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Stransky v. HealthONE of Denver, Inc.
This case was before the court on the plaintiffs’ Motion to Toll the Statute of Limitations, which was filed simultaneously with the plaintiffs’ motion for conditional certification of the case as a collective action. In granting the plaintiffs motion (in part) and tolling the statute of limitations as of the date on which the plaintiffs sought conditional certification, the court looked to the both the procedural realities of the opt-in provisions of 216(b) and the remedial purpose behind the FLSA. Significantly, the court noted that there would be no prejudice to the defendant in granting such tolling while the potential plaintiffs would be significantly prejudiced by the continued expiration of their respective statutes of limitations if the tolling were not granted.
After discussing cases from around the country that have granted equitable tolling under similar circumstances, largely based upon the amount of time that it took for the court to rule upon a plaintiff’s pending motion for conditional certification, because same is in the interests of justice, the court honed in on the policy supporting such decisions:
In the case of a collective FLSA action, a least one district court in the Tenth Circuit has explained that the unique circumstances of a collective action “is not only significant but justifies tolling the limitations period [ ] for the FLSA putative class until the court authorizes the provision of notice to putative class members or issues an order denying the provision of notice.” In re Bank of America Wage and Hour Emp’t Litig., No. 10–MDL–2138, 2010 WL 4180530 (D.Kan. Oct.20, 2010). In making that equitable tolling determination, the court in In re Bank of America utilized a flexible standard, where a court considers five factors in determining whether to equitably toll a statute of limitations: (1) lack of notice of the filing requirement; (2) lack of constructive knowledge of the filing requirement; (3) diligence in pursuing one’s rights; (4) absence of prejudice to the defendant; and (5) the plaintiff’s reasonableness in remaining ignorant of the particular legal requirement. Id. (citing Graham–Humphreys, 209 F.3d at 561).
Plaintiffs argue that the statue of limitations should be equitably tolled here in the interest of justice in order to protect the Opt-in Plaintiffs’ diminishing claims. The Court agrees. Although early notice to Opt-in Plaintiffs in a collective action such as this is favored, such notice was not possible here as Defendant is in sole possession of the names and last known physical addresses of all potential Opt-in Plaintiffs. As such, allowing Opt-in Plaintiffs’ claims to diminish or expire due to circumstances beyond their direct control would be particularly unjust. The Tenth Circuit has also recognized the possible need for equitable tolling under such conditions. See Gray v. Phillips Petroleum Co., 858 F.2d 610, 616 (10th Cir.1988) (tolling statute of limitations where plaintiffs were lulled into inaction and defendant did not show that any “significant prejudice” would result from allowing plaintiffs to proceed; defendant was “fully apprised” of the plaintiffs’ claims). Moreover, Defendant will not be prejudiced by such equitable tolling. See Baden–Winterwood, 484 F.Supp.2d at 828–29 (defendant not prejudiced because it “had full knowledge that the named Plaintiff brought the suit as a collective action on the date of the filing” and “was fully aware of its scope of potential liability.”). Indeed, Defendant fails to claim it would be prejudiced in any manner, let alone prejudiced unduly, were this Court to toll the applicable limitations period. Thus, having considered the particular facts of this case, the Court finds that the interests of justice are best served by tolling the statute of limitations for the Opt-in Plaintiffs in this case.
However, while the court granted the plaintiffs motion, it declined to toll the statute of limitations back to the date of the filing of the original complaint. Instead, the court held the appropriate date to begin tolling was the date on which the plaintiffs filed their motion for conditional certification.
Click Stransky v. HealthONE of Denver, Inc. to read the entire Corrected Order Granting in Part Plaintiffs’ Motion to Toll the Statute of Limitations.
S.D.N.Y.: Delay Caused By the Time Required for Court to Rule on Motion for Conditional Certification Is ‘Extraordinary Circumstance’ Justifying Equitable Tolling
McGlone v. Contract Callers, Inc.
This case was before the court on plaintiff’s motion for conditional certification of a collective action, seeking to permit court approved notice. The court noted that another court, presented with a similar motion for conditional certification had previously denied same due to very significant differences in the factual circumstances in the employees’ work, depending on location. Nonetheless the court granted plaintiff’s motion and conditionally certified the case with respect to the district in which the plaintiff was employed. As discussed here, the court also granted plaintiff’s motion to equitably toll the statute of limitations for putative class members, as of the date the plaintiff filed his motion for conditional certification. In so doing, the court joined other courts who have held that court delay in issuing a decision on a motion for conditional certification is of itself an “extraordinary circumstance” warranting the tolling of the statute of limitations.
Addressing the equitable tolling issue, the court said:
Normally in a FLSA collective action, the statute of limitations for each plaintiff runs when he or she files written consent with the court electing to join the lawsuit, not when the named plaintiff files the complaint. See 29 U.S.C. § 256(b). However, courts have discretion to equitably toll the limitations period in appropriate cases in order “to avoid inequitable circumstances.” Yahraes v. Restaurant Assocs. Events Corp., 2011 WL 844963, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Mar.8, 2011). The Honorable Steven M. Gold stated that “the delay caused by the time required for a court to rule on a motion, such as one for certification of a collective action in a FLSA case, may be deemed an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ justifying application of the equitable tolling doctrine.” Id. at *2 (collecting cases). While plaintiffs wishing to pursue their rights cannot sit on them indefinitely, those whose putative class representatives and their counsel are diligently and timely pursuing the claims should also not be penalized due to the courts’ heavy dockets and understandable delays in rulings. Accordingly, the statute of limitations will be tolled as of the date of the filing of this motion.
While courts remain split on this issue, this is a good example of a court ruling on equitable tolling with the remedial purposes of the FLSA in mind.
Click McGlone v. Contract Callers, Inc. to read the entire Opinion.
Chen v. Grand Harmony Restaurant, Inc.
This case was before the court in an unusual procedural posture on defendants’ proactive motion requesting that the court deny tolling of the statute of limitations on plaintiffs’ FLSA and NYLL claims arguing that (1) it is too late for Plaintiffs to make a request for equitable tolling; (2) the equitable tolling doctrine cannot be applied to the remaining individual defendants, as they were not obligated by federal or state law to post the notices at issue; and (3) there is no justification to toll the statute of limitations. The Magistrate Judge held that plaintiffs had not waived their right to assert a right to equitable tolling based on the passage of time. The defendants then objected to the Magistrate’s R&R on this ground. Adopting the Magistrate’s reasoning the court reasoned:
“In his Report, Magistrate Judge Katz properly concluded that Plaintiffs are not barred from invoking the doctrine of equitable tolling because of a delay in raising the issue. Equitable tolling is a matter within the sound discretion of the Court. Defendants do not cite any relevant statutory or case law authority to support their claim that Plaintiffs have waived their right to request that the Court equitably toll the statute of limitations by waiting until this stage in the litigation. Further, Defendants had prior notice that Plaintiffs intended to seek damages back to the beginning of their employment. Plaintiffs alleged in their complaint that Defendants’ actions occurred throughout Plaintiffs’ employment and Defendants acknowledged that the entire period of Plaintiffs’ employment was at issue both in their answer and throughout discovery. The issue of equitable tolling was therefore present, at least implicitly, from the beginning of the action.”
Click Chen v. Grand Harmony Restaurant, Inc. to read the entire Memorandum Decision and Order.
11th Cir.: Employer’s Payment Of Wages 7-8 Days After Pay Period Ended Not FLSA Violation; No Liquidated Damages Due
Benavides v. Miami Atlanta Airfreight, Inc.
Plaintiffs sought liquidated damages for untimely payment of their wages under the FLSA. The crux of Plaintiffs’ complaint was that Airfreight’s policy of paying its employees seven to eight days after the pay-period ended-without justification for the delay-violates the FLSA.
Section 206(b) of the FLSA provides that “[e]very employer shall pay to each of his employees … who in any work week is engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce … not less than the minimum wage rate….”29 U.S.C. § 206(b). Although the FLSA specifies no time within which wages must be paid, liquidated damages may be available if the employer fails to pay wages or overtime on the regular payment date. See Atlantic Co. v. Broughton, 146 F.2d 480, 482 (5th Cir.1945). And we will assume that a “regular payment date” may be so far distant from the pay period to which payment relates to state a violation of the FLSA minimum wage. But we are cited to no cases that have concluded that seven or eights days’ payment in arrears-the time between the end of the pay period and Airfreight’s regular payment date-is actionably unreasonable or untimely. No requirement exists that wages be paid simultaneously with the end of the pay period. We see no support in the FLSA or in case law for Plaintiffs’ conflation of the end of the pay period and the regular pay date.
Olsen v. Superior Pontiac-GMC, Inc., 765 F.2d 1570 (11th Cir .1985), cited by Plaintiffs, is not on point. Olsen addressed whether commissions paid to car salesmen could be carried forward. Olsen concluded that the carry-forward-payment sequence was allowable only if the employee actually received the minimum wage for each pay period. The district court committed no error in granting summary judgment to Airfreight: Plaintiffs failed to show that Airfreight’s practice of paying wages seven to eight days after the wages accrued violates the FLSA.