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Huddleston v. Sloan Environmental Services, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

December 9, 2019

JERRY HUDDLESTON, III Plaintiff,
v.
SLOAN ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES, INC., et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR CONDITIONAL CERTIFICATION (ECF NO. 11)

          MATTHEW F. LEITMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         In this putative collective action, Plaintiff Jerry Huddleston, on behalf of himself and other similarly situated individuals, alleges that Defendants Sloan Environmental Services, Inc. and Eric Sloan (collectively, “Sloan”) willfully violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 (the “FLSA”) when Sloan failed to pay required overtime. (See Compl., ECF No. 4.) Sloan denies the allegations.

         On November 11, 2019, Huddleston filed a motion seeking to conditionally certify the following proposed collective under the FLSA:

All current and former hourly employees who worked for Sloan Environmental Services, Inc. at any time in the past three years.

(Mot., ECF No. 11, PageID.121.) Huddleston also seeks an order from the Court (1) approving his counsel as counsel for the proposed collective, (2) approving his proposed form of notice and authorizing dissemination of that notice to each member of the proposed collective by mail and email, (3) requiring Sloan to identify and produce the names, phone numbers, last known addresses, and email addresses of all proposed collective members in a computer-readable format within 14 days, and (4) giving members of the proposed collective 45 days from the date the notice is mailed to join this case if they so choose. (See id., PageID.118-119.)

         Sloan filed a response to the motion on December 2, 2019. (See Resp., ECF No. 13.) Sloan does not object to most of Huddleston's requested relief. However, Sloan does object to the scope of the proposed collective and how long Sloan should be given to produce the names and contact information of the members of the proposed collective. (See id.)

         Sloan first argues that Huddleston's “proposed collective and notice associated with that proposed collective[] should be limited at this stage to those similarly situated, hourly employees employed by [Sloan] in the last two years, ” not three years as Huddleston requests. (Id., PageID.156.) Sloan says that the proposed collective should only look back two years because “under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the statute of limitations is two years.” (Id., PageID.159.)

         The Court disagrees. As Sloan acknowledges, the FLSA's two-year statute of limitations “can be extended to three years in situations where the employer knew or showed reckless disregard for the matter of whether its conduct was prohibited by the statute.” (Id.) And Huddleston has alleged such a “willful” violation in this case.

         (See Compl., ECF No. 4.) Where, as here, a plaintiff “alleges that the employer's violations [of the FLSA] were willful, but willfulness is disputed … courts in this district and elsewhere generally find that a three-year limitations period is appropriate to use in the notice to potential class members.” Kim v. Detroit Med. Informatics, LLC, 2019 WL 6307196, at *5 (E.D. Mich. Nov. 25, 2019) (citing cases). As another Judge on this Court previously explained:

Given the fact that opt-in notice at this early stage of the litigation is to be construed broadly in furtherance of the remedial purposes of the FLSA … and the fact that it would be prudent to cast a wider net with respect to potential plaintiffs at the early stage, and then limit the class-if appropriate-in the second phase of the collective action process, the Court will apply a three-year statute of limitations period for potential members of the exempt classes. The Court finds this route is more practical than the route prescribed in its earlier order of mailing a second round of notices to potential opt-in members if the Court finds the defendants' actions constitute willfulness later in the proceedings.

Matthews v. ALC Partner, Inc., 2009 WL 10680524, at *3 (E.D. Mich. Oct. 27, 2009) (internal citations omitted). The Court finds the reasoning of Kim, Matthews, and the cases cited in those decisions persuasive. And Sloan has neither identified any contrary authority nor supported its argument that the proposed collective should be limited to two years in any other meaningful way. The Court therefore will certify the proposed three-year collective defined in Huddleston's motion.[1]

         Second, Sloan “ask[s] that [it] be given 30 days, as opposed to 14 days, to produce names, last known addresses, last known telephone numbers, and known email addresses of [its] current and former hourly employees.” (Resp., ECF No. 12, PageID.160.) Sloan has not explained why it needs this additional time. However, due to the forthcoming Christmas holiday, the Court will grant Sloan some limited additional time to produce the names and contact information of its employees. Sloan shall produce this information to Huddleston by no later than December 30, 2019.

         Accordingly, for all of the reasons stated above, Huddleston's motion for conditional certification is GRANTED as follows:

• The Court conditionally certifies a collective of all current and former hourly employees who worked for Sloan Environmental Services, Inc. at ...

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