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Ramirez v. Load Trail, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

October 15, 2019

JACINTO RAMIREZ, LUIS MORALES, ORLANDO PIEDRA FLORES, AND SALVADOR LEON, On Behalf of Themselves and All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
LOAD TRAIL, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          AMOS L. MAZZANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' Opposed Motion to Conditionally Certify a Collective Action and to Issue Notice with Brief in Support (Dkt. #40). Having considered the Motion, Response, and Reply, the Court finds that the Motion should be GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Factual Summary

         Plaintiffs Jacinto Ramirez, Luis Morales, Orlando Piedra Flores, and Salvador Leon (“Plaintiffs”) are current or former employees of Defendant Load Trail, LLC (“Defendant”). Plaintiffs and the putative collective action members they represent allege that they have regularly worked in excess of forty (40) hours per workweek for Defendant but have not received all overtime premium compensation owed them under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Defendant is in the trailer manufacturing business, and Plaintiffs and putative collective action members work in various departments of Defendant's business-specifically, the fabrication, welding, and finishing departments.

         In particular, Plaintiffs and putative collective action members are or were, among other things, welders, painters, parts distributors, robot machine operators, plasma cutters, personnel responsible for transporting inventory, and finishing department personnel responsible for installation services.

         Plaintiffs claim that all of their jobs, along with those worked by the putative collective action members, involved closely related manual labor tasks. Plaintiffs' motion for conditional certification indicates that those working in the fabrication department cut and bent the raw materials to required specification for welding; those in the welding department used those materials to build the trailer chassis; and those in the finishing department completed the wiring, flooring, installation, sandblasting, and painting of the trailers. Moreover, some were responsible for transporting inventory and performing various control tasks, and others assisted the department supervisors with starting and operating machinery, replacing broken tools, and retrieving necessary materials.

         Defendant required Plaintiffs and putative collective action members to clock in and out of each shift by inserting their barcoded employee ID card into a computer. The computer system allegedly often malfunctioned, however, meaning the timekeeping was at times handled and subject to alteration by Defendant's supervisors. Thus, Plaintiffs claim, the hours reported on employees' paystubs were frequently inaccurate and did not capture the full amount of time actually worked. Plaintiffs maintain that these and other similar timekeeping practices caused them and putative collective action members not to be paid proper overtime for all hours actually worked over forty (40).

         Defendant apparently paid Plaintiffs using three different compensation methods: (1) pay for performance; (2) non-pay for performance; and (3) salary pay for those assisting the supervisors. Based on these three pay “schemes, ” Plaintiffs ask the Court to certify three subclasses as follows:

1. Pay for Performance: All current and/or former Load Trail (1) non-supervisor employees (2) who work(ed) in the fabrication department, welding department, finishing department, or in the warehouse handling inventory (3) who perform(ed) manual labor tasks (4) that are/were in a “pay for performance” position (aka “paid by production” or “paid by piece rate”), (5) who are/were employed between July 22, 2016 and present (6) and work(ed) in excess of 40 hours in a given workweek, but were not paid time and one-half their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in each such workweek.
2. Non-Pay for Performance: All current and/or former Load Trail (1) non-supervisor employees (2) who work(ed) in the fabrication department, welding department, finishing department, or in the warehouse handling inventory (3) who perform(ed) manual labor tasks (4) that are/were paid on an hourly basis (5) that are/were not in “pay for performance” positions (aka “paid by production” or “paid by piece rate”), (6) who are/were employed between July 22, 2016 and present (7) and work(ed) in excess of 40 hours in a given workweek, but were not paid time and one-half their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in each such workweek.
3. Salaried Assistants: All current and/or former Load Trail employees (1) whose primary job duties are/were to assist the supervisors (aka “lead hands”) in the fabrication department, finishing department, welding department or in the warehouse handling inventory, (2) that are/were paid on a salary basis (3) who are/were employed between July 22, 2016 and present (4) and worked in excess of 40 hours in a given workweek, but were not paid time and one-half their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in each such workweek.

         Plaintiffs and putative collective action members claim that they worked the same basic kinds of tasks so as to make them “similarly situated” and that Defendant's compensation schemes were part of a central practice and policy by Defendant to underpay overtime wages owed to its workforce. Defendant argues that that the employees in question were not similarly situated because they had varying job titles and responsibilities and were paid in different ways. Moreover, Defendant maintains that no one practice, policy, or plan existed to improperly compensate its workforce.

         II. ...


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