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Pearsall-Dineen v. Freedom Mortg. Corp.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 25, 2014

LARA PEARSALL-DINEEN, individually and on behalf of all similarly situated individuals, Plaintiff,
v.
FREEDOM MORTGAGE CORPORATION, Defendant

Appearances: NICHOLS KASTER, PLLP, By: Rachhana T. Srey, Esq., Reena I. Desai, Esq., Minneapolis, Minnesota; SCHALL & BARASCH, LLC, By: Patricia A. Barasch, Esq., Moorestown, New Jersey, Counsel for Plaintiff.

KLUGER HEALEY, LLC, By: William H. Healey, Esq., Phillip G. Ray, Esq., Red Bank, New Jersey, Counsel for Defendant.

OPINION

Page 568

HONORABLE Joseph E. Irenas, Senior United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Lara Pearsall-Dineen brings this proposed collective action pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (" FLSA" ), 29 U.S.C. § § 201-19, on behalf of a subset of current and former employees of Defendant Freedom Mortgage Corporation. Pearsall-Dineen alleges that the Defendant failed to pay its mortgage underwriter employees the overtime compensation they are entitled to, in violation of FLSA.[1] Pending before the Court is Pearsall-Dineen's Motion for Conditional Class Certification. For the reasons set forth below, this motion will be granted.

Page 569

I.

The Court reviews only the factual and procedural background necessary for deciding the pending motion for conditional class certification.

According to the Complaint, Defendant Freedom Mortgage Corporation (" FMC" ) is a mortgage lender and originator, incorporated and headquartered in New Jersey, and licensed to work in all fifty states. (Compl. ¶ ¶ 3-4) In furtherance of its business, FMC employs mortgage underwriters who work both in FMC offices as well as remotely from their residences. (Id. ¶ 6) Plaintiff Lara Pearsall-Dineen alleges that from December 2012 through August 2013, she was one of these mortgage underwriters who worked from home. (Id. ¶ ¶ 8-9) Pearsall-Dineen asserts that FMC employed mortgage underwriters like her as hourly employees, and all of whom were (and are) eligible for overtime pay under FLSA in the event that she or her colleagues worked more than forty hours in a single week. (Id. ¶ ¶ 13-15)

In the pending matter, Pearsall-Dineen alleges that though she and her colleagues were entitled to overtime compensation, FMC withheld such compensation. Specifically, Pearsall-Dineen contends that FMC imposed " production requirements" on mortgage underwriters that required them to work in excess of forty hours per week. (Id. ¶ 16) A failure to satisfy these requirements could lead to disciplinary action or termination. (Id.) Though Pearsall-Dineen and other mortgage underwriters were required to record their hours worked on timecards, Pearsall-Dineen asserts that the timekeeping system does not accurately reflect all of the hours she and her colleagues worked. (Id. ¶ 18) More specifically, her timecard and those of other mortgage underwriters, inaccurately reflect overtime hours because FMC instructed mortgage underwriters to underreport their time and " modified and altered" Pearsall-Dineen's timecard to remove overtime work. (Id. ¶ ¶ 20-22)

As a result, Pearsall-Dineen now brings a collective action against FMC, seeking recovery under FLSA for unpaid overtime wages. Specifically, Pearsall-Dineen seeks certification of a proposed class: " All persons who worked as mortgage underwriters (or in other positions with similar job titles or job duties) for Defendant at any time during the last three years prior to the filing of this Complaint through the entry of judgment." (Id. ¶ 11)

Pearsall-Dineen filed her Complaint on November 12, 2013. Following FMC's Answer, filed December 23, the parties held an initial conference on February 4, 2014. In accordance with the Scheduling Order entered on February 5, Pearsall-Dineen filed this motion for conditional certification of the FLSA collective action on April 1, which is now ripe for resolution.

II.

As a general matter, FLSA mandates that employers are required to pay overtime compensation to employees who work in excess of forty hours per week. 29 U.S.C. § 207. The statute permits an employee who believes his or her right to overtime compensation has been violated to proceed in a collective action, " for and in behalf of himself or themselves and other employees similarly situated." Id. ยง 216(b). Despite this straightforward authorization, FLSA fails to define the term " similarly situated." As a result, courts within the Third Circuit follow a two-step process to determine whether a FLSA plaintiff may ...


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