notice of the action to potential class members.” Renfro v. Spartan Computer Services, Inc., 243 F.R.D. 431, 432 (D. Kan. 2007) (citation omitted). “Plaintiffs need only show their positions are similar, not identical, to the positions held by the rest of the collective class members.” Garcia v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 890 F.Supp.2d 1273, 1279 (D. Kan. 2012) (citing Grayson v. K Mart Corp., 79 F.3d 1086, 1096 (11th Cir.1996) (further citations omitted)). This standard is a very lenient one and typically results in certification for the purpose of notifying potential plaintiffs. Renfro, 243 F.R.D. at 432; Hart v. Sandridge Energy, Inc., No. CIV-14-178-R, 2014 WL 2983358, at *2 (W.D. Okla. July 1, 2014). Ordinarily, the Court makes this determination fairly early in the litigation, before the parties complete discovery. Brown v. Money Tree Mortgage, Inc., 222 F.R.D. 676, 679 (D. Kan. 2004). In making this determination, the Court does not reach the merits of the plaintiff's claims. Gieseke v. First Horizon Home Loan Corp., 408 F.Supp.2d 1164, 1166 (D. Kan. 2006) (citing Hoffman v. Sbarro, Inc., 982 F.Supp. 249, 262 (S.D.N.Y. 1997)).

         Under the second step, usually initiated at the close of discovery, the Court utilizes a stricter standard of “similarly situated” which requires evaluation of several factors, including: (1) disparate factual and employment settings of individual plaintiffs; (2) the various defenses available to defendants which appear to be individual to each plaintiff; and (3) fairness and procedural considerations. Thiessen, 267 F.3d at 1102-03.

         DISCUSSION

         I

         “Generally, where putative class members are employed in similar positions, the allegation that defendants engaged in a pattern or practice of not paying overtime is sufficient to allege that plaintiffs were together the victims of a single decision, policy or plan.” Renfro, 243 F.R.D. at 433-34 (citation omitted). In support of his ...


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