Morrison v. Ocean State Jobbers Inc.
A putative class-action representative can be adequate and fair, even if he has sued prior employers and does not recognize the names of plaintiffs. The plaintiffs, who worked as assistant managers for the defendant, Ocean State, alleged that they were wrongly classified as exempt and were not paid overtime, when they worked more than 40 hours per week. The plaintiffs sued on behalf of themselves and approximately 106 similarly situated workers. In 2010, the District Court granted the plaintiffs' motion to proceed as a collective action. Ocean State moved to decertify. A collective action may be certified, if differences among the plaintiffs are not greater than similarities, pursuant to the Connecticut District Court's 2009 decision, Perkins v. Southern New England Telephone Co. Numerosity is presumed when 40 members join. Connecticut plaintiffs met numerosity requirements. Common issues of law exist, because plaintiffs allege they were wrongly classified as exempt under the Connecticut Minimum Wage Law. Claims of representative parties are typical of the claims of the Connecticut class. Ocean State argued that Omar Morrison could not fairly and adequately represent the Connecticut class, because he did not recognize plaintiffs' names and did not know the number of Ocean State Job Lot stores. The U.S. Supreme Court does not favor attacks based on the ignorance of a class representative. Although Morrison relies on counsel to manage discovery, he is not ignorant of the litigation or unable to serve as representative. A factfinder could credit Morrison as credible, even though he has sued prior employers. The court dismissed as conjecture Ocean State's argument that Morrison's Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities' claims could be contrary to the interests of the class. Connecticut plaintiffs testified that they spent 50 to 80 percent of their time on nonmanagerial activities. They established questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over questions that affect only individuals. Massachusetts plaintiffs did not prove predominance. The court certified a Connecticut class and denied a request to certify a class of Massachusetts plaintiffs. The court denied Ocean State's motion to decertify the federal Fair Labor Standards Act count.