U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter has conditionally certified a collective action alleging wage-and-hour violations by restaurant chain Chipotle. Assistant managers and Apprentices at 1,400 Chipotle restaurants allege that they should have been paid back pay and overtime because they spend the majority of their shift providing customer service, working the line, and operating the cash register and other forms of manual labor, rather than supervising employees. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), employers can avoid paying overtime pay to employees whose primary duty involves management or supervising employees. The case was filed as Scott v. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and exemplifies the changing standards for class certification under the FLSA
In FLSA collective action cases, an employee must opt in, meaning that they must affirmatively sign a document stating that they wish to be a part of the lawsuit, while in class actions employees are presumed to be a part of the class and any employee who does not want be part of the lawsuit must opt out. Collective actions involve a certification process, in which the case is filed and the court is asked to certify a class of employees who are similarly situated. The court looks for a common policy uniting the group and that the claims can be resolved with common evidence. Conditional certification allows plaintiffs’ lawyers to send out notices to potential plaintiffs. Since the decision in Dukes v. Wal-Mart in June 2011, judges spend more time considering facts in class certifications. Judge Andrews decided that here, the plaintiffs met the “low bar” and were certified. Though the bar is low, judges are moving away from all but rubber-stamping certifications.
If you have questions about the Fair Labor Standards Act, minimum wage laws, or other employment-related legal matters, contact us today.