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Roberson v. Restaurant Delivery Developers, LLC

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

September 18, 2017

DAVID ROBERSON, Individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated individuals, Plaintiff,
v.
RESTAURANT DELIVERY DEVELOPERS, LLC d/b/a DOORSTEP DELIVERY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          VIRGINIA M. HERNANDEZ COVINGTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court upon consideration of Plaintiff David Roberson's Motion for Issuance of Notice Pursuant to § 216(b) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (Doc. # 25), to which Defendant Restaurant Delivery Developers, LLC responded on August 21, 2017. (Doc. # 43).

         Roberson worked as a driver for an entity doing business as Doorstep Delivery, using his own car to ferry food from restaurants to hungry people at their homes. Although, among other things, he wore a uniform and worked during set shifts, Doorstep Delivery classified Roberson as an independent contractor - an incorrect classification, Roberson says. He claims that other Doorstep Delivery drivers have also been wrongly classified as independent contractors and would be interested in joining his proposed FLSA collective action seeking overtime and minimum wages. But Restaurant Delivery Developers claims Roberson has not sufficiently shown that it employed him or any other driver or that Restaurant Delivery Developers is, in fact, Doorstep Delivery.

         Employing the lenient conditional certification standard and declining to review the merits of the underlying FLSA claims, the Court determines a class of similarly situated Doorstep Delivery drivers that would be interested in joining the collective action exists. Therefore, the Motion is granted.

         I. Procedural Background

         Roberson initiated this action on March 31, 2017. (Doc. # 1). The Amended Complaint asserts claims under the FLSA, Florida's Minimum Wage Act, and Article X of the Florida Constitution on behalf of himself and other similarly situated individuals. (Doc. # 23). Specifically, Roberson alleges that he and other delivery drivers working for Doorstep Delivery have been wrongly classified as independent contractors in order to deprive them of overtime compensation and the minimum wage under the FLSA. Additionally, Roberson asserts that he and other Florida delivery drivers have been paid less than the state minimum wage. Roberson filed the instant Motion, seeking to conditionally certify a nationwide FLSA collective action, on July 11, 2017. (Doc. # 25).

         Restaurant Delivery Developers filed its Answer on August 7, 2017, in which it maintains that it does not do business as Doorstep Delivery. (Doc. # 42). It then filed a response to Roberson's Motion for conditional certification on August 21, 2017, elaborating further on its contention that it is not the correct defendant for this action, as it never hired Roberson or any other delivery driver. (Doc. # 43). The Motion is now ripe for review.

         II. Legal Standard

         The FLSA expressly permits collective actions against employers accused of violating the FLSA's mandatory overtime provisions. See 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) (“An action . . . 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.”). In prospective collective actions brought pursuant to Section 216(b), potential plaintiffs must affirmatively opt into the collective action. Id. (“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.”)

         Pursuant to Section 216(b), certification of collective actions in FLSA cases is based on a theory of judicial economy by which “[t]he judicial system benefits by efficient resolution in one proceeding of common issues of law and fact arising from the same alleged” activity. Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc. v. Sperling, 493 U.S. 165, 170 (1989).

         In making collective action certification determinations under the FLSA, courts typically follow a two-tiered approach:

The first determination is made at the so-called notice stage. 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.
Because the court has minimal evidence, this determination is made using a fairly lenient standard, and typically results in conditional certification of a representative class. If the district court conditionally certifies the class, putative class members are given notice and the opportunity to opt in. The action proceeds as a representative action throughout discovery.
The second determination is typically precipitated by a motion for decertification by the defendant usually filed after discovery is largely complete and the matter is ready for trial. At this stage, the court has much more information on which to base its decision, and ...

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