A group of satellite television dish technicians suing for overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) have been denied class certification based on the court’s finding that there was not sufficient commonality among the class members, or, put differently, there was too much of a need for individual scrutiny.   The case is entitled Shim v. Echosphere, LLC and was filed in the Southern District of Florida.

This is an important decision because, although the judge agreed that the putative class members had similar job descriptions and they were covered by the same corporate policies as the lead plaintiff, there existed enough “significant individual considerations” such as to negate the identity of the proposed class.

The lead plaintiff was a technician and, as such, he was clearly non-exempt and entitled to overtime. In addition to overtime monies, the lead plaintiff alleged that the company made routine/automatic deductions for lunch periods, whether or not the lunch periods were taken.

The judge also found, as another basis for denying the certification motion that the technicians at issue were employed at a number of locations throughout the country and thus the court would be compelled to analyze varied employment standards in the different jurisdictions.  The court stated that, in order to grant the conditional class certification it “would have to analyze the work experience and employment policies of each individual at each location across the nation.”

The judge also determined that since so many time periods were involved, the damage claims would be all over the board.  The differences between the different workers would also mean that some would be entitled to liquidated damages and others would not, another lack of the required commonality. The Court also stated that it was “wholly unclear whether the opt-in plaintiffs were subjected to the same lunch-break policies and practices, whether these policies and practices were established in the same manner by the same decision maker, and whether the FLSA violations allegedly experienced by the opt-in plaintiffs were sufficiently similar.”

This is the key to an employer’s successfully defending a class action.  Dig into the facts and find as many distinguishing factors amongst the putative class members and bang away at those in the opposition to the motion for conditional certification.  The greater need for individual scrutiny the better the chances of defeating the class motion.