United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
XINIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court in this wage payment action is the Motion
for Conditional Certification and Court-Authorized Notice
filed by Plaintiffs Talia Craighead, Verenesha Hutchinson,
Vernice Headen, and Pamela Ransom. (ECF No. 39.) Plaintiffs,
on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated,
have filed an action alleging that Defendant Full Citizenship
of Maryland, Inc. (“FCI”), and FCI's
Executive Director, Defendant Pansy Stancil-Diaz, violated
the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et
seq. (“FLSA”) and analogous Maryland law.
The matter has been fully briefed, and on February 13, 2018,
a hearing was held. For the reasons discussed on the record
at the hearing, and for the reasons below, Plaintiffs'
Motion is granted.
Maryland Corporation, provides residential, rehabilitative,
and vocational training services to adults with cognitive
disabilities. Plaintiffs were hourly employees whose job
duties involved teaching FCI's clients skills related to
“daily living, ” “survival, ” and
“self-advocacy.” Plaintiffs assisted FCI's
clients with cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, taking
medicine, attending medical appointments, and participating
in social and recreational activities. See ECF
No. 34 at ¶ 29.
are residential and vocational staff who perform overlapping
duties and are subject to the same compensation policies.
Specifically, FCI pays Plaintiffs on an hourly basis.
Plaintiffs allege that for one class of Plaintiffs, FCI
systematically failed to pay overtime at the appropriate
wage, and for another, systematically failed to pay the legal
FCI was the defendant in a nearly identical class complaint
in this District before the Honorable George J. Hazel.
See Anthony v. Full Citizenship of Maryland, No.
GJH-15-977, 2015 WL 6773716 (D. Md. Nov. 4, 2015). There,
Judge Hazel granted a motion for conditional certification of
a collective action involving vocational counselors.
Id. at *1, *2. However, the parties voluntarily
dismissed that action before it was resolved on the merits.
now seek conditional certification of an FLSA collective
action in materially identical terms to that which was sought
before Judge Hazel. Defendants do not contest many aspects of
Plaintiffs' motion. Instead, Defendants principally argue
that, in light of the dismissal in Anthony,
Plaintiffs are barred from seeking conditional under the
doctrine of claim preclusion. Notably, Defendants provide
this Court no authority for the proposition that
this Court may bar conditional certification of this action
because of the stipulated dismissal of a prior case to which
Plaintiffs never were made parties. This is because
Defendants are deeply misguided as to the application of
claim preclusion here.
doctrine of res judicata, or claim preclusion, applies where
the party seeking preclusion can demonstrate (1) the
existence of a prior judgment, which was final, on the
merits, “and rendered by a court of competent
jurisdiction in accordance with the requirements of due
process”; (2) that the parties in the second action are
identical to, or in privity with, the parties in the first
action; and (3) that “the claims in the second matter
are based upon the same cause of action involved in the
earlier proceeding.” Covert v. LVNV Funding,
LLC, 779 F.3d 242, 246 (4th Cir. 2015) (quoting In
re Varat Enters., Inc., 81 F.3d 1310, 1315 (4th Cir.
1996)). “Res judicata is ultimately governed by whether
the present case has already been decided, and whether the
party has previously had a fair shot with respect to the
claims raised in the present action.” SAS Inst.,
Inc. v. World Programming Ltd., 874 F.3d 370, 378 (4th
Cir. 2017). The case before Judge Hazel was dismissed
pursuant to a settlement and stipulation of dismissal; there
was no judgment on the merits. Accordingly, res judicata
simply is inapplicable.
even if a judgment had been reached on the merits, only the
parties to that action and their privies are precluded from
re-litigating the claims. Pueschel v. United States,
369 F.3d 345, 354-55 (4th Cir. 2004). In Anthony,
Judge Hazel granted conditional certification of an
opt-in class. Accordingly, class members did not
become parties to the action unless and until they opted in
to the case. Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo, 136
S.Ct. 1036, 1043 (2016). Put differently, the mere act of
conditional certification does not bind all potential class
members to the outcome of the suit. Rather, the “sole
consequence of conditional certification [under § 216]
is the sending of court-approved written notice to employees
. . . who in turn become parties to a collective action
only by filing written consent with the
court.” Genesis Healthcare Corp. v.
Symczyk, 569 U.S. 66, 75 (2013) (emphasis added);
see also Yates v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 58
F.Supp.2d 1217, 1218 (D. Colo. 1999) (“Unlike Rule 23,
the opt-in provision of [the FLSA] provides for no legal
effect on those parties who choose not to
participate.”); Lindsay v. Gov't Emp. Ins.
Co., No. PLF- 04-1213, 2004 WL 4012264, at *1 n.4
(D.D.C. Nov. 9, 2004); Hautur v. Kmart Corp., No.
15-267A, 2015 WL 5567912, at *9 (W.D.N.Y. Sept. 22, 2015)
(“failure to opt into a collective action has no
216(b) of the FLSA provides for an “opt-in”
mechanism for collective actions under the statute
“whereby potential plaintiffs must affirmatively notify
the court of their intentions to be a party to the
suit.” Quinteros v. Sparkle Cleaning, Inc.,
532 F.Supp.2d 762, 771 (D. Md. 2008). In this initial stage,
the Court must determine whether Plaintiffs have demonstrated
that potential class members are similarly situated such that
court-facilitated notice to the putative class members would
be appropriate. If the Court answers in the affirmative, then
the class is conditionally certified and dissemination of
notice to potential class members occurs. At the second
stage, following discovery, the Court determines whether the
class indeed is “similarly situated” under
section 216 of the FLSA, and renders a “final decision
regarding the propriety of proceeding as a collective
action.” Gionfriddo v. Jason Zink, LLC, 769
F.Supp.2d 880, 886 (D. Md. 2011) (quoting Rawls v.
Augustine Home Health Care, Inc., 244 F.R.D. 298, 300
(D. Md. 2007)).
Plaintiffs' burden at the conditional certification stage
is minimal. The proposed FLSA plaintiff class is properly
considered to be similarly situated for the purposes of
conditional certification if the plaintiff can demonstrate
that they were “victims of a common policy, scheme, or
plan that violated the law.” Butler v. DirectSTAT
USA, LLC, 876 F.Supp.2d 560, 566 (D. Md. 2012). Here,
Plaintiffs have made an ample showing via sworn declarations
and other ...