(CN) - Managers who say Burlington Coat Factory failed to pay them for overtime can sue the retailer collectively, a federal judge ruled, certifying their action.
Steven Goodman worked as an operations manager at Burlington Coat Factory from approximately August 2005 to August 2009.
In July 2011 federal complaint, Goodman claimed that the company had misclassified him and other assistant store managers (ASMs) as exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, and failed to pay them for working required overtime hours.
Since that time, four similarly situated individuals have filed notices of consent to join the collective action.
Goodman and the opt-in plaintiffs asked the court in April 2012 to certify a collective action consisting of current and former operations managers, customer service logistics managers, and merchandise managers employed by Burlington at any time from July 2008 to the entry of judgment in the case.
Senior U.S. District Judge Jose Rodriguez held oral argument on Nov. 15 and granted Goodman's motion on Nov. 20.
"Mr. Goodman's testimony and the testimony of the ASM opt-ins indicate that they performed the work of non-exempt hourly employees and worked over 40 hours in a workweek without receiving overtime compensation," Rodriguez wrote. "Here, without weighing the merits of plaintiffs' FLSA claims, the court finds that Mr. Goodman has made a 'modest factual showing' that to the extent that Burlington's allegedly unlawful misclassification affected Mr. Goodman, it affected other potential ASM collective action members. At this stage, it is sufficient that Mr. Goodman has produced enough evidence for the court to determine that 'similarly situated plaintiffs do in fact exist.'"
Burlington must wait until the second stage of collective action certification for the court to address many of Burlington's counter-arguments, the judge concluded.
"At this stage, the court declines to consider the 38 declarations that Burlington submits to show individual differences among the ASMs' actual duties," the 15-page opinion states. "The court finds that this inquiry necessarily addresses the merits of plaintiffs' claim and is therefore premature. Similarly, Burlington's arguments regarding the individual ASMs' workplace behavior and poor performance records are premature; at this stage, the court must refrain from addressing the merits of plaintiffs' claim and making credibility determinations."
Rodriguez further ordered Burlington to provide the current plaintiffs with contact information for other potential opt-in plaintiffs.
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