Current and former service managers of Tire Kingdom, NTW, Incorporated, d/b/a National Tire and Battery and Merchant’s Tire and Auto Centers (“employers”) filed suit against their employers alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). The plaintiffs alleged they were not exempted from the FLSA and, as such, their employers were required to pay overtime compensation. The service managers, however, worked under a uniform policy of salaried pay without overtime compensation.
The plaintiffs were required to work well in excess of 40 hours per week. Also, the plaintiffs alleged that the store manager was in charge of the store and relegated the majority of the non-managerial duties to the service managers and other store employees. Moreover, the plaintiffs alleged that they did not have the authority to hire, fire, promote, or discipline store employees and routinely did not make or participate in the personnel hiring, firing, promoting, or disciplining decisions. The plaintiffs further alleged they spent little, if any, time performing managerial duties. Therefore, despite their job titles, plaintiffs were not “executive” employees exempt from the overtime requirements of the FLSA.
The plaintiffs sought to represent a class of all similarly situated service managers who were subject to the uniform policy of salaried pay without overtime compensation. Recently, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, Brunswick Division conditionally certified the class. Before conditional certification could be granted, the court had to determine whether there were other employees of the employers who desired to “opt-in” and whether the former service managers were similarly situated with respect to their job requirements and with regard to their pay provisions.
Initially, twenty-eight (28) individuals filed consents to become party plaintiffs to the action. Therefore, the court concluded that the plaintiffs carried their burden of demonstrating that other plaintiffs existed who desired to opt-in. The second inquiry was whether the proposed class consisted of individuals who were similarly situated. The court quoted the Eleventh Circuit which had found the similarly situated requirement of § 216(b) was more elastic and less stringent than the requirements found in Rule 20 (joinder). The court stated in order to satisfy the similarly situated requirement; the plaintiffs only had to show that their positions were similar, not identical, to the positions held by the putative class members.
The affidavits and deposition testimony submitted by the plaintiffs were sufficient to satisfy the court that there were other employees who were similarly situated. The 28 individuals who filed consents to become party plaintiffs were from nine different states and each asserted they routinely worked in excess of 40 hours per week for a salaried amount without overtime compensation; that they did not have the duty or authority to hire, fire, or promote any employees, nor make recommendations or suggestions regarding decisions affecting the employment status of other employees; that they worked at the direction and alongside the store manager; that the store manager relegated most, if not all, non-managerial duties to the service manager and other store employees; and that they spent the majority of their time performing non-managerial duties. The court, therefore, conditionally certified the class.