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Davenport v. Charter Communs., LLC

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

August 4, 2014

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

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For Penny Davenport, Individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, James Rachal, Plaintiffs: Mark A. Potashnick, LEAD ATTORNEY, WEINHAUS AND POTASHNICK, St. Louis, MO; Samuel W. Moore, Russell C. Riggan, RIGGAN LAW FIRM, LLC, Kirkwood, MO.

For Jimmie III Floyd, LaShanda Hicks, Melody Locke, William Locke, Angela Nelson, Sandra Pothoof, Joshua Westmaas, Rita Gentry, Justin Ansell, Victoria Miller, Plaintiffs: Mark A. Potashnick, LEAD ATTORNEY, WEINHAUS AND POTASHNICK, St. Louis, MO.

For Charter Communications, LLC, Defendant: Clifford A. Godiner, Laura M. Jordan, Tabitha G. Davisson, LEAD ATTORNEYS, THOMPSON COBURN, LLP, St. Louis, MO.

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MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

AUDREY G. FLEISSIG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This putative class and collective action is before the Court on several related motions. Defendant Charter Communications, LLC (" Charter" ) moves (Doc. No. 183) for judgment on the pleadings as to Plaintiffs' request for class relief in their claim for unpaid overtime wages under the Kentucky Wages and Hours Act (" Kentucky Act" ), Ky. Rev. Stat. § 337.010 et seq., (Count VI), and as to Plaintiffs' entire claim for unpaid overtime wages under the Michigan Minimum Wage Law (" Michigan Act" ), Mich. Comp. Laws § 408.381 et seq.[1] (Count VII). Plaintiffs move (Docs. No. 143 & 145) to certify Counts VI and VII as class actions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Alternatively, in the event that the Court dismisses Count VI's request for Rule 23 class relief, Plaintiffs move (Doc. No. 191) for conditional certification of Count VI as an opt-in collective action under the Kentucky Act. For the reasons set forth below, the Court shall GRANT Charter's motion for judgment on the pleadings and DENY Plaintiffs' motions for certification of Counts VI and VII as class actions under Rule 23 and for conditional certification of Count VI.[2]

BACKGROUND

Penny Davenport and three other named Plaintiffs brought this action on their own behalf and on behalf of other former or present call center employees (" CCEs" ) who worked on an hourly basis

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at Charter's call centers in Missouri, Kentucky, or Michigan, at a time when Charter did not pay CCEs for the time it took them to access computer applications when beginning work and to close down computer applications at the end of work.

In Count VI of the amended complaint (Doc. No. 69), Plaintiffs seek unpaid overtime wages under the Kentucky Act, and in Count VII, Plaintiffs seek unpaid overtime wages under the Michigan Act. Both counts are brought as putative class actions, and Plaintiffs have moved to certify both counts as class actions under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Charter argues that Plaintiffs' class allegations and request for class relief under Count VI should be dismissed because Section 337.385 of the Kentucky Act prohibits class relief for overtime claims. Charter also argues that Plaintiffs' entire claim under Count VII should be dismissed because, as an employer subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act (" FLSA" ), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., Charter is exempt from liability under the Michigan Act.

Regarding Count VI, Plaintiffs argue that the authority on which Charter relies regarding its interpretation of the Kentucky Act is not binding, and in any event, any state prohibition on class actions would be preempted by Rule 23 and the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 151, et seq. Regarding Count VII, Plaintiffs argue that Charter's admission in its answer to the amended complaint that the two named plaintiffs who worked at Charter's Michigan call center were " entitled to the rights, protections, and benefits provided under [the Michigan Act]" defeats its exemption argument, or alternatively, that Charter waived its right to claim exemption under the Michigan Act because it failed to plead that argument as an affirmative defense.

In the alternative, Plaintiffs also move separately for conditional certification of Count VI as an opt-in collective action in the event that the Court dismisses Count VI's request for Rule 23 class relief. Plaintiffs argue that the Court may borrow the conditional certification standards applicable to opt-in collective actions brought under the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), to conditionally certify an opt-in collective action under the Kentucky Act. Charter opposes this motion on the grounds that Plaintiffs have not pleaded the relief requested; the Kentucky Act does not authorize opt-in collective actions; and if the Court were to hold that the Kentucky Act incorporates the FLSA's standards for opt-in collective actions, Plaintiffs' collective action would be time-barred in any event.

DISCUSSION

Charter's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

" Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate where no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Faibisch v. Univ. of Minn., 304 F.3d 797, 803 (8th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted). When presented with a motion for judgment on the pleadings, a district court must " accept as true all factual allegations set out in the complaint" and " construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, drawing all inferences in [his] favor." Ashley County, Ark. v. Pfizer, Inc., 552 F.3d 659, 665 (8th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). The standard for judgment on the pleadings is the same as that for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Id. at 665. " 'To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'"

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Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556-70, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)).

Kentucky Act Claim (Count VI)

I. Class Relief Under the Kentucky ...


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