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Sanchez v. Santander Bank, N.A.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

November 15, 2019

CRYSTAL SANCHEZ, et al., Plaintiff,
v.
SANTANDER BANK, N.A., et. al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER AND REPORT & RECOMMENDATION

          Douglas E. Arpert, United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on the following two motions by Plaintiff Crystal Sanchez and the opt-in Plaintiffs (together, “Plaintiffs”): (1) Plaintiffs' motion for conditional certification and for Court-authorized notice under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) (ECF No. 100);[1] and (2) Plaintiffs' motion for equitable tolling of the applicable statute of limitations (ECF No. 116).[2] The first motion seeks conditional certification of this matter as a collective action under the FLSA as well as the Court's approval of a proposed form of notice, a notice period and notice process. Defendants oppose this motion in part. While not opposing the request for conditional certification, Defendants object to certain aspects of the form and method of notice.

         The second motion asks the Court to toll the statute of limitations for the FLSA claims as of August 15, 2017, the date Plaintiff Sanchez filed her Amended Complaint first alleging violations of the FLSA. Defendants oppose this motion. For the reasons below, Plaintiffs' motion for conditional certification and Court-authorized notice is granted subject to the limitations set forth herein. As to the motion for equitable tolling, the Court recommends the motion be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff Sanchez is a former Branch Operations Manager for Defendant Santander Bank N.A. (“Defendant” or “Santander”). She worked at one of Santander's branches from approximately February 2016 to August 2016. In June 2017, Plaintiff filed this suit in the Superior Court of New Jersey, purportedly on behalf of herself and other similarly situated employees of Santander in New Jersey. In the state court Complaint, Sanchez alleged violations of New Jersey wage and hour laws, unjust enrichment, discrimination, whistleblowing, retaliation, fraudulent inducement, promissory estoppel, constructive discharge, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendants removed the action to this Court.

         On August 15, 2017, Sanchez filed a First Amended Complaint, adding claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) purportedly on behalf of herself and other similarly situated employees of Santander. (Doc. 9, p. 20 ¶ 3). On November 11, 2017, Sanchez filed a Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) restating her claims, including her FLSA collective action claims.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Conditional Certification & Notice

         Plaintiffs have filed the instant motion requesting that the Court grant conditional certification of an FLSA collective action on behalf of all “Branch Operations Managers who were employed by Defendant Santander [] at least one week from June 29, 2014 to [the present]”. ECF No. 100-58. According to Plaintiffs, “Branch Operations Managers” are Santander employees with the following job titles: (1) Retail Banking Branch Operations Manager: (2) Retail Banking Branch Operations Manager II; and (3) Senior Specialist, Branch Operations Management (collectively, “BOMs”). Santander pays an hourly rate to all BOMs and classifies them as non-exempt employees, meaning they are eligible for overtime. However, Plaintiffs contend that “Santander's policies and practices were designed to dissuade, deter, discourage, intimidate and/or coerce Plaintiff and the putative class of BOMs from reporting overtime hours worked” while at the same time compelling the BOMs to work “off the clock” in order to avoid giving rise to overtime pay.

         In addition to their request for conditional certification, Plaintiffs further request that the Court issue an Order as follows:

(1) permitting Plaintiffs to send a notice of this lawsuit to all BOMs who worked for Santander “at any time during the Collective Action Period (defined as June 29, 2014 to the date of the Court's Order granting Plaintiffs' Motion)”;
(2) setting a notice period of 90 days;
(3) permitting the notice and consent to join forms to be sent via U.S. mail and email;
(4) compelling Santander to post the notice form in a conspicuous location in each of its branches during the notice period;
(5) permitting Plaintiffs to set up an interactive website providing notice of this action and serving as a portal allowing parties to electronically consent to join this action;
(6) permit Plaintiffs to send a reminder postcard via U.S. Mail and email to individuals who do not submit a completed consent to join form;
(7) directing Santander to produce a computer readable data file containing the full names, addresses, telephone numbers, dates/location of employment, and personal email addresses for all potential collective action members; and
(8) directing Santander to provide the last four digits of the Social Security numbers for all potential collective action members for whom a notice is returned.

         Defendants do not oppose conditional certification and concede that notice should issue. However, Defendants oppose certain aspects of the form and method of notice. Specifically, Defendants oppose the following aspects of the motion:

• Plaintiffs' request that the Collective Action Period for potential opt-in Plaintiffs commence three years prior to the date Sanchez filed her initial Complaint;
• Plaintiffs' request for notice to be issued by e-mail, posting at Santander's branches, posting on an interactive web portal, and sending a reminder notice by mail ...

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