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Thomas v. J & D Transportation

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

August 13, 2018

BOBBY THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
J & D TRANSPORTATION, et al, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          PETER G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.

         This is a motion for Conditional Class Certification. (ECF No. 15). Named Plaintiff and former J & D Transportation's employee, Bobby Thomas, seeks to bring this action as a collective action under the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA). Plaintiff now requests that this Court conditionally certify the class and authorize Court-supervised notice to similarly-situated employees. Defendant J&D Transportation (hereinafter J&D) is an entity operating a medical transportation company. (Complaint, ECF No. 1, ¶8).

         I.

         From 2013 to around May 2014, Thomas worked for Defendant J&D as a driver, providing prearranged transportation to medical patients. (Id. ¶27-28). Plaintiff drove a vehicle provided by Defendant. (Def. SOF ¶3). Defendant paid Thomas an hourly wage of $9.00 per hour during his employment. (Compl.¶30). Thomas drove vehicles that transported less than nine passengers, including the driver, and weighted less than 10, 000 pounds. (Id. ¶37). He was not a supervisor. (Id. ¶35). Accordingly, Plaintiff was an exempt employee within the meaning of the FLSA.

         Plaintiff argues that the above-mentioned characteristic would apply to all similarly situated individuals in the proposed class. Generally, Plaintiff alleges that there are many similarly situated individuals, with substantially similar job duties, that have substantially similar pay provisions, and are all subject to Defendants' unlawful policies and practices. (Compl. ¶14).

         Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Defendant on April 10, 2017, alleging the following Counts: Count I, failure to pay overtime compensation in violation of the FLSA; Count II, failure to pay minimum wage in violation of the FLSA; and Count III, unlawful withholding of wages in violation of New Jersey Wage Laws.[1] Plaintiff filed its motion to certify the proposed class on a conditional basis on March 23, 2018. Defendant opposed the motion.

         a. Failure to pay overtime wage

         Plaintiff avers that he worked more than 40 hours per workweek; and that Defendant failed to pay additional compensation for overtime hours worked for him and for the proposed class. (Id. ¶48). Specifically, Defendant should have paid at least the rate of 1.5 times the regular rate for each hour that they worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek. (Id. ¶49).

         b. Failure to pay minimum Wage and Unlawful withholding of wages.

         Plaintiff alleges that each workday, Defendant automatically deducted 30 minutes for a meal break from his wages. (Id. ¶52). However, Plaintiff argues that he was rarely, if ever, able to take a 30-minure uninterrupted meal break. (Id. ¶53). Defendant was allegedly aware of this. (Id. ¶54). Defendant also deducted all time that Plaintiff spent driving without a customer occupying the vehicle (i.e. time spent driving to pick up the next customer after completing a prior assignment) from his wages. (Id. ¶55). Plaintiff alleges that unlawful withholding of wages resulted in Defendant's failure to pay Plaintiff a minimum of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked during a workweek. (Id. ¶56).

         The Proposed Class and Disputed facts

         Plaintiff submits that 53[2] Class Members "are/were subjected to the same wage policies as Plaintiff." (PI. Br. Ex G. no. 4 (Interrogatories), ECF 15-11). Defendant argues that the drivers were provided schedules ahead of time, controlled their own time clock and were clearly advised to report all hours worked. (Def. SOF ¶8).

         According to Plaintiff, the driver manifest (attached as exhibit E to his motion) provides the following information for each trip assignment: 1) the client's name, 2) the client's address, 3) the pick-up time, 4) the drop-off time, and 5) the address of the client's destination. This manifest was distributed to Plaintiff and the proposed class members the day before each workday (except Monday) typically after 5:00 p.m. (see Ex. B to PI. Br.) Plaintiff points out that the driver manifests did, and do not, inform Plaintiff and the proposed class members that they would be provided with non-compensable break during the workday. (Ex. E to PL Br.)

         It is Defendant's position that the driver manifests properly advised Plaintiff and putative class members when they would have breaks in their schedule which could be planned for. (Def. SOF ¶IO). Further, Defendant determined and still determines Plaintiffs and proposed class members work hours after the workday is complete by examining the time entries recorded on the driver manifests submitted by Plaintiff and the proposed class members. (See PI. Ex. D). According to Plaintiff, if there was a period of time between a drop-off and pick time entered on the driver manifest that Defendant determined was sufficiently long enough, Defendant determined that the period of time was a non-compensable break. If multiple periods of time during the same workday met Defendant's requirement to be considered non-compensable breaks, then Defendant would deduct each period as a non- compensable break. (PI. SOF, ECF No. 15, 15-16).

         Defendant explained this procedure as follows: "Defendant examined the Plaintiffs work hours after the workday was complete for the purpose of adding additional time where necessary and verifying the number of hours worked. No time was ...


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