A federal judge in Texarkana denied a request to certify a civil suit filed by seven U.S. Postal Service mail carriers as a class action lawsuit.The suit alleged the carriers had been forced to work more than 40 hours per week without overtime compensation, had timecards altered to their detriment by a supervisor, been forced to work through lunch to complete their routes and been required to work off the clock.The U.S. Postal Service has denied the allegations. From Texarkana Gazette
The suit was filed on behalf of seven Texas mail carriers, Doyle Hickson, Rafael Campos, Michelle Ferguson, Burnis Hall, Carol Meadows, Jamie Mendez, and Gerardo Trevino, and about 20,000 “others similarly situated” in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico. Over 600 postal employees opted into the class action suit.
The putative class members are all persons who are or have been employed as City Carriers by the USPS as non-exempt employees in the Southwest Area at any time during the
Class Period that commences as of three years prior to the filing date of the complaint and continues until the final disposition of this case.
In the lawsuit the letter carriers allege that USPS:
- had overtime disallowed,
- had time improperly changed by a supervisor,
- been required to work through lunch to complete their route,
- worked while off-the-clock, and/or
- worked overtime and not been paid.
Additionally the suit alleges that USPS failed to compensate letter carriers and the putative class members for ‘off the clock’ labor; required letter carriers and the putative class members to work through lunch to complete their overburdened routes; and improperly altered the time records of Plaintiffs and the putative class members to deprive them of full compensation.
The seven letter carriers were seeking to approval for the case to proceed as a collective action for overtime compensation under the FLSA. The lawsuit was also seeking authorization to issue notice and Consent To Join forms to all non-exempt USPS City Carriers in the USPS Southwest Region of Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
USPS argued that it does try to build in a thirty-minute lunch break into City Carrier routes although there is no guarantee a particular city carrier will get the break.
It was also argued that “USPS must not only pay employees for all time worked as required by the FLSA, but it must also pay a more generous overtime benefit than what the FLSA requires.”
“In just about any organization as large and diffuse as [the USPS], mistakes will occasionally be made, and employees will occasionally not receive compensation to which they are entitled under the FLSA.” In those situations, the employees can sue and recover the wages that are owed. “But to go further and receive conditional certification of a large nationwide class, those employees must ‘come forward with evidence establishing a colorable basis for their claim that the putative class members were together the victims of a single decision, policy, or plan.’”
In other words, some City Carriers may claim they had an overtime request disallowed, but they actually worked overtime anyway and were not paid. Other City Carriers may claim they were not paid for earned overtime and also that their supervisors improperly altered their time records. Other City Carriers may have been denied overtime requests by their supervisor but then worked a little harder to still get it done in eight hours, not actually working in excess of forty hours that work week. For example, one City Carrier may have worked through lunch on a particular day because the high mail volume required him or her to finish the job in eight hours. That same carrier may have worked less than eight hours on another day of the week because the mail volume was not overwhelming. Given Plaintiffs’ allegations, and their use of the “and/or” construction, there are endless variations of these types of scenarios, making Plaintiffs’ allegations.
In support of the letter carriers allegations, five declarations (from NALC Branch Presidents, a union steward and a retired Postal Manager within the Southwest Area) state he or she understands that letter carriers throughout the Southwest Region are experiencing and being subjected to the same overtime issues by the USPS and that many letter carriers are afraid to complain of these overtime issues because of fear and threat of retaliation from their supervisors.
In his declaration, a long term USPS supervisor and manager of supervisors in the Southwest Region, states:
he is aware of unreasonable demands made by the USPS to deliver the mail without overtime and that many supervisors require their city letter carriers to work their overburdened mail routes without incurring overtime. . Mr. ______s states he never employed any of the USPS alleged practices, and he believes the USPS forced him to retire in 2009 because of his unwillingness to employ those practices.
However, the federal Court denied the request to certify case as class action. The court’s ruling stated:
The “myriad reasons alleged why the deponents and declarants were not paid for untaken meal breaks” did not provide a colorable basis that the plaintiffs and the potential collective action members were together the victims of a single decision, policy, or plan.
Similarly, Plaintiffs’ overarching allegation of a USPS practice of overburdening the delivery routes is insufficient to substantially allege a common practice. The Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge there is no single practice about the alleged denial of earned overtime compensation from which a collective action can emanate.