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Division 618 v. Rhode Island Public Transit Authority

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

October 10, 2018

DIVISION 618, AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION, KEVIN COLE ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
RHODE ISLAND PUBLIC TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Defendant. v.

          ORDER

          WILLIAM E. SMITH CHIEF JUDGE

         The Court has reviewed the Motion for Certification of Settlement Class and Preliminary Certification of Fair Labor Standards Act Collective Action, and for Preliminary Approval of Proposed Settlement. (“Joint Mot.”) (ECF No. 6.) This Motion was filed jointly by the Defendant, Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (“RIPTA”) and the Plaintiff, Division 618, Amalgamated Transit Union (the “Union”) and three members of its bargaining unit who are individually named Plaintiffs in this suit (collectively, “Plaintiffs”), individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated. For the reasons set forth below, the Court conditionally certifies the settlement class, preliminarily certifies the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) collective action, and preliminarily approves the proposed settlement.

         I. Certification

         The parties have requested an order certifying the Rule 23 settlement class and preliminarily certifying the FLSA collective action. The Court recognizes that the parties have stipulated that the individuals who make up both classes are in the Union's bargaining unit and were employed as full-time bus operators for RIPTA between April 24, 2015 and the date of the Settlement Agreement and General Release (“Settlement Agreement”).

         A. The Court Grants Certification of the Rule 23 Class Action

         When seeking class certification, it must be demonstrated that the proposed class meets the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 23(a) and one of the three categories in Rule 23(b). Rule 23(a) permits one or more members of a class to represent all class members' interests if (1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable; (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class; (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class. Additionally, the applicable category of Rule 23(b)(3) requires that questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members and that a class action is superior to other available methods for fairly and efficiently adjudicating the controversy.

         First, this putative class consists of approximately 500 bus operators, and attempting to join all members of the class can reasonably be viewed as impracticable. Thus, the standard for numerosity is satisfied.

         Second, the legal claims in this matter depend on factual contention that RIPTA did not compensate its bus operators under the Union's collective bargaining agreement for their split-shift travel time. Additionally, all plaintiffs face the common legal issue of whether the alleged failure to pay split-shift travel time violates both the FLSA and Rhode Island law. There is accordingly commonality of factual and legal issues within the class.

         Third, each named plaintiff, like other RIPTA bus operators in the putative class, allege that they did not receive compensation for their travel to and from RIPTA's Elmwood garage and Kennedy Plaza. The Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) stipulates the trip takes eighteen minutes, a typical period across all class members. Therefore, there is typicality among the class representatives' claims and those of the class.

         Fourth, the class representatives are aligned with the class members and are not seeking incentive payments. Their proposed settlement compensation is the same as all other putative class members. Furthermore, Plaintiff's counsel is highly qualified and able to carry out their corresponding duties as class counsel. The Court thus finds it is reasonable to believe that the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.

         Lastly, each putative plaintiff has the same causes of action against RIPTA based on the practice or policy of not paying operators for split-shift travel time during the settlement period. All putative class members belong to the same bargaining unit of Plaintiff's Union and have regularly disputed issues with management collectively. Moreover, no putative class members have initiated suit against RIPTA on any similar grounds outside of this matter.

         Therefore, because common questions of fact and law predominate for all putative class members and after examining the interests listed in Rule 23(b)(3)(A-D), this Court finds that a class action is superior to other methods of adjudicating this dispute.

         For these reasons, this Court hereby certifies the following Rule 23 settlement class: individuals in the Union's bargaining unit who were employed as full-time RIPTA bus operators and worked at any time between April 24, 2015 and the date of the Settlement Agreement. This Court also appoints Division 618, Amalgamated Transit Union and Kevin Cole, James Thornley, and Tracey Blackledge as class representatives, and appoints Gerard P. Cobleigh of ...


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