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Roberts v. PATCO Electrical Services, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

June 19, 2017

KYLE R. ROBERTS AND JOHNY L. SMITH, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
PATCO Electrical Services, Inc., Defendant.


          Vicki Miles-Lagrange, Judge

         Before the Court is plaintiffs' Motion for Conditional Class Certification, filed January 3, 2017. On January 24, 2017, defendant filed its response, and on January 31, 2017, plaintiffs filed their reply. Based upon the parties' submissions, the Court makes its determination.

         I. Introduction

         Defendant PATCO Electrical Services, Inc. (“PATCO”) is an electrical contractor that provides electrical installation and maintenance services to commercial and industrial customers, including oilfield servicing companies. Plaintiff Kyle R. Roberts (“Roberts”) worked for PATCO as an apprentice electrician from approximately July 2015 through February 25, 2016. Plaintiff Johny L. Smith (“Smith”) worked for PATCO as an apprentice electrician from March 2015 until March 2016. Plaintiffs were both hired as apprentice electricians to work in the field surrounding Devon Energy's Calumet, Oklahoma storage yard.

         Plaintiffs filed the instant action to recover unpaid compensation from PATCO on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq. Specifically, plaintiffs allege that PATCO only paid them overtime compensation for the hours they worked in excess of 50 hours per week. Plaintiffs also allege that PATCO did not pay plaintiffs for all hours they worked; particularly, each work day, PATCO deducted one hour for lunch from plaintiffs' pay, despite the fact they were not afforded a full hour for lunch each time.

         II. Discussion

         Pursuant to § 216(b) of the FLSA, plaintiffs now move this Court to conditionally certify the requested class, order PATCO to produce a list of names, last known addresses, and last known email addresses and telephone numbers for all current and former hourly paid electricians who worked for PATCO during the relevant time period, authorize dissemination of the suggested notice to potential members of this collective action, and order a 60-day notice period following complete production of the employee contact information.

         To proceed as a collective action under the FLSA, plaintiffs must show that they and the other putative collective action members are “similarly situated.” 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. See Thiessen v. Gen. Elec. Capital Corp., 267 F.3d 1095, 1105 (10th Cir. 2001).

         Under the ad hoc method, “a court typically makes an initial ‘notice stage' determination of whether plaintiffs are ‘similarly situated.'” Id. at 1102 (internal citations omitted). This initial determination “require[s] nothing more than substantial allegations that the putative class members were together the victims of a single decision, policy, or plan.” Id. (internal quotations and citations omitted). After the parties have completed discovery, and often prompted by a motion to decertify, “the court then makes a second determination, utilizing a stricter standard of ‘similarly situated.'” Id. at 1103. During the second determination, the court reviews several factors, including: “(1) disparate factual and employment settings of the individual plaintiffs; (2) the various defenses available to defendant which appear to be individual to each plaintiff; (3) fairness and procedural considerations; and (4) whether plaintiffs made the filings required by the [FLSA] before instituting suit.” Id. (internal quotations and citation omitted).

         In their First Amended Collective Action Complaint, plaintiffs define the proposed class as follows:

all current and former hourly-paid electricians, including journeymen and apprentice electricians as well as all other electricians who were employed by PATCO during the three-year period preceding the filing of this Complaint.

         First Amended Collective Action Complaint [docket no. 8] at ¶ 7.[1] Plaintiffs allege that the proposed class members have similar job duties and responsibilities - these other electricians performed various maintenance-related electrical work for customers located in and around Oklahoma and Texas. Plaintiffs further allege that similar to plaintiffs, these other electricians were required to expend a significant amount of time traveling to their different jobsites and traveling to pick up parts and equipment en route to other job sites. Plaintiffs also allege that these other electricians work schedules similar to plaintiffs and are compensated by PATCO in a manner similar to plaintiffs.

         PATCO contends that plaintiffs cannot meet the lenient requirements for conditional certification of their collective action. Specifically, PATCO asserts that the allegations made by plaintiffs regarding the lunch time deductions are clearly not a single policy, plan or decision which affected all of the members of the putative class; only one of PATCO's supervisors made the decision to use shorter lunch breaks when a specific job required that he do so. PATCO further asserts that plaintiffs cannot show that they were similarly-situated to the putative class as defined.

         PATCO contends that plaintiffs were part of a unique limited group of employees - the apprentice electricians at the Calumet location, and that due to the unique nature of the Calumet facility, PATCO decided to provide a per diem payment/travel ...

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