New Jersey Court Rules on whether a Job Description Alone is Sufficient to Grant a Conditional Certification in a Collective Overtime Wage Action

To pursue a collective action lawsuit alleging violations of state or federal overtime laws, you must provide sufficient evidence of other similarly situated workers who suffered due to your employer’s alleged violations. Failure to provide enough evidence to show that your case should be permitted to proceed as a collective action can result in the court’s refusal to grant a certification of a collective action.

In Freeman v. Sam’s East, the United States District Court of the District of New Jersey, the Honorable William Martini, held that a uniform job description alone is generally insufficient evidence to grant a conditional certification of a nationwide class of Sam’s Club employees. If you believe your employer owes you and your coworkers unpaid overtime wages, you should speak with a knowledgeable  New Jersey overtime rights attorney to assess whether you may be able to pursue a collective action claim.

Employment and Procedural History

The plaintiff alleged working at Sam’s Club as a Fresh Assistant Managers (FAMs). He claimed that his employer incorrectly classified him as an exempt employee to avoid paying him overtime wages, and that he and other FAMs were entitled to overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for working more than forty hours per week. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the employer on behalf of himself and all FAMs who worked for the employer from 2014 on and were similarly situated.

The parties engaged in limited discovery, after which the plaintiff filed a motion for conditional certification of the FLSA collective action. To support his motion, plaintiff submitted his deposition testimony and the depositions transcripts of other opt-in plaintiffs, depositions of the employer’s corporate representatives, and the employer’s corporate policies. The employer argued the plaintiff produced insufficient evidence to meet the burden of conditional certification. The court agreed, denying the plaintiff’s motion.

Evidence Other Employees are Similarly Situated for Purposes of a Collective FLSA Action

The court noted that a conditional certification is the first step in allowing an FLSA collective action to proceed. In its analysis of the sufficiency of plaintiff’s motion, the court first addressed the exempt classification, stating that classifying employees as exempt under the FLSA, in and of itself, is insufficient proof of a common policy or plan that makes all the alleged class members “similarly situated.”

Further, the court found that the uniform job description alone was insufficient to show other FAMs who worked for the employer were similarly situated. The plaintiff did not allege that the job description imposed non-exempt duties on all FAMs; rather, he argued that he regularly performed non-exempt tasks, and therefore he should be classified as a non-exempt employee.

The court noted that the plaintiff pointed to his own work experience, in which he performed tasks outside of his job description, arguing it should classify him as a non-exempt employee and asking the court to assume that other FAMs had similar work experiences, despite the fact he did not produce any evidence to support this assumption. In sum, the court found the plaintiff did not produce any evidence beyond pure speculation that would show a factual link between the manner in which the employer’s policy affected him and other employees.  Therefore, the court denied the plaintiff’s motion.

Meet with an Experienced New Jersey Overtime Rights Attorney

If you are interested in seeking overtime wages, you should meet with an experienced New Jersey overtime rights attorney to discuss whether it is best to proceed on an individual or collective basis. The overtime rights attorneys of The Jaffe Glenn Law Group will analyze the circumstances surrounding your employment to assist you in seeking overtime wages. Contact our office at 201-687-9977 or via our online form to set up a free and confidential consultation.

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