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Davenport v. Charter Communications, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 3, 2014

PENNY DAVENPORT, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS, LLC, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

AUDREY G. FLEISSIG, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Penny Davenport, individually and on behalf of other similarly situated individuals, asserts collective action claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act, ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. ยง 201, et seq., and a proposed class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, against Defendant Charter Communications, LLC. Davenport and several opt-in Plaintiffs seek unpaid overtime pay on behalf of themselves and all other individuals who worked as customer service representatives at Defendant's call centers in Town and Country, Missouri; Walker, Michigan; Louisville, Kentucky; Greenville, South Carolina; Vancouver, Washington; Rochester, Minnesota; Fond du Lac, Wisconsin; and Worcester, Massachusetts in the three years prior to the filing of this suit.[1]

Now before the Court are Defendant's motion for reconsideration of the Court's March 27, 2014 order granting conditional certification of the FLSA collective action claims and Plaintiffs' motion for equitable tolling of the FLSA statute of limitations. See Doc. No. 172. The parties have fully briefed their positions on these motions. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs' motion for equitable tolling will be granted in part, and the motion for reconsideration will be denied.

BACKGROUND

Procedural History

Plaintiffs initiated this action on January 4, 2012, and on February 7, 2012, filed a motion for conditional certification under the FLSA. After acquiring additional information regarding Defendant's timekeeping policies, Plaintiffs filed an amended motion for conditional certification on July 16, 2012. See Doc. No. 58. On August 17, 2012, at Plaintiffs' request, the Court issued an order tolling the statute of limitations for seventy five days, representing the additional time Defendants had been granted for the filing of various responsive briefs. See Doc. No. 74.

During a hearing on August 28, 2012, Plaintiffs requested leave to continue Davenport's deposition in order to review documents belatedly produced by Defendant. In addition to the continuance, Plaintiffs sought equitable tolling of the statute of limitations for the period necessary to review the documents. In response to the request, the Court noted that it had previously agreed to toll the statute of limitations to address Plaintiffs' allegations that Defendant engaged in delaying tactics, but that such additional requests for equitable tolling would be denied.

The parties completed briefing on the amended motion for conditional certification on October 10, 2012. While that motion was pending, the parties engaged in discovery. Defendant deposed most of the opt-in Plaintiffs, produced thousands of documents and declarations from more than fifty putative class members. In addition, Plaintiffs deposed Defendant pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6).

Defendant asserts that the evidence collected in discovery demonstrates that: (a) there is no uniform policy or practice that requires employees to work without compensation; (b) Plaintiffs' allegations that they were instructed to work off-the-clock is inconsistent with the actual varied experiences of co-workers; and (c) an individualized inquiry will be required to adjudicate the allegations of off-the-clock work, rendering class adjudication improper. See Doc. No. 156-1.

On March, 27, 2014, the Court conditionally certified this suit as a collective action under the FLSA. See Doc. No. 172. Defendant moves for reconsideration of conditional certification asserting that in light of the discovery undertaken in this action prior to its ruling, the application of the lenient conditional certification standard was improper and that the Court should have applied an intermediate standard of review which would have resulted in the denial of Plaintiffs' motion for conditional certification.

Plaintiffs oppose the motion for reconsideration asserting that the Court's standard of review and determination were proper and that any reconsideration of the FLSA certification should await the close of discovery and the final certification process under the FLSA.

With respect to equitable tolling, Plaintiffs now assert that the time elapsed between the filing of the motion for collective certification and the ruling on that motion constitutes an "exceptional circumstance" and warrants tolling here. Plaintiffs ask the Court to toll the statute of limitations under the FLSA from July 16, 2012, the date they filed their amended motion for conditional certification, or, in the alternative, from October 10, 2012, the date on which the parties completed their briefing of that motion, through the date on which notice is disseminated.

Defendant concedes that the FLSA statute of limitations is subject to equitable tolling, but argues that such tolling is limited to "exceptional circumstances, " which it asserts are not present here. Defendant also argues that Plaintiffs' request should be denied because Plaintiffs have neither satisfied their burden to show that equitable tolling would be proper nor been diligent in pursuit of their claims. Finally, Defendant asserts that the Court's August 28, 2012 statement regarding the denial of future requests for tolling precludes the grant of Plaintiffs' motion.

APPLICABLE LAW

I. Standard of Review: Motion for Reconsideration

"A motion for reconsideration serve[s] the limited function of correcting manifest errors of law or fact or... present[ing] newly discovered evidence.'" Bradley Timberland Res. v. Bradley Lumber Co., 712 F.3d 401, 407 (8th Cir. 2013) (quoting United States v. Metro. St. Louis Sewer Dist., 440 F.3d 930, 933 (8th Cir. 2006)). It "cannot serve as a vehicle for new legal theories or arguments which could have been offered or raised prior to the entry of [the order under consideration], '" Painters Dist. Council No. 2 v. Anthony's Painting, LLC, 494 F.Appx. 703, 705 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Metro. St. Louis Sewer Dist., 440 F.3d at 934), and "is not a vehicle for simple reargument on the ...


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