Class-Action Overtime Suit Against Avis Gets Green Light

February 10, 2014
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A New Jersey district court judge has given the green light to workers of Avis Budget Car Rental, LLC who allege that the rental company failed to pay overtime wages. According to the court, the wage-and-hour class action suit may continue, even though the job duties performed by the class of workers varied. The plaintiffs in Ruffin v. Avis Budget Car Rental are a nationwide class of former and current shift managers. They allege that Avis misclassified them as exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and “failed to pay them for all hours worked as well as overtime compensation” even though they performed non-exempt duties such as “cleaning cars, moving cars around the parking lot, checking inventory, renting cars, and/or installing child car seats.” Under the FLSA, an employee may pursue a civil action to recover unpaid overtime on his own behalf as well as on behalf of other employees who are “similarly situated.” In this New Jersey employment suit, the parties disagree over whether the plaintiffs in the case meet the criteria, with Avis arguing that forcing it to defend “an array of inconsistent factual assertions would be fundamentally unfair and compromise Avis’ due process rights.” As noted by the district court judge, neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has provided guidance on the meaning of the term “similarly situated.” Therefore, district courts traditionally examine a variety of factors, including (1) the “disparate factual and employment settings of the individual plaintiffs,” (2) “the various defenses available to defendants,” and (3) “fairness and procedural considerations.” In this New Jersey wage-and-hour case, the court found that the plaintiffs performed similar day-to-day functions, noting that they did not have to be “identical” to be similarly situated for purposes of an FLSA collective action. The court further found that the shift managers were subject to the same policies, procedures, work rules, and participated in the same training program. With regard to the defense available to the defendant, the court found that determining whether plaintiffs fall under the FLSA exemption for employees who serve in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity would not make the class unmanageable. Finally, the court concluded that procedural considerations and fairness weigh in favor of collective treatment of plaintiffs, noting that a collective action would “effectively lower the parties’ costs, limit the controversy to one proceeding, and promote judicial efficiency.” If you have any questions about this case or would like to discuss how it may impact your company’s wage and hour policies, please contact me, Ramon Rivera, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work.