When the decision in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, recently issued, I opined in this Blog that its rationale could be used in defeating and defending FLSA collective actions, although Dukes itself was a discrimination case and not a wage-hour lawsuit. Other commentators disagreed. Well, it does not seem to have taken long before the results are in and it seems I was right.
Relying on the Dukes decision, a federal judge has decertified a class of managers employed by Dollar Tree Stores, Inc, who had filed a misclassification collective action, alleging that they were really non-exempt and entitled to overtime pay. The case is entitled Cruz et al. v. Dollar Tree Stores Incorporated and was filed in federal court in the Northern District of California.
In Cruz, the district court concluded that this major development represented by the Supreme Court decision made it plain to the court that letting the case proceed would entail “unmanageable difficulties” in determining whether particular employees spent the majority of their time performing managerial duties or, put differently, whether management was and remained the workers’ “primary duty.” The court stated that the “plaintiffs have failed to provide common proof to serve as the ‘glue’ that would allow a class-wide determination of how class members spent their time.”
The judge was very hesitant about permitting the case to remain a class action, as the plaintiffs were going to base their case on a good deal of individual testimony and other proposed proofs of the necessary commonality aspects of the proposed class were deemed lacking.
I have often written about and “preached” the defense of “individuality” when employers are responding to a class action, especially when the issue is misclassification and the proposed class seeks to span several states or the entire country. I now see, and believe even more, that these kinds of defenses have an enhanced vitality under Dukes that management-side, defense counsel should make the most of in current/upcoming FLSA cases.