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Astarita v. Menard, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, St. Joseph Division

March 9, 2018

ALBERT J. ASTARITA, Plaintiff,
v.
MENARD, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          ROSEANN A. KETCHMARK, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Before the Court are several pending motions: (1) Plaintiff's Motion for Conditional Certification of Class Claims under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) (doc. 11); (2) Defendant's Motion to Stay Briefing and for Extension of Time to Respond to Plaintiff's Motion for Conditional Certification (doc. 22); (3) Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, to Stay the Proceedings and Compel Arbitration (doc. 24); and (4) Plaintiff's Motion to Stay Consideration of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, Pending a Ruling on Conditional Certification (doc. 27). At this juncture, the Court takes up the parties' competing motions to stay and related suggestions (docs. 22, 23, 27, 28, 29, 32, and 41). For the reasons below, the Court DENIES Defendant's motion to stay (doc. 22), DENIES Plaintiff's motion to stay (doc. 27), and directs the parties to set a briefing schedule for Plaintiff's motion for conditional certification and Defendant's motion to dismiss/compel.

         Background

         Plaintiff brings this lawsuit as: (a) a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act, (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., to recover unpaid overtime wages owed to Plaintiff and other similarly situated workers employed by Defendant; and (b) a Rule 23 class action under Missouri state law, including the Missouri Minimum Wage Law (“MMWL”), RSMo. § 290.500, et seq. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 3.) Plaintiff brings an FLSA claim in Count I arising out of Defendant's alleged unlawful unpaid training policy for which he seeks conditional certification under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). (Id. at ¶ 40.)

         Defendant seeks a temporary stay of briefing pending this Court's ruling on its motion to dismiss/compel. Then, if the Court ultimately denies Defendant's motion to dismiss/compel, Defendant requests a period of fourteen (14) days after the Court's ruling to file its suggestions in opposition to Plaintiff's motion for conditional certification. Plaintiff, on the other hand, seeks to stay the briefing scheduling and consideration of Defendant's motion to dismiss/compel pending this Court's ruling on his motion for conditional certification. Alternatively, if the Court denies Plaintiff's request for a stay, Plaintiff requests an extension of twenty-one (21) days to respond to Defendant's motion to dismiss/compel. The key issue in the parties' competing motions to stay is whether the Court should decide Defendant's motion to dismiss/compel (doc. 24) before or after ruling on Plaintiff's motion for conditional certification (doc. 11).

         Discussion

         The unique nature of FLSA collective actions and the purpose of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) are both relevant to the Court's consideration of the competing motions to stay.

         I. FLSA Collective Actions

         Class actions brought under FLSA differ considerably from class actions brought under Rule 23. Under 29 U.S.C. §216(b) of the FLSA, employees may bring an action on behalf of themselves and on behalf of other employees “similarly situated.” “[A] similarly situated employee must ‘opt-in' to the collective action to be bound by the proceeding's outcome[.]” Kautsch v. Premier Communs., 504 F.Supp.2d 685, 688 (W.D. Mo. 2007). Put another way, an employee will not become a plaintiff to the action “unless he gives his consent in writing to become such a party” and files this consent in the district court where the case is pending. Davis v. NovaStar Mortg., Inc., 408 F.Supp.2d 811, 815-16 (W.D. Mo. Nov. 8, 2005) (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 216(b)). By contrast, in a Rule 23 class action, plaintiffs are not required to opt-in and instead, will be a part of the litigation unless they specifically opt out of the class action. This distinction is significant because an employee's statute of limitations under an FLSA collective action will toll when the employee files his or her written consent to become a party plaintiff in the court where the action is pending. 29 U.S.C. § 257. Prompt and early notice is therefore important in FLSA collection actions.

         II. Federal Arbitration Act

         Also relevant, Section 3 of the FAA provides:

If any suit or proceeding be brought in any of the courts of the United States upon any issue referable to arbitration under an agreement in writing for such arbitration, the court in which such suit is pending, upon being satisfied that the issue involved in such suit or proceeding is referable to arbitration under such an agreement, shall on application of one of the parties stay the trial of the action until such arbitration has been had in accordance with the terms of the agreement, providing the applicant for the stay is not in default in proceeding with such arbitration.

9 U.S.C. § 3. “The preeminent concern of Congress in passing the Act was to enforce private agreements into which parties had entered, and that concern requires that we rigorously enforce agreements to arbitrate[.]” Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. v. Byrd, 470 U.S. 213, 221 (1985). Congress's intent in enacting the FAA is to move litigants who have executed an arbitration agreement “out of court and into arbitration as quickly and easily as possible.” Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 22 (1983).

         III. Parties& ...


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