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Letouzel v. Eastman Kodak Co.

May 25, 2006

LINDA LETOUZEL, ON BEHALF OF HERSELF AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF,
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

Plaintiff Linda LeTouzel, ("LeTouzel") brings this action for declaratory relief and monetary damages on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, alleging that the defendant Eastman Kodak Company ("Kodak") violated her rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. ("FLSA"), New York State labor law, the labor and wage laws of several states other than New York State, and breached several employment contracts.

Kodak moves to dismiss and strike portions of the Complaint, and to strike portions of the Complaint. Although Kodak does not move to dismiss plaintiff's federal collective action claim under the FLSA, defendant seeks to dismiss plaintiff's state labor and wage law class-action claims on grounds that plaintiff lacks standing to bring such claims, and that the proposed class is invalid pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to meet the critical requirement that the class share questions of fact and law common to the members of the class. Defendant further contends that the plaintiff, who was fired for having allegedly engaged in discriminatory behavior, does 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 plaintiff's 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 51 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 plaintiff is not entitled to such relief as a matter of law. Additionally, defendant moves to strike the plaintiff's 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 plaintiff's state law claims on grounds that plaintiff has 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 there is a lack of commonality of factual and legal issues among the proposed class. Moreover, I find that if the plaintiff's state claims were allowed to proceed, those claims would predominate over the federal claim and would render the action unduly complicated and unmanageable. Therefore, I decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over those claims. Finally, I grant defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief, and deny as premature defendant's motion to strike the plaintiff's proposed "opt-in" form.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was hired by Kodak on October 1, 1981. She was employed in Kodak's Rochester, New York location in a Customer Service/Support Position in the CIG Worldwide Service and Support, Service Marketing organization. Kodak terminated plaintiff's employment for cause on June 21, 2004 after an internal investigation found that plaintiff, a Caucasian employee, had placed a hand-written note on the chair of an African-American co-worker that read: "We Know How to Control Niggers Here." Two independent handwriting experts concluded that plaintiff had written the note. Plaintiff denies the accusations. After Kodak terminated the plaintiff's employment, she filed a charge with the New York State Division of Human Rights alleging race discrimination. That matter is still pending.

On September 7, 2005, plaintiff filed this Complaint against Kodak alleging that Kodak failed to pay her overtime in compliance with the FLSA. Plaintiff sues on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated under § 216(b) of the Act. Plaintiff also maintains that her New York Labor Law claim, her other state wage law claims, and breach of contract claims may be prosecuted as Rule 23 class actions. Plaintiff alleges that the class is comprised of in-state and out-of-state Kodak employees not covered within the scope of the class certified in Robinson v. Kodak, 02-CV-6204. Furthermore, plaintiff alleges violations of the wage laws of 34 states as well as those of Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, and claims of breach of contract under the common law of 51 jurisdictions. On November 2, 2005, defendant Kodak moved to dismiss several claims alleged in the Complaint. Plaintiff opposes the motions.

DISCUSSION I.

The State Law Claims

Kodak maintains that the dismissal of plaintiff's state law claims is warranted because the plaintiff lacks 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 plaintiff could maintain a class action pursuant to her state law claims, the court should decline to exercise jurisdiction over those claims.

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

Although plaintiff has 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. 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 ...


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