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D.Mass.: Equitable Tolling Applied To Preserve Statute Of Limitations Of Plaintiffs Who Previously Filed Opt-in Consents And Promptly Re-filed Their Consents In New Case

McLaughlin v. Harbor Cruises LLC

The defendants moved for summary judgment as to seven individuals who have purported to opt into this collective action brought pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). There was no dispute that these plaintiffs did not file their “opt in” consents within the applicable limitations period. See29 U.S.C. § 255(a) (stating that an action for unpaid overtime compensation must be commenced within two years after the cause of action accrued, or within three years if the cause of action arises out of a willful violation). However, the plaintiffs opposed the motion and argued that the statute of limitations should be equitably tolled to permit them to remain in the FLSA class. The Court held that 2 opt-ins who had previously attempted to opt-in to a prior case, which was not ultimately certified reasonably relied on their prior consents and thus their statute of limitations was equitably tolled.

“Equitable tolling is justified as to two of the seven opt-in plaintiffs at issue, however. Both Susan Cardenas and John J. Hamm III filed consents in the previous McLaughlin action that would be timely under the possible three year statute of limitations for willful violations. SeeNo. 03-CV-10905 (D. Mass. Jan 20, 2006) (notices of consent to opt in). This Court subsequently ruled that the previous McLaughlin action could not proceed a collective action under the FLSA, see No. 03-CV-10905-GAO, 2006 WL 1998629 (D.Mass. July 17, 2006), but it was reasonable for Cardenas and Hamm to have relied on their consents filed in that case, rather than to file their own individual actions. They promptly re-filed their consents in this action. The statute of limitations is therefore equitably tolled as to both Cardenas and Hamm from the filing of their consents in the previous action on January 20, 2006 to this Court’s order dismissing the previous action on July 17, 2006.”