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Stevens v. Hmshost Corporation

United States District Court, E.D. New York

August 27, 2014

EASTON STEVENS, et al., Plaintiffs,
HMSHOST CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.


I. LEO GLASSER, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Easton Stevens brings this collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., (the "FLSA"), against defendants HMSHost Corporation, Host International, Inc., and Host Services of New York (collectively, "defendants"). Plaintiff alleges that defendants failed to pay overtime wages to Assistant Managers ("AMs") because it misclassified AMs as managerial employees who are exempt from the FLSA's overtime requirements. An opt-in class of AMs was conditionally certified on June 15, 2012. Currently before the Court are defendants' motion to decertify the collective action, plaintiffs' motion for final certification, and plaintiffs' and defendants' motions for partial summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion to decertify the collective action is GRANTED, plaintiffs' motion for final certification is DENIED, and accordingly the Court need not address the parties' motions for summary judgment at this time.


I. Facts

Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed. Defendants manage and operate food and beverage concessions at numerous airports, highway travel facilities, and shopping malls across the United States. Defs.' Ex. A ("Lauterbach Decl.") ¶ 4. Their locations include a wide variety of restaurants, ranging from "grab and go" food outlets, to fast food venues, casual sit-down restaurants, bars, wine bars, brew pubs, and fine dining establishments. Id . ¶ 6. Defendants operate these restaurants both under their own name and under other brand names, including Burger King, Starbucks, Chili's, Quizno's, California Pizza Kitchen, KFC, and Pizza Hut. Id . ¶ 5.

Defendants' business is divided into units called "regions, " which do not necessarily correspond to geographic regions. Id . ¶ 10. Each region is managed by a Senior Vice President. Id . ¶ 11. General Managers, who oversee specific locations-often more than one-report to Senior Vice Presidents. Id . ¶ 12. General Managers in turn supervise Store Managers. Id . ¶ 14. Depending on its size, a location may have more than one Store Manager. Id . ¶ 13. Store Managers are in charge of day-to-day operations at a particular location, and supervise AMs and hourly employees. See id. ¶¶ 14, 18. AMs are defendants' lowest-level exempt employees. Pls.' Ex. B at 87.

According to defendants, AMs are responsible for supervising Shift Supervisors and other hourly employees. Lauterbach Decl. ¶¶ 15, 18; Pls.' Ex. B at 35. Indeed, the official job description for the AM position[1] provides that an AM

• Supervises the day-to-day activities of Shift Supervisors and other nonmanagement associates
• Assigns work responsibilities, prepares schedules, and ensures that all shifts are covered
• Prepares daily orders, ensures units are stocked with appropriate levels of product and coaches Shift Supervisors on order procedures
• Conducts and coordinates on-the-job training for associates, and ensures all associates receive basic skills training to perform their jobs
• Resolves routine questions and problems and refers more complex issues to higher levels
• Provides recommendations for hiring, firing, advancement, promotion or any other status change of associates within the store

Defs.' Ex. O. Defendants state that although these job functions are for the most part consistent for all AMs, an AM's precise day-to-day duties could vary significantly due to the vast differences between locations. Lauterbach Decl. ¶¶ 21, 24-25.

Although the job description focuses on their managerial duties, it is undisputed that AMs are also required to perform non-exempt, non-managerial work. Indeed, all of the deposed plaintiffs testified that, at least some of the time, they performed the same type of work as defendants' hourly employees. See generally Dkt. No. 151 at 8-9 (collecting deposition citations). The deposed plaintiffs generally testified that they spent the majority of their time performing non-exempt work, but the split between exempt and non-exempt work varied among the plaintiffs, ranging from 95% nonexempt hourly work at the high end, Pls.' Ex. G at 202, to 70% at the low end, Pls.' Ex. N at 124. See also Dkt. No. 151 at 10 n.14 (collecting deposition citations).

At the same time, most of the deposed plaintiffs testified that they performed at least some exempt managerial work. See, e.g., Dkt. No. 145-38 (collecting deposition citations). For example, several of the deposed plaintiffs were involved in the interviewing and hiring process. Defs.' Ex. M at 85; Defs.' Ex. O at 106-07, 113; Defs.' Ex. U at 28-29; Defs.' Ex. V at 97; Defs.' Ex. Z at 54, 145; Defs.' Ex. CC at 53 (interviewing); Defs.' Ex. U at 58-59; Defs.' Ex. Z at 55 (hiring). Several more had authority to discipline and evaluate hourly employees, albeit to different degrees. Defs.' Ex. M at 65; Defs.' Ex. O at 123 (discipline); Defs.' Ex. U at 102-03; Defs.' Ex. X at 57; Defs.' Ex. CC at 80 (evaluation). And many of them were responsible for scheduling the shifts of hourly employees. Defs.' Ex. O at 137-38; Defs.' Ex. U at 55, 58; see also ...

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