Cook v. Family Dollar Stores of Connecticut Inc.
When individualized proof is required, plaintiffs may not prove that questions of law or fact common to the putative class predominate over questions that affect only individual members. The plaintiff store managers alleged that the defendant, Family Dollar Stores of Connecticut Inc., wrongly classified the plaintiffs as "executive" workers and failed to pay overtime, when they worked more than 40 hours per week. The plaintiff store managers were responsible not only for management-related tasks such as hiring and firing workers, inventory, payroll and work schedules but also for clerical tasks such as working the cashiers, stocking shelves and cleaning. The plaintiffs alleged that they lack independent decision making authority and that they spent much of their time on clerical tasks. The plaintiffs sued on behalf of themselves and similarly situated individuals and requested that the court certify a class action of individuals who worked as store managers between January 2008 and October 2011. The court found that the putative class has approximately 200 potential members and meets numerosity requirements. A common question of law and fact exists with respect to whether class members were wrongly classified as "executive" employees, in violation of the Connecticut Minimum Wage Act. Class counsel for the named plaintiff would provide adequate representation. Individual inquiry and individualized proof will be required, to decide whether the plaintiffs were wrongly classified, because some store managers were supervised by district managers who strictly controlled day-to-day operations. Plaintiffs did not persuade the court that questions of law or fact common to the putative class predominate over questions that affect only individual members. "Although there is evidence that is common to the exemption question regarding all [store managers]," wrote the court, "the ultimate inquiry is intensely fact specific and will require individualized proof." The court denied the request to certify a class action.