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Aytch v. Trulife Health Services, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 12, 2018

TOI AYTCH et al., Plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated,
v.
TRULIFE HEALTH SERVICES, LLC, d/b/a TRULIFE HEALTH SERVICES et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ELLEN LIPTON HOLLANDER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiffs Toi Aytch, Sharnette Morris, and Aiesha Beaty have filed suit under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., against Trulife Health Services, LLC (“Trulife”) and Ijeaku Ezekwesili, plaintiffs' employers. ECF 20 (Second Amended Complaint). Plaintiffs allege “willful refusal” by defendants “to pay [plaintiffs'] wages, including overtime and travel-time wages.” Id. ¶ 1. They characterize the suit as both a collective action under the FLSA and as a class action under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(3). ECF 20, ¶ 48. Plaintiffs have also lodged claims under the Maryland Wage and Hour Law, Md. Code, § 3-401 et seq. of the Labor & Employment Article (“L.E.”) (ECF 20 at 12-13) and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law, L.E. § 3-501 et seq. ECF 20 at 13. In addition, the Complaint includes a count by Beaty for retaliation, under the FLSA. Id. at 14.

         Two additional plaintiffs have joined the suit since its initial filing, pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). They are April Wright (ECF 8-5) and Isa Reaves. ECF 16.

         Now pending before the Court is plaintiffs' “Motion for Conditional Collective Action Certification and Court-Facilitated Notice” (ECF 14), supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 14-1) (collectively, “Motion”) and exhibits. The exhibits include, inter alia, the Declaration of Toi Aytch (ECF 14-5); the Declaration of Sharnette Morris (ECF 14-6); the Declaration of Aiesha Beaty (ECF 14-7); and the Declaration of April Wright. ECF 14-8.

         In the Motion, plaintiffs also ask the Court to approve a proposed “Notice of Collective Action” (ECF 14-3) and a form titled “Consent to Join Collective Action” (ECF 14-4, “Opt-In Form”) (collectively, “Proposed Notice”), to be sent to potential opt-in plaintiffs. See ECF 14-1 at 2. Pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), plaintiffs ask the Court, ECF 14-1 at 9, to:

approve the issuance of notice to all individuals employed by Trulife and Defendant Ezekwesili, at any time since three years before the date of the Court's Order resolving the instant Motion, who did not receive overtime compensation due for hours worked in excess of 40 per week, including for weeks in which overtime hours resulted from compensable travel time.

         Defendants oppose the Motion. ECF 15 (“Opposition”). They do not dispute that plaintiffs are similarly situated. However, they question whether other plaintiffs will join the suit, and complain that the Proposed Notice is overbroad. See Id. Plaintiffs have replied (ECF 17, “Reply”), and have submitted three examples of prior Notices of Collective Action signed by judges of this Court. ECF 17-1 to ECF 17-3.

         No hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I shall GRANT the Motion as to the conditional certification.

         I. Factual Allegations[1]

         Plaintiffs are current and former employees of Trulife, a for-profit home care agency. ECF 20, ¶ 1. Defendant Ezekwesili is one of Trulife's owners. Id. According to plaintiffs, Trulife and Ms. Ezekwesili employ approximately 40 home care aides at a time. Id.

         Plaintiffs' work duties included traveling to the homes of various clients and “assisting clients with toileting, bathing, mobility, cleaning, food preparation, and general housekeeping, and accompanying clients to medical and other appointments.” ECF 20, ¶ 17. Ms. Ezekwesili allegedly directed plaintiffs' work and exercised control over their schedules and their hourly wages. Id. ¶ 18. Plaintiffs aver that their pay rates ranged from $11 to about $13 per hour, and that they often worked more than 40 hours per week. Id. ¶¶ 19-22, see ECF 14-6, ¶ 3. However, plaintiffs allege that they were not paid an overtime rate for hours worked beyond 40 per week. ECF 20, ¶ 23. Moreover, plaintiffs assert that they were not compensated for travel time, even when they were assigned back-to-back shifts at the homes of different clients. Id. ¶ 24.

         Plaintiffs Aytch, Morris, Beaty, and Wright all submitted Declarations to this effect, asserting that they were paid a flat hourly rate; were never paid overtime even when they worked more than 40 hours a week; were directed by Ms. Ezekwesili; and were not paid for travel time. See ECF 14-5, ECF 14-6, ECF 14-7, ECF 14-8. As such, plaintiffs allege that they were similarly subject to defendants' scheme to violate the FLSA, and that the case is therefore properly certified as an FLSA collective action. ECF 20, ¶¶ 35-41. Furthermore, plaintiffs claim that the action is properly maintainable as a class action under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(3), because common questions of law or fact predominate, and because a class action would be more efficient than the institution of individual suits. ECF 20, ¶ 48.

         II. Discussion

         A. Conditional ...


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