United States District Court, D. Maryland
KRISTINA MUELLER, et al. Plaintiffs,
CHESAPEAKE BAY SEAFOOD HOUSE ASSOCIATES, LLC Defendant.
Lipton Hollander United States District Judge.
wage dispute litigation, plaintiffs Kristina Mueller and Jill
Mueller have filed a collective action against
Chesapeake Bay Seafood House Associates, LLC
("Chesapeake Bay"), seeking, inter alia,
unpaid minimum and overtime wages for work performed at
restaurants owned or operated by Chesapeake Bay. See
ECF 1 ("Complaint"). Plaintiffs lodge their claims
under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938
("FLSA"), codified, as amended, at 29 U.S.C.
§§ 206, 207(a), and 216(b); the Maryland Wage and
Hour Law ("MWHL"), Md. Code (2016 Repl. Vol., 2017
Supp.), §§ 3-401 et seq. of the Labor and
Employment Article ("L.E."); and the Maryland Wage
Payment and Collection Law ("MWPCL"), L.E.
§§ 3-501 et seq.
Complaint lodges a collective action pursuant to the FLSA
(id. ¶¶ 79-101), and includes a Rule 23
class action as to the MWHL and MWPCL claims. Id.
¶¶ 102-112. Defendant answered the Complaint. ECF
agreement, the Court approved plaintiffs' Motion for
Conditional Certification of the collective action.
See ECF 9 (Motion); ECF 12 (Order). Unhappy with
response to the notice, plaintiffs have filed a "Motion
for Additional Court-Authorized Notice of Lawsuit" (ECF
110), supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 110-1)
(collectively, the "Motion"), and several exhibits.
See ECF 110-3 through ECF 110-10. Chesapeake Bay
opposes the Motion (ECF 128, "Opposition"), with
exhibits. See ECF 128-1 through ECF 128-4.
Plaintiffs have replied. ECF 138 ("Reply").
Motion is fully briefed and no hearing is necessary to
resolve it. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons
that follow, I shall grant the Motion in part and deny it in
Factual and Procedural Background
Muellers are former employees of Chesapeake Bay (ECF 1,
¶¶ 16-17), which owns or operates multiple
Chili's and On The Border restaurants in Maryland,
Virginia, and West Virginia. Id. ¶¶ 5-8.
Between approximately January 2006 and October 2014, Kristina
was employed by defendant as a server and bartender at
Chili's restaurants located in Bowie and Linthicum,
Maryland. Id. ¶¶ 16, 46-47. Between
approximately October 2005 and October 2014, Jill worked for
defendant as a bartender, server, and shift manager
(id. ¶ 44 n.2), also at Chili's restaurants
in Bowie and Linthicum. Id. ¶¶ 17, 51, 53.
to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), plaintiffs filed a "Motion
for Conditional Certification and to Facilitate
Identification and Notice to Similarly-Situated
Employees" (ECF 9), along with a supporting memorandum
of law (ECF 9-1) (collectively, "Motion for Conditional
Certification") and two exhibits. See ECF 9-2;
ECF 9-3. They asked the Court to "grant conditional
certification of a collective class for the claims alleged in
this matter under the Fair Labor Standards Act." ECF 9-1
at 1. They also asked the Court to assist in the
"identification and notice to similarly situated
employees" (id.), by allowing an "early
Court-approved notice of this action" and by
"allowing potential opt-ins to join this matter."
Id. at 3.
the parties filed a "Joint Status Report and Stipulation
Regarding Conditional Certification" (ECF 10)
(hereinafter, "Joint Stipulation"), informing the
Court that Chesapeake Bay did not oppose conditional
certification of a collective action, and that the parties
had agreed to the terms of the proposed notice and opt-in
forms. See Id. ¶ 3. Additionally, the parties
agreed, id. ¶¶ 4-5:
[W]ithin thirty (30) calendar days of the Court's
approval of the proposed Notice, Defendant is to produce
directly to Plaintiffs' counsel a list of the full name
and last known residential address of each and every
individual who is or was employed as a server and/or
bartender for Defendant during the period of June 15, 2014
until June 15, 2017.
* * *
[And] that putative class members will have a period of sixty
(60) calendar days from the date that the Notice is mailed to
submit a form consenting to join the lawsuit (the
"Notice Period"). The Parties have agreed that the
Notice Period will commence ten (10) business days from the
date Plaintiffs are provided with the list of potential class
members from Defendant.
Order of September 22, 2017 (ECF 12), I granted the Motion
for Conditional Certification (ECF 9). In addition, I
approved the Joint Stipulation (ECF 10), the proposed notice
(ECF 10-1, "Notice"), and the proposed opt-in form
(ECF 10-2, "Opt-In Form"). Thereafter, Chesapeake
Bay provided plaintiffs with the names and addresses of 2,
805 current and former Chesapeake Bay employees. ECF 110-1 at
1. Plaintiffs aver that Notice and Opt-In Forms were timely
mailed to all of the current and former employees at the
addresses provided. ECF 138 at 1. The deadline for potential
class members to join the lawsuit was December 29, 2017.
See ECF 128 at 4. The Court received more than 115
Opt-In Forms. See ECF 14 through ECF 109; ECF 111
through ECF 127; ECF 129 through ECF 137; ECF 139; ECF 142
through ECF 144; ECF 147.
Motion (ECF 110), filed on December 14, 2017, plaintiffs
claim that a "substantial portion of the potential class
have not received notice of the lawsuit." Id.
at 1. Further, they claim that Chesapeake Bay has "made
improper contacts with members of the prospective class"
by presenting an arbitration agreement to its current
employees (hereinafter, the "Arbitration Agreement"
or "Agreement"). Id. The relevant terms of
the Arbitration Agreement are discussed, infra.
Motion, plaintiffs asks for several forms of relief,
including (1) "an Order compelling Defendant to produce
to Plaintiffs' counsel... a list of the last known email
address of every individual listed on the class list who has
yet to join this matter"; (2) that plaintiffs "be
allowed to send additional class notice by mail and email to
all prospective class members"; (3) an extension of the
opt-in deadline; and (4) that "additional language"
be "included in the notice to make clear to all
prospective plaintiffs that the signing of and/or
distribution of an arbitration agreement does not prevent
them from joining this lawsuit." ECF 110-1 at 8-9.
facts are included in the Discussion
enacted the FLSA in 1938 "to protect all covered workers
from substandard wages and oppressive working hours,
'labor conditions [that are] detrimental to the
maintenance of the minimum standard of living necessary for
health, efficiency and general well-being of
workers.'" Barrentine v. Arkansas-Best Freight
Sys., Inc.,450 U.S. 728, 739 (1981) (quoting 29 U.S.C.
§ 202(a)) (alterations in Barrentine); see Encino
Motorcars, LLC v. Navarro, U.S. ___, 136 S.Ct. 2117,
2121 (2016); Morrison v. Cry. of Fairfax, Va., 826
F.3d 758, 761 (4th Cir. 2016); McFeeley v. Jackson Street
Entertainment, LLC,825 F.3d 235, 240 (4th Cir. 2016).
In particular, the FLSA established the "general rule
that employers must compensate each employee 'at a rate
not less than one and one-half times the regular rate'
for all overtime hours that an employee works."
Darveau v. Detecon, Inc.,515 F.3d 334, 337 (4th
Cir. 2008) (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1)); see
Perez v. Mrtg. Bankers Ass'n, ___U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct.
1199, 1204 ...