Federal Judge in Georgia Denies Conditional Class Certification in Unpaid Overtime Case

A federal judge in Georgia recently denied a plaintiff’s motion for conditional certification of a class-action lawsuit over wage and hour violations.

In Wallace v. Norcross Associates, LLC, the plaintiffs sought unpaid overtime wages under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  Alvina Wallace and the other litigants were sales associates or sales representatives employed by Norcross Associates, a telemarketing business that sold long-term telephone service contracts for providers like Verizon.  During their employment, Wallace and the others worked on various sales campaigns geared toward business and residential customers.  In return, they received payment along several different compensation schemes, including hourly pay, hourly pay and commissions, commissions only, commissions with $10 per hour recoverable draw, and an increasing hourly rate based on the total number of products and services sold.

Under these schemes, Wallace was employed from April 2007 until March 2012, during which time she was compensated at an hourly rate, an hourly rate plus commissions, and commissions only with a $10 per hour recoverable draw.  Other litigants were paid on a commissions-only basis with a $10 per hour recoverable draw or an hourly basis plus commissions.  All involved claimed that they regularly worked more than 40 hours per week but were never paid overtime.  They also argued that their employer never paid them all of the commissions that they earned.  Their employer, for its part, claimed that it had paid the litigants for all of their time.  Nonetheless, Wallace and the other litigants sought FLSA section 216(b) class status.

The judge noted that the threshold for conditional class certification was a low one: the members of the class needed to be “similarly situated,” which meant that they only needed to show that their positions were similar, not identical, to the positions held by the putative class members.  The plaintiffs also bore the burden of demonstrating that there was a reasonable basis for their claim of class-wide discrimination.

Wallace and the other litigants argued that they all had the same job title, job duties (making sales calls from a call center to solicit customers), and all were denied hourly pay and/or commissions.  Their employer, meanwhile, argued that their class was both too broad and too vague because the litigants worked on different sales campaigns and were compensated in different, sometimes very complex ways.  Therefore, any resolution of the conflict would require the court to analyze the compensation schemes separately.

The court agreed, finding that litigating the case as a class action would not help determine liability for the whole class, for each employee would need to demonstrate hours worked, whether they were compensated for overtime hours, and whether they did not receive certain commission pay.  The method of calculated unpaid overtime would differ from plaintiff to plaintiff.  Wallace and company had also failed to demonstrate the existence of a common policy or practice that violated the FLSA.  Because of these reasons, the court denied conditional class certification.

Parks, Chesin & Walbert represents plaintiffs in employment matters, including employment discrimination, wage and hour, FMLA, and more.  With offices in Atlanta and Nashville, we offer a client-centered philosophy and strive to accomplish our clients’ goals as if they are our own.  If you live in Georgia or Tennessee and need an experienced Atlanta employment law attorney, contact us today at 404-873-8048.

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