United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
BARBARA MCKNIGHT and SHEILA ANDERSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHER PERSONS SIMILARLY SITUATED, Plaintiffs,
HONEYWELL SAFETY PRODUCTS USA, INC.; et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
WILLIAM E. SMITH, Chief Judge.
Barbara McKnight and Sheila Anderson recently worked as
buyers at Defendants' Cranston and Smithfield, Rhode
Island facilities. (Second Am. Collective Action Compl.
(“SAC”) ¶¶ 7, 8, ECF No. 28.) They are
suing their former employer for violations of the Fair Labor
Standards Act and Rhode Island's Minimum Wage Act and
Payment of Wages Act for failure to pay overtime wages. (SAC
¶¶ 54, 64, 67.) Plaintiff McKnight, who initiated
this lawsuit while she was still employed by Defendants, also
alleges that Defendants retaliated against her for starting
this litigation, which led to her constructive discharge.
(Id. ¶¶ 76, 77.)
the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Conditional
Certification and Notice to be Issued to Similarly Situated
Employees Pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) (ECF No. 18)
(“Plaintiffs' Motion”). On June 13, 2017,
Magistrate Judge Patricia A. Sullivan filed a Report and
Recommendation (“R&R”), recommending that
Plaintiffs' Motion be denied without prejudice because
there was insufficient evidence from which she could
conclude, even on the lenient standard applicable to a motion
for conditional class certification, that other buyers
employed by Defendants are similarly situated to Plaintiffs.
(R&R 16, 21, ECF No. 49.) Magistrate Judge Sullivan
suggested that Plaintiffs could renew their Motion if
discovery reveals additional support for their claims that
other buyers are similarly situated such that the alleged
violations of employment law occurred to them as well.
(Id. at 21.)
filed an objection to the R&R, arguing that the
Magistrate Judge misstated and misapplied the applicable law,
as well as failed to properly consider the evidence submitted
by Plaintiffs in support of their motion. The Court reviews
de novo the parts of the R&R to which an objection is
made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
reviewing Plaintiffs' Motion, Defendants' objection,
the exhibits submitted by both parties, the R&R, and
Plaintiffs' objection thereto, the Court agrees with the
Magistrate Judge's analysis and recommendation that
Plaintiffs' Motion be denied without prejudice to
refiling after further discovery has been completed.
Plaintiffs' argument emphasizing the lenient standard for
the preliminary showing required at this first tier of the
two-tier approach to conditional class certification pursuant
to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) is well-taken. But, the Court
finds that Plaintiffs' objection simply re-summarizes the
statements in their declarations and the substantive
corporate policies submitted as exhibits and concludes that
Plaintiffs have not yet shown that other “buyers”
employed by Defendants are or were similarly situated to
R&R (ECF No. 49) is, therefore, ACCEPTED. Plaintiffs'
Motion for Conditional Certification and Notice to be Issued
to Similarly Situated Employees Pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §
216(b) (ECF No. 18) is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
PATRICIA A. SULLIVAN, United States Magistrate Judge.
the Court for report and recommendation is the motion of
Plaintiffs Barbara McKnight and Sheila Anderson for
conditional certification and notice to be issued to
similarly situated employees pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §
216(b), the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).
Plaintiffs have sued their former employer,  Honeywell Safety
Products USA, Inc. and Honey International, Inc., as well as
three senior Honeywell managers (collectively,
“Honeywell”). Plaintiffs allege that they and
other non-management buyers and procurement personnel whose
primary duty is to procure goods on behalf of Honeywell were
misclassified as exempt from FLSA provisions, and were
required to work in excess of forty hours per week without
the overtime premium to which they were entitled. Claiming
that they and the other members of the proposed collective
are similarly situated, Plaintiffs ask the Court to
conditionally certify this class as a FLSA collective action
so that a Court-approved notice can be sent to the members of
Plaintiffs were employed by Honeywell as buyers based in
Rhode Island, McKnight from September 2013 until she resigned
in September 2016, Anderson from January 2010 until May 2016.
McKnight Aff. I ¶ 3; Compl. ¶ 76; Anderson Aff.
¶ 2. In the Complaint, they allege that they “and
others similarly situated” had the primary duty of
submitting orders to vendors for certain products listed in
the purchase orders they received. Compl. ¶ 23.
described by McKnight and Anderson in their affidavits, their
work was primarily data entry and routine clerical tasks,
involving the entry of requests into an operating system that
generated a purchase order, which was approved by one or more
managers in accordance with Honeywell's policy. McKnight
Aff. II ¶ 7; Anderson Aff. ¶¶ 10-11. Both aver
that, towards the end of their tenure at Honeywell, there
were changes; for example, Anderson described being required
to ask vendors for a lower price, but still with no authority
to actually negotiate, Anderson Aff. ¶ 13, while
McKnight noted that much of the discretionary procurement
work was outsourced to India, where procurement auctions were
conducted. McKnight Aff. II ¶ 8. Both claim that their
work as Honeywell buyers did not ever require any great skill
or the exercise of independent judgment, did not include any
managerial responsibilities, did not involve the hiring and
firing of others, and did not involve any discretion
regarding amounts purchased, purchase price or payment terms.
Rather, they aver that procurement was strictly controlled by
corporate-wide procurement policies and procedures that
required management approval of any purchase, no matter how
small. McKnight Aff. I ¶¶ 5, 7, 8; McKnight Aff. II
¶¶ 3, 5; Anderson Aff. ¶¶ 5-10, 12. Both
allege that Honeywell paid them a salary and considered them
FLSA-exempt, but that they were expected, indeed required, to
work more than forty hours per week and never received
overtime pay for work in excess of forty hours per week.
McKnight Aff. I ¶ 9; McKnight Aff. II ¶¶ 3, 5;
Anderson Aff. ¶¶ 2-3. Neither McKnight nor Anderson
avers that she has personal knowledge of Honeywell
procurement procedures beyond the confines of her own job.
the unverified Complaint that adds the critical assertion
that all of Honeywell's employees who are engaged in
procurement, but are not managers, are “similarly
situated” to Plaintiffs, in that they perform the same
non-managerial routine clerical duties, such as data entry,
and have no discretionary authority to deviate from
Honeywell's policies and no authority to commit Honeywell
in matters of significant financial impact. Compl.
¶¶ 22-33. Yet, as with Plaintiffs, Honeywell treats
them all as exempt, pays them a salary, expects them to work
more than forty hours per week, keeps no records of such
extra work and pays no overtime. Compl. ¶¶ 25-28.
The Complaint claims that Honeywell's procurement
personnel have the following job titles: Buyer, Senior Buyer,
Buyer I, Buyer II and Site Buyer. Compl. ¶ 36. In the
class certification record, there is no job description for
any of these positions.
buttress the “similarly-situated” allegations in
their Complaint, Plaintiffs submit three documents.
first is a form prepared by the insurance company, Cigna,
acting as the manager of Honeywell's disability program.
The version of the form in the record lists the “Job
Requirements” for McKnight, based on her job title
(listed as “Site Buyer”) as filled out by her
supervisor, Lynn Sylvain, on September 29, 2015. ECF No.
37-1. The form requires the checking of boxes with respect to
the physical requirements (such as the ability to lift, sit
and stand), as well as the temperament and aptitudes needed
for McKnight's position. As pertinent to the pending
motion, the boxes checked seem inconsistent. For example, the
completed form indicates that the position required such
temperament characteristics as: “accept responsibility
for control, direction, or planning of an activity”;
“perform under stress when confronted with emergencies
or unusual situation”; and “make generalizations,
judgements, or decisions based on subjective or objective
criteria such as with the five senses or factual data.”
Yet, it also called for a worker able to “perform
repetitive or continuous activity according to set
procedures” and “perform without room for
independent action or judgement.” ECF No. 37-1. The
form describes a “Site Buyer” as a worker who is
required to “provide administrative support services
including: answering the phone, e-mails, computer data entry,
report writing.” ECF No. 37-1. It states that the work
hours for a “Site Buyer” are “typically
8:30 - 5:00, M-F.” ECF No. 37-1.
second document establishes that Honeywell has company-wide
human resource policies, which cover an array of matters such
as workplace harassment and alcohol and drugs in the
workplace. Plaintiffs attach the full text only of the policy
for employees classified as non-exempt, which makes clear
that all non-exempt time worked must be recorded and overtime
must be paid for non-exempt work over forty hours per week.
ECF No. 37-4.
third document is actually a set of documents. Collectively,
they establish that Honeywell has company-wide procurement
policies with strict protocols requiring that all purchases
must be confirmed by a contract or purchase order signed by
authorized personnel. ECF No. 37-3 (sealed). However, the
submission provides no information regarding whether buyers
may ever issue a purchase order without an approval, or what
approvals are required for what dollar amount - in short,
these policies establish only that there are policies in
place and that buyers must adhere to them. In her third
affidavit, with no indication of the scope of her personal
knowledge, McKnight avers that buyers have no limit on the
amount they may spend for the products or services they are
authorized to purchase, but that all purchases, no matter how
small, are required to be approved by management, and the
higher the value, the more approvals are needed. McKnight
Aff. III ¶¶ 1-2; accord Anderson ¶
counters Plaintiffs' factual proffer with nine
declarations from Honeywell buyers and procurement managers
from all over the United States. These declarations establish
that Honeywell has many different business groups, each of
which does its own procurement both for raw materials for its
manufacturing sectors (called “direct”
purchasing), and for items necessary to conduct its business,
such as office supplies (“indirect” purchasing).
See, e.g., Havlik Decl. ¶¶ 2-6; Barton
Decl. ¶¶ 3-4; Marionneaux Decl. ¶¶ 3-7;
Chapman Decl. ¶ 4. As described in these declarations,
Honeywell's approach to procurement differs across
business lines in part due to its acquisition of businesses
that retained legacy procedures, and in part because
different managers may adopt differing procedures depending
on the skills of the employees who carry out these functions.
example, buyers in the Aerospace Group are expected to be
“extremely strategic, ” to research, select and
engage suppliers, and to negotiate both prices and terms.
Barton Decl. ¶¶ 3-4. While some of the work is
clerical, most is not and an employee who fails to exercise
discretion and authority is subject to discipline. Barton
Decl. ¶¶ 5-6. Audrey Koczan, an indirect buyer in
Aerospace, confirmed that she has discretion to source
suppliers and to decide on the method to solicit proposals
(for example, by a request for quotations or by an auction);
she is expected to use judgment to analyze proposals and to
negotiate price and terms, as well as to negotiate collateral
agreements addressing such issues as the need for a
nondisclosure agreement. Koczan Decl. ¶¶
Similarly, Thang Ly, also an Aerospace indirect buyer, avers
that he is tasked with the purchase of engineering services,
including to ensure that the engineers engaged can timely
provide the necessary expertise and quality. Ly Decl. ¶
2. Ly decides whether to run auctions or to negotiate
directly and chooses the most qualified supplier, which may
not be the cheapest. He also negotiates terms and contract
language, sometimes with the assistance of the legal
department. Ly Decl. ¶¶ 2-6. Ly selects the
engineering services necessary to allow Honeywell to satisfy
the requirements in its contracts with commercial and
governmental customers. Ly Decl. ¶¶ 2-6.
Performance Materials & Technologies Group
(“PMT”), managers have varying expectations and
impose differing levels of responsibilities on buyers, some
of whom are responsible for negotiation, procurement and
execution of contracts worth up to several million dollars.
Marionneaux Decl. ¶¶ 1-3. While there is some
routine paperwork required of buyers in PMT, each position
has savings goals and buyers have discretion and autonomy as
to how to achieve the goals. Marionneaux Decl. ¶¶
4-5. These buyers do not work a set schedule and are free to
work at home or to leave during the work day; they are
expected to manage the workload with little managerial
oversight. Marionneaux Decl. ¶ 7. Toni Higgins, an
indirect buyer who works in PMT, confirmed that she works
independently and is allowed to use whatever means she
chooses to select the best vendors able to make timely
delivery at the most advantageous prices and terms. Higgins
Decl. ¶¶ 2-5. She has the discretion to overrule a
request from the business for a specific supplier and the
responsibility to decide what to do if a chosen vendor fails
to perform. Higgins Decl. ¶¶ 6-8.
Automation and Control Solutions Group (“ACS”),
declarations were submitted from managers in three separate
business units, each with different approaches to
procurement. For example, in Sensing and Productivity
Solutions, direct buyers function as mini-program managers.
They oversee sourcing of supplies for Honeywell operations
with authority and discretion to arrange purchases in line
with product forecasts and to ensure that operations proceed
with a smooth flow of supplies; such purchases regularly
exceed $1 million. Allen Decl. ¶¶ 2-3. Indirect
Buyers vary widely in terms of the degree of discretion and
authority they are permitted. Depending on the capacity of
the individual, they are given discretion and authority to
select suppliers and negotiate contracts up to $25, 000 per
purchase order. Allen Decl. ¶¶ 4-6. Similarly,
buyers in the ACS ...