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Dillow v. Home Care Network, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

June 5, 2017



          Timothy S. Black United States District Judge.

         This civil action is before the Court regarding Plaintiff's combined motion to conditionally certify a collective action class and to certify a Rule 23 class. (Doc. 20).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Rhonda Dillow brings this civil action alleging wage and hour violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act (“OMFWSA”) on behalf of herself and other similarly situated former employees of Defendant Home Care Network, Inc. (Doc. 24). Defendants include Home Care Network, Inc. as well as Kimberly King, COO of Home Care Network, Inc., and Betty Martin, President of Home Care Network, Inc.

         In the current motion before the Court filed January 27, 2017, Plaintiff asks the Court to conditionally certify a class for both a collective action under the FLSA as well as to certify a class action under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. 20). Both proposed classes share the same definition:

All domestic-service employees who (1) worked for Defendants at any time from January 1, 2015 until April 30, 2016 and (2) worked more than 40 hours in one or more workweeks.

(Doc. 24, at 7).

         Defendant does not oppose conditional certification of Plaintiff's proposed class for the FLSA collective action, only requesting that the class be limited to the state of Ohio as Defendants claim that there are no domestic-service employees employed by Home Care Network, Inc. outside of Ohio. As evidence has not been fully presented to the Court regarding the geographic scope of the employees that may be affected by the proposed class, the Court sees fit to conditionally certify the class as proposed by Plaintiff for collective action certification under the FLSA. Assuming Defendants are correct in their assertion that no covered employees work outside of Ohio, there is no functional difference between the class as proposed by Plaintiff and the class as proposed by Defendants.

         Unlike conditional certification of a collective action under the FLSA, Defendants oppose the certification of a class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b). Defendants argue that Plaintiff has not met her burden of proof as required to necessitate certification.


         Rule 23 allows one or more members of a class to sue as representative parties only if: “(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class; (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a) (referred to by the shorthand of “(1) numerosity, (2) commonality, (3) typicality, and (4) adequacy.”). In addition, class certification is appropriate, as relevant here, if “the court finds that the questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(3).

         Before certifying a class action, this Court is required to conduct a “rigorous analysis” to determine whether the requirements of Rule 23 have been met. Gen. Tel. Co. v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 161, 102 S.Ct. 2364, 72 L.Ed.2d 740 (1982). In ruling on a motion for class certification, the Court is prohibited from considering the merits of the plaintiff's claims, but the Court may consider evidence outside of the pleadings to determine whether the prerequisites of Rule 23 are met. Eisen v. Carlisle & Jacquelin, 417 U.S. 156, 177, 94 S.Ct. 2140, 40 L.Ed.2d 732 (1974); Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U.S. 463, 469 n. 12, 98 S.Ct. 2454, 57 L.Ed.2d 351 (1978); see also 1 Joseph M. McLaughlin, McLaughlin on Class Actions § 3:12 (6th ed. 2009) (“Consensus is rapidly emerging among the United States Courts of Appeal. The First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Eighth, Tenth and Eleventh Circuits have expressly adopted certification standards that require rigorous factual review and preliminary factual and legal determinations with respect to the requirements of Rule 23 even if those determinations overlap with the merits.”). Plaintiff bears the burden of showing that the elements of Rule 23 are met. See Falcon, 457 U.S. at 161, 102 S.Ct. 2364.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Sufficiency of the Evidence

         As an initial matter, much of the dispute between the parties regarding whether this matter is suitable for class certification at this time revolves around the sufficiency of the evidence presented by Plaintiff in support of Rule 23 class certification. Plaintiff has submitted before the Court copies of Defendant Home Care Network, Inc.'s payroll records reflecting the wages earned by putative class members during the relevant time period. (Doc. 20-4). Plaintiff has also generated documents summarizing the data from the voluminous payroll records that summarize how many overtime hours each employee worked without being paid an overtime wage. (Docs. 27-2, 27-3).

         Defendants' response to the motion for class certification argues that Plaintiff has not yet submitted evidence sufficient to allow the Court to certify a class based on Rule 23. Defendants specifically cite the lack of any deposition testimony or affidavits to support Plaintiff's request for class certification. (See Doc. 25). However, the payroll records offered by Plaintiff allow the Court to sufficiently evaluate the Rule 23 factors for class certification. The claims in this case revolve around an allegation that Defendants did not pay overtime wages to a group of employees who were legally entitled to overtime pay; the main dispute in this case will be whether the relevant overtime wage laws applied to this group or not. Courts evaluating motions for class certification in similar cases have found that employer payroll records are sufficient evidence to support class certification. See, e.g., Castillo v. Morales, Inc., 302 F.R.D. 480, 486-87 (S.D. Ohio 2014). Upon examination, the information relevant to Plaintiff's motion is all on the payroll records-the number of affected employees, the dollar amount of the violations, and the payroll periods in which violations occurred. (Doc. 20-4).

         Accordingly, Plaintiff's motion for class certification under Rule 23 does not fail for a lack of available evidence.

         B. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) Factor Analysis

         1. Numerosity

         As the Court of Appeals has explained, there is “no strict numerical test” in order to establish numerosity. Young v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 693 F.3d 532, 541 (6th Cir. 2012). Plaintiff must only show that the class is “so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a)(1). Often, “a class of 40 or more members is sufficient to meet the numerosity requirement.” Snelling v. ATC Healthcare Servs. Inc., No. 2:11-CV-00983, 2012 WL 6042839, at *5 (S.D.Ohio Dec. 4, 2012) (quotation omitted).

         Plaintiff has clearly demonstrated that the proposed class is numerous enough to merit Rule 23 certification. As stated above, Plaintiff has provided to the Court a summation of Defendants' payroll records for domestic service employees from November 2015-October 2016.[1] Those records show that during that time period, more than 230 workers implicated in the proposed class ...

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