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Alvarez v. Gold Belt

May 26, 2009

IVAN ALVAREZ, AND ALL SIMILARLY SITUATED INDIVIDUALS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GOLD BELT, LLC, GOLDBELT FALCON, L.L.C., THE BIONETICS CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge

OPINION

This case concerns a putative collective action for unpaid overtime wages for plaintiff's employment as a "Citizen on Battlefield" role-player for the Unites States military. Pending before the Court is defendants' motion to dismiss and plaintiff's motions to file an amended complaint and for class certification.*fn1

For the reasons expressed below, the parties' motions will be denied.

BACKGROUND

At various times over the past few years, defendants, Goldbelt Eagle, LLC, Goldbelt Falcon, LLC, and The Bionetics Corporation, have contracted with the United States government to provide role players to the U.S. military to assist the military with training exercises. Plaintiff, Ivan Alvarez, became an employee of defendants in December 2005 as a Citizen on Battlefield ("COB") role player. Plaintiff claims that defendants have violated the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., because he was not paid overtime in accordance with the FLSA. Plaintiff claims that defendants failed to pay him at a rate of one and a half times his regular hourly rate when he worked in excess of forty hours per week. More specifically, plaintiff claims that defendant automatically deducted one hour for an eight-hour work day, and two hours for a twelve hour work day, regardless of whether he took the full break, or any break at all. Plaintiff has filed this action on his behalf and all others similarly situated.

Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiff's complaint based on the "first-filed" rule. Defendants argue that a case filed prior to plaintiff's, and currently pending before District Judge Joseph Irenas, advances identical claims as plaintiff's. Under the first-filed rule, defendants argue that plaintiff's complaint must be dismissed.*fn2

Plaintiff counters that the first-filed rule is inapplicable to his case. He also asserts that his proposed class should be certified. Additionally, he seeks to add claims based on state law. Defendants have opposed both of plaintiff's motions.

DISCUSSION

A. Jurisdiction

The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 29 Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., specifically pursuant to § 216(b), and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1337.

B. Analysis

Prior to determining whether plaintiff's proposed class should be certified, or whether he should be permitted to amend his complaint, it must be determined whether this case falls within the scope of the first-filed rule. The first-filed rule was adopted in this Circuit seventy years ago, when the Court of Appeals concluded, "'[i]n all cases of federal concurrent jurisdiction, the court which first has possession of the subject must decide it'."

E.E.O.C. v. University of Pennsylvania, 850 F.2d 969, 971-72 (3d Cir. 1988) (quoting Crosley Corp. v. Hazeltine Corp., 122 F.2d 925, 929 (3d Cir. 1941)) (other citations omitted). "Since then, this policy of comity has served to counsel trial judges to exercise their discretion by enjoining the subsequent prosecution of similar cases [] in different federal district courts." Id. (citation and quotations omitted). The purpose of the first-filed rule is to encourage "sound judicial administration," to promote "comity among federal courts of equal rank," and to give "a court the power to enjoin the subsequent prosecution of proceedings involving the same parties and the same issues already before another district court." Id. (citations and quotations omitted).

Defendants argue that the "first-filed" case requiring application of the rule here is Manning v. Gold Belt Falcon, LLC, Gold Belt Eagle, LLC, and Bionetics Corporation, Docket No. 08-3427, filed on July 10, 2008 and currently pending before District Judge Joseph Irenas in the Camden Vicinage. In Manning, the eight plaintiffs were COB role players employed by the same defendants in this case,*fn3 and they advance the same claims of failure to pay proper overtime and impermissible automatic break deductions in violation of the FLSA.*fn4 Just like plaintiff here, the ...


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