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Leo v. Sarasota County School Board

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

February 6, 2017

SUSAN LEO, ROBERT BIEGEL, THERESA JONES, LUIS MORALES, BONNIE CHRISTIE, ANDREW GAMMILL, PAUL NAUGLE, RONALD SEEKFORD, and SHEILA SEEKFORD, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
SARASOTA COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD, Defendant.

          ORDER

          JAMES S. MOODY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS CAUSE comes before the Court upon Plaintiffs' Motion for an Order Permitting Court Supervised Notice to Employees of Their Opt-In Rights (Dkt. 7) and Defendant's Response in Opposition (Dkt. 16). The Court, having reviewed the motion, response, and being otherwise advised in the premises, concludes that the motion should be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         On November 14, 2016, Plaintiffs, [1] who are current and/or former bus drivers employed by Defendant, Sarasota County School Board, filed this collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) alleging, in relevant part, that the School Board failed to compensate them and others similarly situated for overtime compensation. In summary, Plaintiffs contend that the School Board did not compensate them for time worked beyond the time estimated by the School Board to complete their transportation routes.

         The School Board is a political subdivision of the State of Florida subject to the Florida Public Employees Relations Act, Chapter 447, Part II, Florida Statutes (the “Act”). In accordance with the Act, the School Board and the bargaining agent for its employees, the Sarasota Classified/Teacher's Association (the “SC/TA”), negotiated a collective bargaining agreement (the “CBA”). Plaintiffs, as current and/or former classified employees of the School Board, are subject to the CBA. Some of the CBA's provisions are relevant to the issue of Plaintiffs' compensation. Specifically, the CBA states that classified employees shall be paid overtime for hours in excess of forty in a workweek. It also provides that employees shall be paid in accordance with the FLSA.

         With respect to bus drivers, the CBA sets forth particularized terms and conditions of their employment, including the manner in which they are compensated. The School Board's Transportation Department develops individual routes that typically include multiple “runs” to different schools in the morning and the afternoon. The estimated time of each of these routes is then calculated using mapping software to determine the actual projected driving time. Included within the projected driving time is a certain amount of time drivers lay over between schools, until the next stop or pick-up. The projected driving time is then rounded to the next highest one-half hour. After this “rounding up” is accomplished, an additional 30 minutes is added to the route time. This process, known as “roundup plus 30” is intended to compensate bus drivers for the actual time they worked, including the additional time they spent accomplishing non-driving tasks, like fueling the bus, sweeping the bus, and dealing with discipline referrals.

         Plaintiffs allege that the School Board's “roundup plus 30” policy did not fully compensate them for hours worked in excess of forty in a workweek. Plaintiffs' motion requests that the Court conditionally certify an FLSA collective action of the School Board's current and former school bus drivers who worked one or more weeks during the three years from the filing of the complaint to the present and were not paid overtime compensation for any hours worked in excess of forty hours during a workweek.

         Plaintiffs' motion is supported by Declarations of eight of the named Plaintiffs in this action. The Declarations similarly state that Plaintiffs were employed by the School Board as bus drivers, regularly worked over forty hours in a workweek, and the School Board failed to compensate them for the additional hours worked, including overtime pay. The Declarations also similarly aver that, based on their personal observations and discussions with other bus drivers, the School Board fails to compensate other school bus drivers for all of the hours they worked, including overtime hours. Plaintiffs' motion attaches a notice of consent to join from an additional School Board bus driver, Patricia Bucholtz.

         The School Board opposes Plaintiffs' motion. The Court now turns to the relevant law.

         DISCUSSION

         Pursuant to the FLSA,

[a]n action to recover [unpaid minimum wage or overtime compensation] may be maintained against any employer (including a public agency) in any Federal or State court of competent jurisdiction by any one or more employees for and in behalf of himself or themselves and other employees similarly situated. No employee shall be a party plaintiff to any such action unless he gives his consent in writing to become such a party and such consent is filed in the court in which such action is brought.

29 U.S.C. §216(b).

         The Eleventh Circuit recommends a two-tiered procedure for district courts to determine whether to certify a collective action under §216(b). See Cameron-Grant v. Maxim Healthcare Sys., 347 F.3d 1240, 1242 (11th Cir. 2003) (citing Hipp v. Liberty Nat'l Life Ins. Co., 252 F.3d 1208, 1216 (11th Cir. 2001)). The first tier, known as the notice stage, is relevant here. “At the notice stage, the district court makes a decision-usually based only on the pleadings and any affidavits which have been submitted-whether notice of the action should be given to potential class members.” Id. at 1243. The Court must determine whether other employees desire to opt-in and whether those employees are similarly situated. See Dybach v. State of Fla. Dep't of ...


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