It is not that often that a motion for conditional certification is denied, as there is only needed a modicum of evidence, e.g. affidavits, to support the motion. But sometimes, it does happen. A federal judge has refused to certify a collective action that sought a class of employees against Stuart Petroleum Testers Inc. The plaintiffs allege that they were not paid overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act, but the Judge concluded that the named plaintiff did not introduce sufficient evidence to show he was situated similarly to others in the proposed class. The case is entitled Mathis v. Stuart Petroleum Testers Inc. et al and was filed in federal court in the Western District of Texas.
The Court noted that, even under the “fairly lenient standard” of the conditional certification stage, the plaintiff, James Mathis, laid out only “bare assertions” about the nature of the job he performed. These bare assertions were too vague to allow a determination that other employees in the same positions performed the same basic tasks.
The Judge observed that the plaintiff did not explain what kind of equipment a field supervisor or pump supervisor would regularly use nor did he describe the other classifications of employees they would work with or the specific tasks they would perform. In lieu of doing that, the plaintiff only gave a broad description of “maintaining and operating the equipment used at the oilfield well sites.” The Court noted that this could include nearly any worker performing some manual labor at a well site.
The Court stated that “if the court were to evaluate which Stuart Petroleum employees are in a ‘similar position’ to a pump supervisor or field supervisor based on plaintiff’s description of his job duties, the resulting class would inevitably include workers who are not ‘similarly situated’ to plaintiff.”
The Company attacked the motion for conditional certification by contending that it was based on the fundamentally incorrect premise that, although he was a salaried field supervisor, there was a “class” of similarly situated hourly employees. The Company pointed out that the named plaintiff was a senior operator on a hydraulic choke crew who occasionally supervised other crew members, who were hourly paid and received bonuses. The Company also argued that he had not presented evidence that any potential opt-in plaintiffs gave any sign that they might want to join the lawsuit.
Usually, a motion for conditional certification will be accompanied by several affidavits or sworn statements. Most times, these are canned and boilerplate and then the defense counsel must argue that there is no basis to conclude that any of the affidavits are persuasive and/or that none of the supporters of the motion have “real” knowledge. In essence, the defendant in that scenario is arguing that the showing was “barebones” as was argued here.
But, here, consisting of only one named plaintiff’s allegations, generalized and vague as they were, the showing was indeed, the essence, of barebones.