United States District Court, D. Maryland
Richard D. Bennett, United States District judge.
Christopher Lee ("Lee") and Ladrian Taylor
("Taylor") (collectively, "Plaintiffs"),
on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated
employees, brought this three-count Complaint against their
former employer, JLN Construction Services, LLC
("JLN") and Nnamdi C. Iwuoha ("Iwuoha")
(collectively, "Defendants"). (Compl., ECF No. 1.)
Plaintiffs allege failure to pay overtime wages under the
Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C.
§§ 201, et seq., the Maryland Wage and
Hour Law ("MWHL"), Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl.
§§ 3-401, et seq., and the Maryland Wage
Payment and Collection Law, Md. Code Ann, Lab. & Empl,
§§ 3-501, et seq., ("MWPCL").
(Id.) Plaintiffs allege that they routinely worked
over forty hours a week, and Defendants failed to properly
pay overtime wages. (Id.) On May 14, 2018, this
Court granted Plaintiffs' Motion for Conditional
Certification of a Collective Class and to Facilitate
Identification and Notice to Similarly Situated Employees.
(ECF Nos. 16, 17.) A Notice of Collective Action under the
FLSA was distributed to potential class members, and 15
additional individuals notified this Court of their consent
to be a party plaintiff/class member in this matter,
bringing the total number of named plaintiffs to 17
pending is Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification
(ECF No. 38). The parties' submissions have been
reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local
Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons that follow, this
Court shall grant Plaintiffs' motion, certify the class
for the wage claims alleged in this matter, appoint
Plaintiffs' attorneys as class counsel, and designate the
named Plaintiffs as class representatives.
background of this case has been summarized in a prior
opinion of this Court. See Lee v. JLN Constr.
Servs., RDB-17-2765, 2018 WL 2193815 at *l-2 (D. Md. May
14, 2018). In brief, JLN is a general contractor that
provides construction services for both private and public
construction projects throughout Maryland, and Iwuoha is
JLN's owner. (ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 35-36.) JLN
employs laborers and foremen to perform masonry, finishing,
demolition and installation work. (Id. at ¶ 6.)
The laborers and foreman were hourly employees, and it is
alleged that they routinely worked more than 40 hours a week
primarily due to understaffing. (Id. at 2-3.)
However, it is further alleged that Defendants consistently
failed to pay correctly for overtime and failed to pay for
all of the tasks that employees were required to perform.
(Id. at 3-4.)
September 18, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a three-count Complaint
alleging the failure to pay overtime wages. Plaintiffs then
filed a Motion for Conditional Certification of a Collective
Class and to Facilitate Identification and Notice to
Similarly Situated Employees (ECF No. 9), which this Court
granted. (ECF Nos. 16, 17.) The Notice of Rights Under the
Fair Labor Standards Act (ECF No. 18) was distributed to the
list of all potential collective action members provided by
Defendants to Plaintiffs. The potential members were
identified as “[all current and former laborers and/or
foremen of JLN Construction Services who worked with JLN at
any time between September 2014 and May 2018." (ECF No.
19.) Fifteen additional individuals affirmatively opted-in to
the lawsuit in a timely manner, consenting to join in the
FLSA collective action. (See ECF Nos. 22-37.)
Plaintiffs now move this Court to grant class certification
for the wage claims alleged under the Maryland Wage and Hour
Law ("MWHL"), Md Code Ann, Lab. & Empl.
§§ 3-401, et seq., and the Maryland Wage
Payment and Collection Law, Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl,
§§ 3-501, et seq.
("MWPCL' (ECF No. 38). Plaintiffs request that the
named Plaintiffs be designated class representatives and that
Plaintiffs' attorneys be appointed as class counsel.
(Id.) Defendants oppose class certification. (ECF
No. 43.) For the reasons that follow, this Court shall GRANT
Plaintiffs' motion for class certification.
obtain class certification, the Plaintiffs must satisfy all
four requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
23(a), and at least one of the requirements of Rule 23(b).
Gunnells v. Healthplan Servs., Inc., 348 F.3d 417,
423 (4th Cir. 2003). Plaintiffs must first establish all four
requirements of Rule 23(a): numerosity, commonality,
typicality, and adequacy of representation. See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 23(a). With respect to Rule 23(b), the Plaintiffs
in this case seek certification of the proposed class under
Rule 23(b)(3), which requires a finding that common questions
"predominate over any questions affecting only
individual members, and that a class action is superior to
other available methods for fairly and efficiently
adjudicating the controversy." Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(3).
bear the burden of showing that a proposed class satisfies
the Rule 23 requirements, but they need not make that showing
to a degree of absolute certainty. It is sufficient if each
disputed requirement has been proven by a preponderance of
evidence." Messner v. Nortbsbore Univ.
HealthSystem, 669 F.3d 802, 811 (7th Cir. 2012)
(citations omitted). "[T]he court should not turn the
class certification proceedings into a dress rehearsal for
the trial on the merits." Id.
class action is an exception to the usual rule that
litigation is conducted by and on behalf of the individual
named parties only." Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v.
Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 348 (2011) (citation omitted).
"Rule 23 does not set forth a mere pleading standard. A
party seeking class certification must affirmatively
demonstrate his compliance with the Rule- that is, he must be
prepared to prove that there are in fact
sufficiently numerous parties, common issues of law or fact,
etc." Id. at 350. In ruling on a class
certification motion, a court must take a close look at the
facts relevant to the certification question, even if those
facts "tend to overlap with the merits of the
case." Thorn v. Jefferson-Pilot Life Ins. Co.,
445 F.3d 311, 319 (4th Cir. 2006); accord Gariety v.
Grant Thornton, LLP, 368 F.3d 356, 366 (4th Cir. 2004)
("[W]hile an evaluation of the merits is not part of a
Rule 23 analysis, the factors spelled out in Rule 23 must be
addressed through findings, even if they overlap with issues
on the merits.").
Supreme Court has noted that "'sometimes it may be
necessary for the court to probe behind the pleadings before
coming to rest on the certification question,' and that
certification is proper only if 'the trial court is
satisfied, after a rigorous analysis, that the prerequisites
of Rule 23(a) have been satisfied.'"
Wal-Mart, 564 U.S. at 350-51 (quoting Gen. Tel.
Co. of the Sw. v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 160 (1982)).
However, "Rule 23 grants courts no license to engage in
free-ranging merits inquiries at the certification
stage." Amgen Inc. v. Connecticut Ret. Plans &
Trust Funds, 568 U.S. 455, 466 (2013). "Rule
23(b)(3) requires a showing that questions common to
the class predominate, not that those questions will be
answered, on the merits, in favor of the class."
Id. at 459.
request that their claims against Defendants be certified as
a class action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
23(b). (Mot. Mem. 2, ECF No. ...