Winfield v. Citibank: Nationwide Class Conditionally Certified; Dukes Inapplicable to FLSA

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In a recent ruling, U.S. District Court Judge John G. Koeltl granted conditional certification per FLSA Section 216(b) of a nationwide class of “personal bankers” who alleged that Citibank failed to pay them overtime.  See Winfield v. Citibank, No. 10 Civ. 7304, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16449 (S.D. N.Y. Jan. 27, 2012) (available here).

The Winfield decision augments the growing body of law rejecting the application of Dukes v. Wal-Mart to motions for conditional certification under the FLSA.  Whereas Dukes was decided under Rule 23, which requires the predominance of common questions of law or fact, FLSA Section 216(b) requires only that all employees be “similarly situated.”  In Dukes, the Supreme Court took issue with the allegations of a single employee who sought to represent a nationwide class of employees against whom Wal-Mart had allegedly discriminated, holding that a plaintiff must establish that her class claims can be proven by reference to a common policy.  By contrast, in Winfield, the plaintiffs offered testimony that regional management resisted paying overtime wages, while also enforcing sales quotas that resulted in overtime hours.  This established that the plaintiffs were subject to a “common policy or plan that violated the law” for the purposes of 216(b).  Winfield v. Citibank, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16449 at *19-22.

In opposing conditional certification, Citibank argued that “the plaintiffs are not similarly situated to one another and to other potential opt-in plaintiffs because their testimony reveals inconsistencies regarding the plaintiffs’ motives for working overtime; how much overtime, if any, they were paid; and what job duties they performed, among other purported discrepancies.”  Id. at *16-17.  However, Judge Koeltl found that Citibank was effectively posing the wrong question, as “the relevant ‘issue . . . is not whether Plaintiffs and [potential opt-in plaintiffs] were identical in all respects, but rather whether they were subjected to a common policy to deprive them of overtime pay when they worked more than 40 hours per week.’”  Id. at *16 (citing Raniere v. Citigroup, No. 11 Civ. 2448, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135393, at *16 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 22, 2011)).

The decision concludes that the plaintiffs met “their minimal burden of showing that they are similarly situated to one another and to potential opt-in plaintiffs.”  Id. at *17.