United States District Court, D. Colorado
RICKIE FAULKNER, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
ENSIGN UNITED STATES DRILLING INC., Defendant.
A. BRIMMER, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on the parties' Stipulated
Motion to Approve Settlement [Docket No. 79]. The Court has
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
is an oilfield services company located in Denver, Colorado
that has operations in North Dakota. Docket No. 14 at 2, 5,
¶¶ 3, 12. Plaintiff has worked for defendant as a
rig manager in North Dakota. Id. at 6, ¶ 20.
Plaintiff claims that rig managers typically worked more than
40 hours each week. Docket No. 1 at 5, ¶ 31. As
compensation, plaintiff claims that he and other rig managers
were paid a day rate regardless of the number of hours they
worked. Docket No. 1 at 3, ¶ 11. Plaintiff alleges that
defendant knowingly or recklessly classified him and other
rig managers as exempt employees, and therefore not eligible
for overtime pay, in order to avoid compensating them for all
hours worked. Docket No. 1 at 6, ¶¶ 37, 39.
Plaintiff claims that, had rig managers been appropriately
classified, they would have been entitled to overtime premium
pay. Id. at 6, ¶ 39.
December 20, 2016, plaintiff filed this case against
defendant, bringing a claim for violation of the Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201
et seq., and a claim for violation of North Dakota
Administrative Code § 46-02-07. Docket No. 1. Plaintiff
brings his FLSA claim as a collective action pursuant to 29
U.S.C. § 216(b). Id. at 1-2, ¶ 2.
Plaintiff alleges that he and defendant's other rig
managers are similarly situated because they performed the
same or similar work and were subject to the same
compensation scheme. Id. at 8-9, ¶¶ 51,
January 15, 2018, the parties jointly moved for and
stipulated to conditional certification of a collective
action. Docket No. 46. The Court granted the motion on
February 9, 2018, conditionally certifying a class of
[a]ll current and former rig managers of Ensign United States
Drilling Inc. classified as exempt from overtime under the
Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) for at least
one week during the two-year period prior to the date the
Court authorizes notice to the present.
Docket No. 52 at 6-7, ¶ 1. The Court further approved
plaintiff's proposed Notice of Collective Action.
Id., ¶ 2.
receipt of the court-authorized notice, three individuals
joined the collective action as opt-in plaintiffs, bringing
the total number of members of the putative collective action
to four. Docket No. 79 at 4. The parties advised Magistrate
Judge Kristen L. Mix that they had reached a settlement on
July 16, 2018. Docket No. 78. On July 31, 2018, the parties
jointly moved for a court order approving the settlement
agreement and dismissing the matter with prejudice. Docket
lawsuit brought by employees against their employer to
recover back wages under the FLSA, any proposed settlement
between the parties must be presented to the court for a
determination of whether the settlement is fair and
reasonable. Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United
States, 679 F.2d 1350, 1353 (11th Cir. 1982). This
requirement effectuates the “prime purpose” of
the FLSA, which is to “aid the unprotected, unorganized
and lowest paid of the nation's working population . . .
who lacked sufficient bargaining power to secure for
themselves a minimum subsistence wage.” Brooklyn
Sav. Bank v. O'Neil, 324 U.S. 697, 707 n.18 (1945).
Final Class Certification
FLSA permits an employee or employees to bring an action
“[on] behalf of himself or themselves and other
employees similarly situated.” 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).
Courts apply a two-stage approach to determining whether
plaintiffs are “similarly situated” for purposes
of FLSA collective action certification. Thiessen v. GE
Capital Corp., 267 F.3d 1095, 1105 (10th Cir. 2001).
First, a court makes an initial determination as to whether
plaintiffs are similarly situated for purposes of sending
notice to putative class members. Id. at 1102. At
the “notice” stage, a court applies a fairly
lenient standard, requiring only “substantial
allegations that the putative class members were together the
victims of a single decision, policy, or plan.”
Id. at 1102 (quoting Vaszlavik v. Storage Tech.
Corp., 175 F.R.D. 672, 678 (D. Colo. 1997)). After
discovery, a court makes a second determination about whether
putative class members are similarly situated. See
Id. at 1102-03. In deciding whether to certify a
collective action at this stage, courts apply a stricter
standard and consider several factors, including: “(1)
[the] disparate factual and employment settings of the
individual plaintiffs; (2) the various defenses available to
[the] defendant which appear to be individual to each
plaintiff; [and] (3) fairness and procedural
considerations.” Id. at 1103 (quoting
Vaszlavik, 175 F.R.D. at 678). Final class
certification is generally required before a court may
approve a collective action settlement. See Whittington
v. Taco Bell of Am., Inc., No. 10-cv-01884-KMT-MEH, 2013
WL 6022972, at *2 (D. Colo. Nov. 13, 2013) (quoting
Peterson v. Mortg. Sources, Corp., 2011 WL 3793963,
at *4 (D. Kan. Aug. 25, 2011)).
contends that the requirements for final collective action
certification are satisfied because (1) opt-in plaintiffs all
worked as rig managers for defendant, performing the same job
duties and performing the same training; (2) defendant's
defenses apply equally to all plaintiffs; and (3) proceeding
as a collective action provides a fair and procedurally
efficient resolution of plaintiffs' claims. Docket No. 79
at 3. The Court agrees that opt-in plaintiffs are similarly
situated for purposes of final certification. In his
complaint, plaintiff alleged that he and other members of the
putative class have similar relevant job duties and pay
structure. Docket No. 1 at 8, ¶ 53. These allegations
are supported by the common job description offered by the
parties, which applies to all rig managers. Docket No. 79 at
3, Docket No. 79-1. Further, Mr. Faulkner and opt-in
plaintiff Brent Heim have filed declarations that indicate
that their job duties are substantially similar. Docket Nos.
53-2, 53-3. Both plaintiffs state that their primary job
duties were performing manual labor at oil well sites for
Ensign. See Docket No. 53-2 at 1-2, ¶¶ 4,
6; Docket No. 53-3 at 1-2, ¶¶ 4, 6. They also
describe similar work schedules, regularly working 15 to 18
hours a day and over 40 hours in a work week being paid a low
salary and a day rate. See Docket No. 53-2 at 2,
¶ 12; Docket No. 53-3 at 2, ¶ 11. Given the similar
job responsibilities and pay structure of plaintiffs,
defendant's principal defense - that plaintiffs were
exempt from overtime pay under the FLSA - applies equally to
all members of the putative collective. See Docket
No. 79 at 4-5. Finally, fairness and procedural
considerations support final certification. Collective
actions allow plaintiffs to ...