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Glewwe v. Eastman Kodak Co.

May 25, 2006

REBECCA GLEWWE AND CHRISTINE SCANLON, ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE EASTMAN KODAK COMPANY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge Dated: Rochester, New York

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs Rebecca Glewwe ("Glewwe") and Christine Scanlon, ("Scanlon") bring this action for declaratory relief and monetary damages on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, alleging that the defendant Eastman Kodak Company ("Kodak") violated their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. ("FLSA"), the labor and wage laws of several states other than New York State, and breached several employment contracts.

Kodak moves to dismiss the Complaint in-part, and to strike portions of the Complaint. Although Kodak does not move to dismiss plaintiffs' federal collective action claim under the FLSA, defendant seeks to dismiss plaintiffs' state labor and wage law class-action claims on grounds that plaintiffs lack standing to bring such claims, and that proposed class is invalid pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to meet the requirements that the class share questions of fact and law common to the members of the class. Defendant further contends that the plaintiffs, both of whom signed releases waiving certain claims against Kodak, do not have claims that are typical of the claims of the proposed class. Kodak also urges the court to decline any exercise of supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiffs' state law claims, and dismiss those claims for lack of jurisdiction. In support of this contention, Kodak argues that the state claims, which are brought pursuant to the laws of 50 states and territories, would predominate over the federal claim, and would create unmanageable complexity. Kodak further moves to dismiss those portions of the Complaint seeking injunctive relief on grounds that plaintiffs are not entitled to such relief as a matter of law. Additionally, defendant moves to strike the plaintiffs' proposed class certification form titled "Consent to Become a Party Plaintiff" pursuant to Rule 12(f) because it is substantively inaccurate.

For the reasons set forth below, I grant defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' state law claims on grounds that plaintiffs have failed to satisfy the requirements for a class action lawsuit as set forth in Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Specifically, I find that plaintiffs can not adequately represent the interests of the proposed class of plaintiffs, and that there is a lack of commonality of factual and legal issues among the proposed class. Moreover, I find that if the plaintiffs' state claims were allowed to proceed, those claims would predominate over the federal claim and would render the action unduly complicated. Therefore, I decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over those claims. Finally, I grant defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' claims for injunctive relief, and deny as premature defendant's motion to strike the plaintiffs' proposed "opt-in" form.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs are former Kodak employees who worked for Kodak solely in the Oakdale, Minnesota call center as Customer Service Support Representatives. Glewee began her employment with Kodak on January 1, 1999 and Scanlon began her employment with Kodak on August 16, 1999. Plaintiffs' positions were eliminated pursuant to a reduction in work force effective April 17, 2003. In connection with the reduction in work force process, both plaintiffs received an Agreement, Waiver and Release ("Release Agreement") which set forth terms of their severance packages. The Release Agreement gave plaintiffs forty-five days (45) days to accept or reject the Agreement, and the Agreement stated in bold print "YOU ARE ADVISED TO CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY PRIOR TO EXECUTING THIS AGREEMENT." In addition, the Release Agreement contained a general release that specifically released, Kodak from, inter alia, "claims for salary,...bonuses or compensation of any kind," "claims for breach of any alleged oral, written or implied contracts" and FLSA claims. Moreover, the Release Agreement contained a covenant in which plaintiffs agreed not to sue Kodak on any claim that could be released as a matter of law or to "assist any other person or entity in bringing any lawsuit against Kodak in any state or federal court." Glewwe executed her Release Agreement on April 2, 2003, and Scanlon executed hers on March 31, 2003. The Release Agreements allowed employees to revoke their agreements within seven days, but neither plaintiff did so. There is no claim made in the Complaint that Kodak failed to honor the terms of the Release Agreement.

On September 7, 2005, plaintiffs, pursuant § 216(b) of the FLSA, filed this Complaint against Kodak on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated alleging that Kodak failed to pay them overtime in compliance with the FLSA. Plaintiffs also maintain that their state wage claims and breach of contract claims should be prosecuted as Rule 23 class-action suits. Plaintiffs seek to prosecute their claims on behalf of a class comprised of Kodak employees who were employed outside the state of New York. Furthermore, plaintiffs allege violations of 33 states' wage laws as well as those of Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico and claims of breach of contract under the common law of 48 states as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. On November 2, 2005, Kodak moved to dismiss several claims alleged in the Complaint. Plaintiffs oppose the motions.

DISCUSSION I.

The State Law Claims

Kodak maintains that the dismissal of plaintiffs' state law claims is warranted because the plaintiffs lack standing to pursue those claims, and that the proposed class does not meet the requirements for a viable class pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Kodak further argues that even if the plaintiffs could maintain a class action pursuant to their state law claims, the court should decline to exercise jurisdiction over those claims.

A. Plaintiffs' proposed class fails to satisfy the requirements for a class action pursuant to Rule 23.

Although plaintiffs have not yet moved for class certification, courts may decide the issue of certification based on a review of the complaint prior to a party's motion to certify the proposed class. See Reinsich v. New York Stock Exch., 52 F.R.D. 561, 564 (S.D.N.Y. 1971); Miller v. Motorola, Inc., 76 F.R.D. 516 (N.D. Ill. 1977). In fact, Rule 23 (c)(1) encourages courts to "at an early practicable ...


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