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Amalgamated Transit Union v. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 20, 2016




         Plaintiffs, ten named Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (“MBTA”) employees and their union, claim that they are owed compensation from defendant MBTA for after-work and between-shift travel, pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act and Massachusetts wage and hour laws. Currently pending is the Plaintiffs' motion for class certification under Fed.R.Civ.P. 23 (“Rule 23”). [ECF No. 82]. For the reasons stated herein, the motion for class certification is DENIED.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiffs initiated this putative class action on June 17, 2013, on behalf of MBTA bus operators, train operators, train attendants, streetcar operators, trackless trolley operators and customer service agents who were allegedly required to travel from one assigned location to another during their workday without compensation. [ECF No. 1]. The named Plaintiffs are ten MBTA employees, who are either full-time bus operators or train operators/attendants, and Local 589, Amalgamated Transit Union (“Local 589”), the union that represents the affected MBTA employees. Id. at ¶¶ 1-11.

         In their Amended Complaint, filed in November 2013 [ECF No. 31], Plaintiffs claimed that they were not being adequately compensated for after-work and between-shift travel. As alleged, part-time and full-time MBTA employees often end their work days in a place different from where they began, or start shifts some place other than where their previous shift ended. [ECF No. 31 ¶¶ 25-31]. According to Plaintiffs, the employees are generally not compensated for the time required at the end of the day to return to their original starting point (“start-end” travel time) or between shifts to change locations (“split-shift” travel time). Id. In their Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs asserted that they are owed compensation for this start-end and split-shift travel time under the United States Portal to Portal Act, 29 U.S.C. § 251 et seq., the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., and the Massachusetts Wage Act, Mass. Gen. L. ch. 151, § 1 et seq. Id. ¶¶ 32-44.

         In a February 4, 2014 electronic order, Judge Woodlock, who was then assigned to this case, denied without prejudice both the MBTA's partial motion to dismiss and Plaintiffs' motion to certify the class. [ECF No. 39]. Plaintiffs had moved to certify a class of all persons who, during the period covered by the lawsuit, were employed by the MBTA as bus operators, rapid transit motorpersons, street car motorpersons, customer service agents, train attendants, gate persons, hub station monitors and hub station access clerks. [ECF No. 29].

         In June 2014, the parties cross-moved for summary judgment and Plaintiffs renewed their motion for class certification. [ECF Nos. 44, 51]. At the December 2014 hearing, Judge Woodlock denied the renewed motion for class certification without prejudice. [ECF No. 61]. In a March 31, 2015 opinion, Judge Woodlock granted the MBTA's motion for summary judgment in part [ECF No. 65], holding that Plaintiffs' claims for start-end travel compensation should be dismissed, but that their claims for split-shift travel compensation could proceed, pending further factual development. He found that split-shift travel is generally compensable under the FLSA, but that without additional information, such as the individual travel time and break schedules of the employees, he could not determine whether each individual plaintiff had been undercompensated. Id. at 26-27. In his summary judgment opinion, Judge Woodlock reiterated that this case was “not ready to be framed for consideration of class certification.” Id., at 1, n. 1. On June 9, 2015, while discovery was ongoing, this matter was randomly reassigned to this Court after Judge Woodlock assumed senior status [ECF No. 70].

         On October 15, 2015, Plaintiffs moved to amend the complaint to add as named plaintiffs approximately 1, 600 MBTA operating employees of various classes who had allegedly been affected by the MBTA pay practices at issue. [ECF No. 73]. The Court denied the motion on November 20, 2015, finding that the Plaintiffs could not use a motion to amend, filed two-and-a-half years in the case, to circumvent the challenges of class certification. [ECF No. 77]. Given the number and variety of employees the Plaintiffs sought to add, the Court found that “[a]llowing the Motion to Amend would thwart judicial efficiency and create substantial logistical difficulties in an already fact-intensive, protracted case.” Id. at 6-7.

         After denying the Motion to Amend, the Court entered a modified scheduling order requiring the Plaintiff to move for summary judgment by March 9, 2016. [ECF No. 79]. Rather than moving for summary judgment, however, on March 4, 2016 the Plaintiffs again moved for class certification under Rule 23, seeking certification of a class “comprised of MBTA workers who were compelled to travel from one place in the MBTA service area to another, midday, without compensation in order to resume duties operating MBTA vehicles.” [ECF No. 83 at 5]. Defendants opposed the motion on March 18, 2016 [ECF No. 85], Plaintiffs replied on April 1, 2016 [ECF No. 87], and the Court held oral argument on August 12, 2016. [ECF No. 98]. After oral argument, each party filed a supplemental brief. [ECF Nos. 99 and 100].

         II. Legal Standard

         To obtain class certification under Rule 23, Plaintiffs must first satisfy the four requirements of Rule 23(a). They must demonstrate that:

(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class; (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a). These requirements “ensure[] that the named plaintiffs are appropriate representatives of the class whose claims they wish to litigate.” Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 3449 (2011). “The Rule's four requirements-numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequate representation-'effectively limit the class claims to those fairly encompassed by the named plaintiff's claims.'” Id. (quoting General Telephone Co. of Southwest v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 156 (1982)).

         Because the Plaintiffs seek money damages, they must also satisfy Rule 23(b)(3)'s predominance and superiority requirements. Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo, 136 S.Ct. 1036, 1053 (2016) (citing Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 133 S.Ct. 1426, 1432 (2013)). Rule 23(b)(3) requires a showing that “the questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and that a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b). “In adding predominance and superiority to the qualification-for-certification list, the Advisory Committee sought to cover cases in which a class action would achieve economies of time, effort, and expense, and promote . . . uniformity of ...

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