Despite the lenient standard employed by many courts on motions for conditional certification, a federal judge in Pennsylvania recently denied conditional certification of an FLSA collective action based on scant factual support. In Moore v. PNC Bank, N.A. [here], the court concluded that the plaintiff could not bring her claim as a collective action because there was no factual nexus between her alleged experiences and the experiences of a proposed nationwide class of over 2,000 current and former assistant branch managers. The opinion demonstrates that just a common job title and job description do not make employees similarly situated to each other, even at the conditional certification stage.
The plaintiff was a former PNC Bank assistant branch manager (“ABM”) who worked at two branches in southern Ohio. According to the plaintiff, PNC Bank classified her as exempt from overtime wages, yet required her to perform non-exempt duties, such as customer service, the vast majority of the time she spent on the job. The plaintiff further alleged that PNC Bank ABMs across the country were misclassified as exempt and improperly denied overtime wages under the FLSA.
Although the court allowed pre-certification discovery, the plaintiff did not file any supporting declarations nor included deposition testimony of any other current or former ABMs. Instead, she relied on evidence that all PNC ABMs were governed by common, uniform policies, while PNC disputed the argument that all ABMs were required to perform non-exempt tasks.
In denying conditional certification, the judge held that it was not appropriate to conditionally certify an entire class of employees simply based on the testimony of one employee who said she was required to perform non-exempt tasks. Even under the lenient standard afforded to a plaintiff seeking conditional certification, the plaintiff failed to meet make a modest factual showing that the proposed class members were similarly situated to her. Aside from mere allegations, the plaintiff did not demonstrate a “factual nexus” between her experiences and a nationwide class of ABMs.
Moore follows a line of cases that have denied conditional certification where plaintiffs have relied on a common exemption status established by a corporate-wide policy, without more, as the only factor that binds a putative class. In those cases, courts have denied conditional certification absent evidence that others in the putative class are also performing non-exempt duties.
These decisions demonstrate that courts will not hesitate to deny motions for conditional certification if they lack evidentiary support. Despite the so-called lenient standard, courts are willing to scrutinize motions for conditional certification where plaintiffs offer little or no evidence that a factual nexus exists between their alleged experiences and the experiences of the entire putative class.