Lyons v. Citizens Financial Group: District Judge Responds to Court of Appeals, finds that Dukes Rigor is Met

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Wal-Mart v. Dukes increasingly looks more like a source of heightened, though manageable, class certification criteria than the “death knell” for class actions that was predicted when it was issued. More evidence to support this trend has come with a federal judge’s supplemental analysis of his earlier grant of class certification to a class of Assistant Branch Managers who alleged that they were misclassified as exempt from receiving overtime pay. See Lyons v. Citizens Fin. Grp., No. 11-11187 (D. Mass. Nov. 9, 2012) (memorandum re class certification analysis). The court granted class certification on July 9, 2012, and issued this memorandum in response to the appellate court’s request for a “supplemental memorandum reflecting a more detailed and ‘rigorous’ Fed. R. Civ. P. 23 analysis of the sort contemplated in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes 131 S. Ct.” Lyons v. Citizens Fin. Grp., No. 12-8028 (1st Cir. Oct. 1, 2012) (order requesting supplemental analysis).

As directed by the First Circuit, Judge George A. O’Toole, Jr. applied Massachusetts substantive law governing the proper exemption from overtime pay, and Federal Rule 23 as expounded in Dukes, in his response to the defendant’s Rule 23(f) appeal, and in doing so, substantiated his earlier certification ruling with the rigor mandated by Dukes. Judge O’Toole’s supplemental memorandum affirms his earlier certification ruling, addressing and rejecting a common argument posited by defendants in exemption-based overtime cases. He notes that affidavits proffered by both sides “may prove that an ABM’s work at one branch is not identical to another ABM’s work at another branch, but they do not show that the primary duties are dissimilar.” Memo at 4. Indeed, Judge O’Toole’s disposition of this frequently raised defense to certifying wage-and-hour classes would make for a concise response in many reply briefs supporting a class certification motion.