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Andreana v. Virginia Beach City Public Schools

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

April 19, 2019

JOSEPH H. ANDREANA, et al Plaintiffs,
v.
VIRGINIA BEACH CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS, and SCHOOL BOARD OF THE CITY OF VIRGINIA BEACH, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Raymond A. Jackson United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Virginia Beach City Public Schools and School Board of the City of Virginia Beach's (collectively, "Defendants") Motion for Decertification. ECF Nos. 90-91. For the reasons stated herein, Defendants' Motion is DENIED.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This action stems from a series of allegations of age discrimination against Virginia Beach public schools. Plaintiffs claims that in 2015, Virginia Beach City Public Schools and the School Board of Virginia Beach ("Defendants") informed all 104 Computer Resource Specialist ("CRS") employees that the position would cease to exist, and Defendants would create only eighty-four Instructional Technology Specialist ("ITS") positions. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 9-10. Defendants allegedly required all former CRSs to reapply to the new ITS positions, directly competing with other employees and the general public. Id. Of the 104 former CRSs, ninety-nine of them applied to be ITSs, while there were 100 other applicants. Id. at ¶ 11.

         Defendants used a "screening and evaluation process and policy" in selecting candidates for the ITS positions. Id. Plaintiffs claim that this process and policy was willfully discriminatory because it disregarded older candidates in favor of younger ones. Id. at ¶¶ 12, 26. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants selected individuals for the ITS position based on age, even though Plaintiffs allegedly were better qualified and met all expectations in carrying out their duties as CRSs. Id. at ¶¶ 16-19. As a result of this alleged discrimination, Plaintiffs allegedly were forced to accept positions with Defendants at lower pay or retire. Id. at ¶¶ 20-22.

         Named Plaintiff Joseph Andreana filed his Complaint for this collective action on November 7, 2017 and alleged three claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"): disparate treatment, disparate impact, and pattern and practice discrimination. W at ¶¶ 33-47.

         On May 9, 2018, the Court issued two Orders in the instant case. Andreana, ECF Nos. 30-31. In its first Order, the Court conditionally certified the collective action under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). ECF No. 30 at 8-9. In its second Order, the Court granted in part Defendant's motion to dismiss after finding that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the pattern and practice discrimination claim, but keeping the disparate treatment and disparate impact claims intact. ECF No. 31 at 6-10. On May 23, 2018, the Court approved Andreana's collective action notice. ECF No. 32. All additional plaintiffs needed to file their notices to opt in by August 21, 2018. See ECF No. 31 at 9. After two opt-in plaintiffs were dropped from the action, see ECF Nos. 87, 92, eleven Plaintiffs remain in the collective action. ECF No. 91 at 2.

         On March 11, 2019, Defendants filed the instant Motion, which argues that Plaintiffs are not similarly situated to allow a collective action under § 216(b) for either their disparate treatment or disparate impact claims. See ECF No. 91 at 12-24. Plaintiffs filed a response in opposition on March 21, 2019. ECF No. 93. Defendants filed a reply on March 27, 2019. ECF No. 97. Plaintiffs requested a hearing on this matter. ECF No. 99. The Court finds that the matter is ripe for judicial determination, and a hearing is not warranted.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The ADEA incorporates the collective action procedures and scheme of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). 29 U.S.C. §626(b) (The provisions of this chapter shall be enforced in accordance with the powers, remedies, and procedures provided in sections ... 216 (except for subsection (a) thereof...) of this title"). Furthermore, the Court construes the ADEA to be consistent with FLSA case law and precedent.[1] EEOC v. Baltimore Cnty., 904 F.3d 330, 334 (4th Cir. 2018), cert, docketed, No. 18-781 (Dec. 19, 2018) ("Because Congress adopted the enforcement procedures and remedies of the FLSA into the ADEA, we construe the ADEA consistent with the cited statutory language in and judicial interpretations of the FLSA."); Grayson v. K Mart Corp., 79 F.3d 1086, 1096 n.l2 (11th Cir. 1996) ("[I]t is clear that the requirements for pursuing a § 216(b) [collective] action are independent of, and unrelated to, the requirements for class action under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.") (citing LaChapelle v. Owens IIl., Inc., 513 F.2d 286, 289 (5th Cir. 1975)); see Lorillard v. Pons, 434 U.S. 575, 582 (1978) ("but for those changes Congress expressly made [in the ADEA], it intended to incorporate fully the remedies and procedures of the FLSA.").

         Pursuant to Section 16(b) of the FLSA, an action may be maintained against an employer in federal court "by any one or more employees for and on behalf of himself or themselves and other employees similarly situated." 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). The collective action mechanism allows for the efficient adjudication of similar claims so that "similarly situated" employees, whose claims are often small and not likely to be brought on an individual basis, may join together and pool their resources to prosecute claims of misconduct by their employers. See Hoffman-La Roche, Inc. v. Sperling, 493 U.S. 165, 170 (1989).

         District courts within the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ("Fourth Circuit") have uniformly employed a two-step inquiry in deciding whether to certify a collective action under the FLSA:

First, upon a minimal evidentiary showing that a plaintiff can meet the substantive requirements of 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), the plaintiff may proceed with a collective action on a provisional basis. Second, following discovery, the court engages in a more stringent inquiry to determine whether the plaintiff class is "similarly situated" in accordance with the requirements of § 216, and renders a final decision regarding the propriety of proceeding as a collective action.

Rawls v. Augustine Home Health Care, Inc., 244 F.R.D. 298, 300 (D. Md. 2007) (internal citations omitted). The second phase of collective action certification under the FLSA is often prompted by a defendant's filing of a motion to decertify, and the Court undertakes a more "stringent" factual determination as to whether members of the collective class are, in fact, similarly situated. See Romero v. Mountaire Farms, Inc., 796 F.Supp.2d 700, 705 (E.D. N.C. 2011) (citing Hippv. Liberty Nat. Life Ins. Ca, 252F.3d 1208, 1218 (11th Cir. 2001)); Syrja v. Westat, Inc.,756 F.Supp.2d 682, 686 (D. Md. 2010). If, after discovery, it is apparent that plaintiffs are not similarly ...


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