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Feamster v. Compucom Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

February 19, 2016

CHRISTOPHER FEAMSTER, ROBERT MIHALIC, and EARL JEANSONNE, individually and on behalf of all similarly situated individuals, Plaintiffs,
v.
COMPUCOM SYSTEMS, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

HON. GLEN E. CONRAD, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Plaintiffs Christopher Feamster, Robert Mihalic, and Earl Jeansonne bring this action, individually and on behalf of all similarly situated individuals, against defendant CompuCom Systems, Inc. ("CompuCom"), alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., and state law. This matter is currently before the court on plaintiffs' motion for conditional class certification and CompuCom's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, summary judgment, and its motion to stay. For the reasons set forth below, CompuCom's motion to stay will be granted. The court will take CompuCom's dispositive motion under advisement until the parties complete additional discovery, and the court will stay consideration of plaintiffs' motion for conditional class certification pending a ruling on the dispositive motion.

Background

The following facts, taken from plaintiffs complaint, are accepted as true for purposes of the motions to dismiss. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).

Plaintiffs are current and former on-site Field Service Technicians ("FSTs"). Plaintiff Christopher Feamster resides in Blacksburg, Virginia and was employed by CompuCom from April 26, 2014 to June 5, 2015. Plaintiff Robert Mihalic resides in Knoxville, Tennessee and was employed by CompuCom from May of 2013 to May of 2015. Plaintiff Earl Jeansonne resides in Alexandria, Louisiana and has been employed by CompuCom since May of 2014.

CompuCom is a Texas corporation engaged in the business of providing computer technical services and resources to businesses. It has more than a hundred locations nationwide. CompuCom employs FSTs who perform on-site "service, maintenance, technical support, repair, and/or installation" for its customers. Am. Compl. ¶ 5. These employees are non-exempt and paid on an hourly basis.

The complaint alleges that CompuCom required its FSTs, including plaintiffs, to perform principal work activities for the company and its customers "off-the-clock" without compensation. Id. ¶ 28. These activities included, inter alia, communicating with CompuCom and its customers, providing technical support, monitoring customers' information technology ("IT") problems, and preparing reports. The tasks were typically performed by FSTs at home, both prior to their first scheduled on-site assignment and after completion of their last scheduled on-site assignment. According to the complaint, these activities were integral and indispensable to CompuCom's business and required an FST to perform them. Plaintiffs allege that CompuCom also failed to pay FSTs for the drive time that they incurred at the beginning and end of each shift. On average, plaintiffs estimate that they incurred one to one-and-a-half hours of drive time per day. In addition, plaintiffs believe that they worked no less than ten hours a week on off-the-clock activities.

Plaintiffs filed their complaint on October 20, 2015, alleging collective action claims under § 216(b) of the FLSA and individual claims under state law. As to the collective action claims, plaintiffs allege that CompuCom failed to pay overtime wages to FSTs, in violation of the FLSA (Count I). As to the individual claims, plaintiffs first allege that CompuCom breached their employment contract by failing to compensate plaintiffs for their off-the-clock work (Count II). Second, plaintiffs contend that CompuCom has been unjustly enriched by receiving the benefits of plaintiffs' services without paying compensation (Count III). Plaintiffs seek declaratory relief, compensatory and liquidated damages, attorneys' fees and costs, and any other equitable relief.

On October 23, 2015, plaintiffs filed a motion for conditional class certification and notice to potential class members. Plaintiffs' defined the proposed class as, "All individuals who were employed by CompuCom Systems, Inc., in the on-site Field Services Technician position during the past three years."[1] PL's Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. For Conditional Class Cert, at 1, Docket No. 5. On December 7, 2015, CompuCom moved to dismiss the collective action claims, arguing that plaintiffs have previously waived their right to bring and participate in any collective action litigation against CompuCom. In its motion, CompuCom argued that, in the alternative, the court should grant summary judgment on the issue of plaintiffs' waivers. The next day, CompuCom asked the court to stay its consideration of plaintiffs' motion for conditional class certification pending a ruling on its dispositive motion. The court held a hearing on the motions on January 14, 2016. The motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for disposition.

Discussion

The FLSA provides that "no employer shall employ any of his employees ... for a workweek longer than forty hours unless such employee receives compensation for his employment in excess of the hours above specified at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed." 29 U.S.C. § 207. An employer who violates this provision is liable for the unpaid overtime compensation, as well as liquidated damages. Id. § 216(b). In addition, an action to recover damages "may be maintained against any employer ... by any one or more employees for and in behalf of himself or themselves and other employees similarly situated." Id. However, an employee may not be a party plaintiff in a collective action unless he consents in writing. Id.

I. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment

In the motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, summary judgment, CompuCom argues that plaintiffs waived their right to bring and participate in collective action litigation against it.

As an initial matter, the court must first determine whether it will treat CompuCom's motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment and consider the evidence outside of the pleadings. Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a party to move for dismissal of an action for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To survive such a motion, a plaintiff must establish "facial plausibility" by pleading "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal. 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). All well-pleaded allegations in the complaint are taken as true and all reasonable factual inferences are drawn in the plaintiffs favor. Edwards v. City of Goldsboro. 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999). However, "[a]t bottom, a plaintiff must 'nudge [her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible' to resist dismissal." Wag More Dogs. LLC v. Cozart. 680 F.3d 359, 364-65 (4th Cir. 2012) (quoting Bell ...


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