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Jones v. RS&H, Inc.

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

May 22, 2017

BRADLEY JONES, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
RS&H, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          SUSAN C. BUCKLEW UNITED STATES STRICT JUDGE.

         This cause comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration of Order on Conditional Certification. (Doc. No. 27). Defendant opposes the motion. (Doc. No. 28). As explained below, Plaintiff's motion is denied.

         I. Background

         On January 6, 2017, Plaintiff filed an age discrimination complaint under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Florida Civil Rights Act. (Doc. No. 1). In his complaint, Plaintiff Bradley Jones alleges the following: Plaintiff worked for Defendant RS&H, Inc. from August 5, 1991 through June 12, 2015 when he was terminated.[1] When Defendant terminated Plaintiff, Defendant stated that his termination was part of a reduction-in-force (“RIF”). Defendant terminated 23 employees nationwide during this RIF; Defendant terminated seven employees within the Tampa location where Plaintiff worked. Five of the seven employees terminated at the Tampa location were over 50 years old.

         Plaintiff, who was 53 years old at the time of his termination, believes that he was terminated due to his age. Plaintiff and the two opt-in plaintiffs[2] filed affidavits in support of their allegations of age discrimination in which they state the following: They had more than enough work, and as such, there was no need for their termination or a RIF. (Doc. No. 16-4, ¶ 5; Doc. No. 16-3, ¶ 5-6; Doc. No. 16-5, ¶ 5). Defendant rarely allowed non-officers to work until they retired. (Doc. No. 16-4, ¶ 9; Doc. No. 16-3, ¶ 10; Doc. No. 16-5, ¶ 9). Instead, Defendant hired young employees and then terminated the older employees once the younger hires were trained. (Doc. No. 16-4, ¶ 9; Doc. No. 16-3, ¶ 10; Doc. No. 16-5, ¶ 9). According to Plaintiff, one of Defendant's supervisors commented just prior to the RIF that he had been informed that Defendant was looking to reduce staff, specifically the older personnel. (Doc. No. 16-3, ¶ 12). Additionally, Defendant's agents often said, “Young people are our future.” (Doc. No. 16-3, ¶ 13; Doc. No. 16-5, ¶ 11).

         II. Order on Conditional Certification (Doc. No. 24)

         Plaintiff initially moved to conditionally certify a nationwide class of former employees who were terminated from October 28, 2014 through August 24, 2015 (i.e., within 300 days prior to Plaintiff's filing of his EEOC charge) and who were at least 40 years old at the time of their termination. Defendant opposed the motion. The Court granted conditional certification for a much narrower class than that requested by Plaintiff; the Court granted conditional certification of a class consisting of the five employees at the Tampa location that were terminated in the June 2015 RIF who were at least 40 years old at the time of their termination. (Doc. No. 24).

         The Court found that the scope of the nationwide class for which Plaintiff requested conditional certification was too broad. Specifically, the Court found that Plaintiff's EEOC charge did not place the EEOC or Defendant on notice of nationwide claims, stating:

Plaintiff's EEOC charge cannot be read to give notice that he is asserting claims on behalf of a nationwide class of employees. While Plaintiff alleges that non-officers are rarely allowed to work until retirement and that Defendant hires younger employees and then terminates older employees, these allegations can only be viewed as Plaintiff's perception as to what is going on at his work location. Plaintiff provides no allegations in the charge to support his contention that the charge provides notice of a nationwide class.

(Doc. No. 24, p. 6).

         Additionally, the Court provided an alternative basis for denying conditional certification for the nationwide class-the scope of the proposed nationwide class is too diverse to consist solely of employees that are similarly situated to Plaintiff. The Court pointed out that before a court grants a motion for conditional certification, the court should find that: (1) there are other employees who desire to opt-in; and (2) those employees are similarly situated to the plaintiff.

         In this case, only two employees have chosen to opt into this lawsuit. Those employees were both part of the June 2015 RIF that affected the Tampa Transportation Infrastructure division. The Court noted that there is no evidence before the Court that any other employees outside of Tampa are interested in joining this lawsuit, and “[c]ertification of a collective action and notice to a potential class is not appropriate to determine whether there are others who desire to join the lawsuit.” Kubiak v. S.W. Cowboy, Inc., 2014 WL 2625181, at *8 (M.D. Fla. June 12, 2014)(quotation marks and citation omitted).

         Furthermore, the Court found that Plaintiff did not satisfy his burden of showing that he is similarly situated to his proposed nationwide class. Plaintiff must show that his position is similar to the positions held by the proposed class members. Plaintiff had not Dated this for the proposed nationwide class, whose members are in a different division in different states with different decision-makers involved in their terminations.

         As a result, the Court granted conditional certification of a class consisting of the five employees at the Tampa location that were terminated in the June 2015 RIF who were at least 40 years old at the time of their termination. ...


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