United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Xinis United States District Judge
before the Court in this wage payment action is Plaintiff
Nicholas Redding and Brian Miles' Motion for Conditional
Certification to Facilitate Identification and Notice to
Similarly Situated Employees. ECF No. 11. Plaintiffs, on
behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, have
brought this action alleging that Defendant Pure Technologies
U.S., Inc., violated 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) of the Fair
Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and analogous
Maryland law. The matter has been fully briefed, and limited
discovery was ordered. For the reasons discussed below,
Plaintiffs' Motion is GRANTED.
Technologies U.S., Inc. (hereinafter, “Pure
Technologies” or “Defendant”) is an
engineering and technology company specializing in the
inspection and monitoring of physical infrastructure,
including pipelines. See ECF No. 1 ¶¶
32-33. Plaintiffs Nicholas Redding and Brian Miles
(hereinafter, “Redding” and “Miles, ”
respectively, and “Plaintiffs, ” collectively)
were full-time employees of Pure Technologies, receiving a
set salary. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 65. While the job titles of
the Plaintiffs, and other similarly situated employees,
differed - including positions for field technicians, field
operators, field engineers, and project engineer`s
(collectively “field personnel”) - their work
duties were essentially identical, requiring them to perform
manual labor for infrastructure tests with little or no
discretion in the planning, execution, and assessment of test
results. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 36-39, 41-46, 50-54, 62.
Pure Technologies' understaffing also required field
personnel to work well over 40 hours per week, “doing
whatever the task need[ed] to get done.” ECF No. 1 at
¶¶ 49, 76; ECF No. 18-1 at 42:8-9.
avoid making overtime payments, Plaintiffs claim that Pure
Technologies deliberately misclassified field personnel as
salaried employees. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 84. Further,
Plaintiffs allege that after Pure Technologies re-classified
field personnel as hourly workers receiving overtime wages,
the company refused to retroactively compensate field
personnel. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 85.
moved for conditional class certification on October 30,
2017, ECF No. 11, which Pure Technologies timely opposed, ECF
No. 18. The Court ordered limited discovery as to whether
Plaintiffs' employment was “similarly
situated” such that it satisfied the Fair Labor
Standards Act (FLSA) standard for conditional class
certification. ECF No. 15. The parties then deposed the named
Plaintiffs, Miles and Redding. See generally ECF No.
18. Each testified as to his individual work experiences,
duties, and responsibilities, as well as the general duties
and responsibilities of other Pure Technology employees, most
notably the uniformity of job tasks and payment scheme for
the four categories of field personnel. ECF No. 18. For the
reasons stated below, the Court grants the Plaintiffs'
motion to conditionally certify the class and orders
court-authorized notice to potential class members.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
216(b) of the FLSA provides for an “opt-in”
mechanism for collective actions “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 full 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)). Notably, Plaintiffs' burden at the
conditional certification stage is minimal. Plaintiffs need
not demonstrate that they are “identical” but
rather sufficiently similar in that they were “victims
of a common policy, scheme, or plan that violated the law,
” namely the FLSA. Butler v. DirectSTAT USA,
LLC, 876 F.Supp.2d 560, 566 (D. Md. 2012).
A. Conditional Certification
seek to conditionally certify a class that includes
“any and all full-time field technicians, field
operators, field engineers[, ] and project engineers that
were paid a salary between September 1, 2014[, ] through the
present.” ECF No. 11-1 at 10. Plaintiffs principally
argue that although Pure Technologies employees' job
titles differed, their job responsibilities, work tasks and
manner in which they were paid are all strikingly uniform.
ECF No. 11-1 at 8. Accordingly, Plaintiffs assert that for
purposes of this action, Pure Technologies' field
technicians, field operators, field engineers, and project
engineers, classified as “field personnel, ”
performed essentially the same labor on a given job site:
running tests on infrastructure and pipelines by physically
entering pipelines, hauling and setting up equipment, taking
and entering data, and using Pure Technologies'
equipment. ECF No. 11-4 at ¶¶ 6-7; ECF No. 11-5 at
¶¶ 6- 7; ECF No. 18-1 at 39-42; ECF No. 18-2 at
15-17. Further, Redding and Miles attest that field personnel
maintained no discretion over their job duties but rather
reported to higher ranking supervisors, and followed a common
set of established uniform procedures and protocols. ECF No.
11-1 at 8-9; ECF No. 11-4 at ¶¶ 8-10; ECF No. 11-5
at ¶¶ 8-10. Pure Technologies implemented a unified
compensation structure. All field personnel were paid a
yearly salary without any additional overtime wages, even
though Pure Technologies regularly required field personnel
to work over 40 hours per week. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 65,
74, 82; ECF No. 11-1 at 9; ECF No. 11-4 at ¶ 5; ECF No.
11-15 at ¶ 5. Pure Technologies thereafter re-classified
field personnel as hourly wage workers in November 2016
entitled thereafter to overtime pay, but only provided
three-months backpay for overtime hours worked. ECF No. 1 at
¶ 66, 85; ECF No. 18-2 at 2-6.
Technologies, in contrast, directs the Court to the
declaration of its Vice President, Adam Villard, and the
differences in Plaintiffs' job descriptions to argue that
Plaintiffs are not similarly situated for conditional
certification purposes. See ECF No. 18-3. Pure
Technologies also claims that “manageability concerns,
” further makes this case ill-suited for certification.
ECF No. 18-3 at 21.
Court disagrees with Pure Technologies. The record evidence
supports that Plaintiffs have met the minimal threshold for
conditional certification at this stage. Plaintiffs testified
that all field personnel performed the same manual labor, and
all projects, budgets, and duties were directed by
supervisors. ECF No. 18-1 at 67:1-10; ECF No. 19-1 and No.
19-2. Further, Miles and Redding testified with specificity
that, contrary to the “job descriptions”
presented by Pure Technologies, no meaningful distinction
existed among field positions. None had direct contact with
clients. None drafted reports or had any discretion in their
content or presentation. Rather, all field personnel simply
inputted data into Pure Technologies' software, clicked
“finish, ” and the software automatically
completed all technical work. ECF Nos. 19-1 and 19-2. Field
personnel were also subject to a common payment scheme. Such
facts satisfy the lenient standards of conditional
regard, Pure Technologies' reliance on Andrade v.
Aerotek, Civ. No. CCB-08-2668, 2009 WL 2757099 (D. Md.
Aug. 26, 2009) is misplaced. There, the proposed class
consisted of recruiters whose job tasks varied widely, as did
their responsibilities. Unlike in this case, the
Andrade plaintiffs' testimony proved that the