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Brianas v. Under Armour, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 11, 2018



          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Stephen Brianas has filed suit against Defendant Under Armour Inc. under Section 16(b) of the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq. ("FLSA"); the Maryland Wage and Hour Law, Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. §§ 3-401, et seq. ("MWHL"); and the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Law, Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl, §§ 3-501, et seq. ("MWPCL"). (Compl., ECF No. 1.) Mr. Brianas alleges that Under Armour violated these statutes by classifying its analysts as salaried employees in order to avoid overtime wage requirements. (See Id. at ¶¶ 80-82.)

         Now pending before the Court is Plaintiffs Motion for Conditional Certification of a Collective Class and to Facilitate Identification and Notice to Similarly Situated Employees ("Motion for Conditional Certification"). (ECF No. 7.)[1] The parties' submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs Motion for Conditional Certification (ECF No. 7) is DENIED, and this case will proceed as an individual claim under the FLSA, MWHL, and MWPCL.


         Defendant Under Armour, Inc. ("Defendant" or "Under Armour") is a global manufacturer of athletic apparel headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland. (ECF No. 15 at 3.) Under Armour maintains four separate divisions: Brand House, Warehouse, E-Commerce, and Distribution House. (Id.) From 2011 until April 7, 2017, Plaintiff Stephen Brianas ("Plaintiff or "Mr, Brianas") worked as an allocation analyst ("analyst") in the Brand House division. (Brianas Decl., Pl. Ex. A at ¶ 4, ECF No. 7-2.) Plaintiff asserts that his duties "centered on routine data entry" related to the allocation of store inventory. (Pl. Mem. at 2, ECF No.7-1.) He alleges that during his tenure, one to three analysts also worked in Brand House. (ECF No. 7-2 at ¶ 4.)

         Defendant notes that the "Action Plan" for Mr. Brianas dated December 2, 2016 indicates multiple performance issues, which resulted in a Performance Improvement Plan. (See Def. Exhibits G-H, ECF-Nos. 15-7 and 15-8.) On February 1, 2017, Defendant approved a medical accommodation request by Plaintiff to allow him "flexibility to work from home." (Def. Ex. J, ECF No. 15-10.) Defendant reports that it terminated Plaintiff in April 2017. (Def. Resp. at 7, ECF No. 15.)

         On October 3, 2017, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant alleging violations of the FLSA, MWHL, and MWPCL based on the Defendant's purported policy of paying all of its analysts a salary in order to avoid overtime wage requirements. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 80-82.) Plaintiff subsequently filed a Motion for Conditional Certification (ECF No. 7) supported by Mr. Brianas' Declaration executed on November 8, 2017 (ECF No. 7-2). In the Declaration, Mr. Brianas asserts that under the alleged policy, Defendant did not pay analysts overtime when Defendant's demands required them to work more than forty (40) hours per week. Specifically, Mr. Brianas claims that analysts "consistently worked as many as sixty (60) hours each week." (Id. at ¶¶ 5, 26.) Defendant filed a Response (ECF No. 15) supported by, inter alia, affidavits from three Brand House allocation analysts contain assertions at odds with Mr. Brianas' claims as to the scope of their duties and the hours worked (see Def. Exhibits C-E, ECF Nos. 15-3 through 15-5).

         Defendant has filed an Answer (ECF No. 10) asserting various affirmative defenses, and discovery deadlines have been stayed pending resolution of the Motion for Conditional Certification. (ECF 20.)


         Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, a plaintiff may bring an action on behalf of herself and other employees so long as the other employees are "similarly situated" to the plaintiff. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b); see also Quinteros v. Sparkle Cleaning, Inc., 532 F.Supp.2d 762, 771 (D. Md. 2008). As this Court has explained, Section 216 of the FLSA "establishes an 'opt-in' scheme, whereby potential plaintiffs must affirmatively notify the court of their intentions to be a party to the suit." Quinteros, 532 F.Supp.2d at 771 (citing Camper v. Home Quality Mgmt., Inc., 200 F.R.D. 516, 519 (D. Md. 2000)).

         The decision to grant conditional certification is left to the court's broad discretion. Syrja v. Westat, Inc., 756 F.Supp.2d 682, 686 (D. Md. 2010); see also Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc. v. Sperling, 493 U.S. 165, 169 (1989). This Court employs a two-step inquiry when deciding whether to certify a collective action under the FLSA. Syria, 756 F.Supp.2d at 686; Banks v. Wet Dog Inc., No. CIV.A. RDB-13-2294, 2015 WL 433631, at *1 (D. Md. Feb. 2, 2015).

         "In the first stage, commonly referred to as the notice stage, die court makes a threshold determination of whether the plaintiff]] ha[s] demonstrated that potential class members are similarly situated, such that court-facilitated notice to putative class members would be appropriate." Butler v. DirectSAT USA, LLC, 876 F.Supp.2d 560, 566 (D. Md. 2012) (internal quotations omitted). The central question "is whether [potential plaintiffs] are similarly situated in a way that suggests they were victims of a common policy, scheme, or plan that violated the FLSA." Desmond v. Alliance, Inc., CCB-14-3499, 2015 WL 2165115, at *3 (D. Md. May 7, 2015). The Court may deny conditional certification if "the adjudication of multiple claims . . . would require the parties, the Court, and perhaps eventually a jury, to engage in an unmanageable assortment of individualized factual inquiries." Syrja, 756 F.Supp.2d at 688. In making this determination, "[t]he courts . . . have a responsibility to avoid the 'stirring up' of litigation through unwarranted solicitation." DAnna v. M/A-COM, Inc., 903 F.Supp. 889, 894 (D. Md. 1995) (quoting Severtson v. Phillips Beverage Co., 137 F.R.D. 264, 267 (D. Minn. 1991)).

         During the notice stage, the plaintiff must make "only a relatively modest factual showing" as to the existence of a common policy, scheme, or plan that violates the FLSA. Butler, 876 F.Supp.2d at 566. The plaintiff "must submit evidence establishing at least a colorable basis for [her] claim that a class of 'similarly situated' plaintiffs exist[s]." Quinteros, 532 F.Supp.2d at 772 (quoting Severtson, 137 F.R.D. at 266-267). The plaintiff, however, must provide "more than vague allegations with meager factual support." Randolph v. PowerComm Const., Inc., 7 F.Supp.3d 561, 576 (D. Md. 2014); see also Bouthner v. Cleveland Const., Inc., No. RDB-11-0244, 2012 WL 738578, at *6 (D. Md. Mar. 5, 2012) ("Plaintiffs cannot rely on allegations alone."). Factual submissions may include "affidavits or other means." Quinteros, 532 F.Supp.2d at 772.

         During the second stage, following discovery, the court engages in a more stringent inquiry to confirm whether the plaintiff class is "similarly situated" in accordance with the requirements of § 216. Rawls v. Augustine Home Health Care, Inc.,244 F.R.D. 298, 300 (D. Md. 2007)(internal citations omitted). The court then renders a final decision regarding the propriety of proceeding as a collective action. Id. The second, more "stringent" phase of collective action certification under the FLSA is often prompted by ...

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