United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS'
MOTION TO DESIGNATE DETENTION OFFICERS ASSIGNED TO TRANSPORT
DUTY AS A SUBGROUP
MATTER comes before the Court upon Plaintiffs' Opposed
Motion to Designate Detention Officers Assigned to Transport
Duty as a Subgroup, filed July 7, 2017 (Doc.
152). Having reviewed the parties' pleadings and
the applicable law, the Court finds that Plaintiffs'
motion is not well-taken and, therefore, is denied.
a collective/class action lawsuit filed by a group of over 20
current or former employees of Defendant (“MTC”)
who claim they were not paid for some of their hours worked
on assignment for MTC at the Otero County Prison Facility
near Chaparral, New Mexico. The lawsuit asserts claims for
unpaid wages and overtime, as well as other statutory damages
and the recovery of attorneys' fees, under the Fair Labor
Standards Act 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219
(“FLSA”) and/or the New Mexico Minimum Wage Act,
N.M.S.A. §§ 50-4-1 to 50-4-33
contend that they were subject to two policies potentially
prohibited by the FLSA: (1) they were required to spend time
on duty inside the prison, without pay, before and/or after
their shift, gathering and securing equipment and passing
through prison security areas; and (2) MTC's use of the
“rounding” method of timekeeping which allegedly
causes underpayment in calculating wages. Plaintiffs have
recently raised another challenge to the MTC pay policy,
claiming that policy automatically deducts pay for meal break
time when an officer is assigned to Transport Duty, even when
the officer does not receive any meal break time. However,
the Court denied Plaintiffs' motion to amend the
complaint to add this as a separate claim for underpayment of
overtime. See Doc. 167.
to Plaintiffs, of the 170 total Detention Officers employed
at the prison, ten percent rotate on and off Transport Duty.
See Doc. 152 at 3 (citing to Factual App'x.,
Doc. 154, at ¶12). In this motion, Plaintiffs seek to
designate Detention Officers who are named Plaintiffs or who
have opted-in and were assigned to the Transport Duty post as
a subgroup asserting a sub-claim in this lawsuit. Defendant
opposes the separate designation because it would involve
more discovery and is not more efficient.
district court has wide discretion to manage collective
actions. See Hoffmann-La Roche v. Sperling, 493 U.S.
165, 171 (1989), cited in Alvarez v. City of
Chicago, 605 F.3d 445, 449 (7th Cir. 2010).
claim there is a high degree of commonality between Detention
Officers assigned to Shift Assignments and Transport Duty.
For example, all Detention Officers, whether working Shift
Assignments or Transport, are assigned to the same job title
(as “Detention Officer”); perform substantially
similar job duties; work at the same prison facility and
under a common set of pay policies and procedures are paid
pursuant to the same hourly and overtime pay rates and
benefit policies; and pass through the same or substantially
similar pre-shift and post-shift activities at issue in this
case (including pre-shift and pass-down briefings). In
addition, all of the Detention Officers who are plaintiffs in
this case have worked the same relevant time period, from
January 2013 to the present and are asserting claims based on
the same laws which are supported by the same documentary
evidence and witnesses.
point to a few “factual differences” which form
the basis for Plaintiffs' request to designate a subgroup
for claims of Detention Officers while they are on Transport
(1) Detention Officers who are on Shift Assignments are
assigned to work on one of three regularly-assigned
eight-hour shifts, while Detention Officers who are on
Transport Duty do not work regular shift times but rather
work hours that vary depending on the number of prisoners
they are escorting and the locations they travel to and from
during the day.
(2) Detention Officers on Shift Assignments are subject to
the “rounding” policy at issue in this case,
while Detention Officers working Transport Duty are paid
according to clock-in and clock-out time.
(3) while there are no unpaid meal breaks or auto-deductions
of paid time for meal breaks during a Shift Assignment,
Detention Officers working Transport Duty are designated by
MTC policy to receive a one-hour unpaid meal break each day
in which a one-hour time period is automatically deducted
from the Transport Officer's paid time each day worked.
motion is denied, for several reasons. First, the Court
recently denied Plaintiffs' motion to amend the complaint
to specifically include missed meal break claims.
See Doc. 167. The Court concluded that the motion
was both untimely, and that amendment would be futile, thus
precluding any claim for missed meal breaks. There is no
sense in allowing a subgroup for plaintiffs asserting a claim
that does not exist.
even if such a claim had been initially asserted, the Court
fails to see how designating a subgroup would allow the Court
to manage the case more efficiently. Plaintiffs' counsel
cites to cases involving circumstances that are more
obviously conducive to the creation of sub-groups-for
example, where separate work facilities are involved
(Rawls v. Augustine Home Health Care, Inc., 244
F.R.D. 298, 302 (D.Md. 2007)); where one group of employees
are employed directly by a defendant and another group is
employed by subcontractors to perform work at the same work
sites (Rios v. Midwest Partitions, Inc., 2016 WL
7212480, at *3 (D.Colo., 2016)); or where each plaintiff
raised a different combination of ten different subclaims
(Alvarez v. Chicago,605 F.3d 445 (7th Cir. 2010).
In contrast, this is not a very ...