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U.S.Jud.Pan.Mult.Lit.: 4 Off-the-Clock Cases Against Foot Locker Centralized to Venue of First-Filed Case

In re: FOOT LOCKER, INC.

These proceedings were before the Multi District Panel, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407.  The defendants (Foot Locker) moved to centralize several pending cases, all arising from similar claims, in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  At the time Foot Locker’s motion was made four actions were pending in four districts.  Plaintiffs in all actions oppose centralization.  Notwithstanding the opposition of all plaintiffs in all cases, the Panel granted Foot Locker’s motion.

Largely breaking from its prior jurisprudence (in granting the motion over opposition of multiple parties), the Panel reasoned:

“On the basis of the papers filed and hearing session held, we find that these actions involve common questions of fact, and that centralization in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of this litigation. No party disputes that these actions share factual questions arising out of allegations that Foot Locker routinely fails to pay retail employees wages for work they performed. These actions allege that (1) the timekeeping system used by Footlocker allows managers to modify or decrease the time recorded; and (2) Footlocker’s bonus policy encourages managers to force employees to work off-the-clock and to delete time recorded. As in In re Bank of America Wage and Hour Employment Practices Litigation, it appears that defendants’ timekeeping and labor budgeting policies and practices are corporate-wide and uniformly applied. See 706 F.Supp.2d 1369, 1371 (J.P.M.L.2010). Discovery among these actions regarding defendants’ corporate labor budgeting and timekeeping policies therefore will overlap. This litigation, like In re Bank of America, is distinguishable from wage and hour dockets “in which the Panel has denied centralization, because the duties of the employees at issue appeared to be subject to significant local variances.” Id. at 1371, n.3 (citing In re Tyson Foods, Inc., Meat Processing Facilities Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Litig., 581 F.Supp.2d 1374, 1375 (J.P.M.L.2008)).

Plaintiffs’ primarily argue that informal coordination is preferable to centralization since only four actions are pending and plaintiffs are represented by common counsel. Plaintiffs make a strong case against centralization but, on balance, particularly given the likely overlap in discovery and pretrial proceedings, we are persuaded that centralization will promote the just and efficient conduct of this litigation. Though a large number of actions are not presently before the Panel, also weighing in favor of centralization is that additional related actions alleging similar class claims in other states could well be filed. Centralization in these circumstances will have the benefit of eliminating duplicative discovery; preventing inconsistent pretrial rulings, including with respect to class certification; and conserving the resources of the parties, their counsel, and the judiciary.

We are persuaded that the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is the most appropriate transferee district. The first-filed Pereira action has been pending there since May 2007, and Judge J. Curtis Joyner is familiar with the issues in this litigation. Although the Pereira action has been pending for some time, discovery is ongoing and, given that plaintiffs in all actions are represented by common counsel, plaintiffs will not be prejudiced by transfer to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.”

Thus, although the Panel noted that the plaintiffs made a “strong case” against centralization, it centralized the case nonetheless.

Click In re: Foot Locker, Inc. to read the entire Transfer Order.

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