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O'Jeda v. Viacom, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

April 4, 2014

CASEY O'JEDA et al., Plaintiffs,
VIACOM, INC. et al., Defendants.


JESSE M. FURMAN, District Judge.

Plaintiffs bring this action pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards ยงยง 201 et seq., and the New York State Labor Law ("NYLL"), N.Y. La1 against Viacom Inc., MTV Networks Music Production Inc., and MTV T Inc. (together, "Defendants") to recover unpaid minimum wages alleged] work performed as interns. On January 17, 2014, Plaintiffs moved for cc of a FLSA collective action and for approval of a collective action notice Upon review of the parties' submissions, Plaintiffs' motion for condition GRANTED. The Court reserves judgment on Plaintiffs' motion for apprc action notice and procedures for distributing that notice.

Although the question is a close one in some respects, Plaintiffs he burden at this stage of making a "modest factual showing" that they and "1 plaintiffs together were victims of a common policy or plan that violated t] Hertz Corp., 624 F.3d 537, 555 (2d Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks of Amador v. Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC, No. 11 Civ. 4326 (RJS), 2013 WL (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 7, 2013) (noting that a plaintiff may rely "on [his] own pleadings, affidavits, [and] declarations' to support a motion for collective action certification (quoting Hallissey v. Am. Online, Inc., No. 99 Civ. 3785 (KTD), 2008 WL 465112, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 19, 2008)); Lynch v. United Servs. Auto. Ass'n, 491 F.Supp.2d 357, 367-68 (S.D.N.Y. 2007) (noting that, on a motion for preliminary certification of collective action, the court does not resolve factual disputes, decide ultimate issues on the merits, or make credibility determinations).

Put simply, Plaintiffs offer sufficient "generalized proof' that members of the putative collective were "victims of a common policy to replace paid workers with unpaid interns." Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., 293 F.R.D. 516, 537-38 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (citing Torres v. Gristede's Operating Corp., No. 04 Civ. 3316 (PAC), 2006 WL 2819730, at *10, (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 29, 2006)); see also, e.g., Wang v. Hearst Corp., No. 12 Civ. 793 (HB), 2012 WL 2864524, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. July 12, 2012) (conditionally certifying a collective action of interns where plaintiff provided "allegations and affidavits to the effect that [the defendant] made a uniform determination that interns were not employees, required all interns to submit college credit letters, and used interns to perform entry-level work with little supervision" (citations omitted)); Lynch, 491 F.Supp.2d at 370 ("Courts typically authorize dissemination of Section 216(b) notice upon a simple showing that other employees may also have been subjected to the employers' practice of misclassifying.'"). (See Pls.' Mem. Law (Docket No. 27) 3-4, 11-13 (discussing centralized internship hiring, administrative, and training policies)).

There may well be, or have been, some variance in the practices and procedures with respect to interns among Defendants' entities, departments, and locations (see Defs.' Mem. Law (Docket No. 30) 3-9), but the possibility that "disparate factual and employment settings" exist does not mean that the interns were not subject to a "common policy to replace paid workers with unpaid interns." Glatt, 293 F.R.D. at 538. Furthermore, after discovery, Defendants may move for decertification of the collective action. See, e.g., Davis v. Abercrombie & Fitch Co., No. 08 Civ. 1859 (PKC), 2008 WL 4702840, at *10 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 23, 2008); see also, e.g., Ack v. Manhattan Beer Distribs., Inc., No. 11 Civ. 5582 (CBA), 2012 WL 1710985, at *6 (E.D.N.Y. May 15, 2012) ("[W]hether the plaintiff or any putative plaintiffs are exempt or otherwise excluded from the FLSA is not a proper inquiry for the court [at the collective action certification stage]. Such factual determinations [should] be addressed at the second stage of the certification process after the completion of discovery." (alterations in original) (internal quotation marks omitted)). "At that point, " the Court would determine "on a full record, and under a more stringent standard, whether the additional plaintiffs are in fact similarly situated." Davis, 2008 WL 4702840, at * 10. If the Court were then to find "that all plaintiffs [were] similarly situated, the collective action [would] proceed[] to trial; otherwise, the class [would be] decertified and the claims of the opt-in plaintiffs [would be] dismissed without prejudice." Id.

Accordingly, Plaintiffs' motion for conditional certification of a collective action comprised of "[a]ll current and former of Viacom Inc., MTV Networks Music Production Inc., and/or MTV Networks Enterprises Inc., engaged in an intern program from [the date three years prior to the Court's entry of an order certifying the collective action] through the present" is GRANTED.[1] (Pls.' Mem. Law 2). The Court reserves judgment, however, on approval of Plaintiffs' proposed notice and the procedures to be used in connection with the notice, as to which Defendants raise various objections. (Defs.' Mem. Law 21-22). The parties are directed to meet and confer on the language of the proposed notice and the proposed procedures and to jointly submit a revised version of the notice and a proposed order to the Court no later than April 25, 2014.

The Clerk of Court is directed to terminate Docket No. 26.


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