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News | Sep 16, 2012

A COLLECTION OF CASES IN WHICH COURTS TOLL THE FLSA LIMITATIONS PERIOD

Here are some cases in which district courts have tolled the FLSA limitations period:

In Bolletino v. Cellular Sales of Knoxville, Inc., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 112132 (E.D.Tenn. Aug. 9, 2012), the defendant sought to stay all proceedings pending the resolution of their motion to dismiss.  See id. at *3-8.  The district court generally granted the stay, see id., but, in doing so, also granted the plaintiffs request that the FLSA limitations period be tolled, see id. at *8-12.  The court reasoned:  “In this case, the Court finds that the request for equitable tolling is well-taken. The Court finds the potential opt-in plaintiffs almost certainly lack notice or constructive knowledge of the filing requirement and lack knowledge of the FLSA or their potential claim. The Court further finds that the named Plaintiffs have been diligent in pursuing their rights. There will be essentially no prejudice to the Defendants because discovery has been stayed at their request, and the equitable tolling will not increase the number of persons who had claims against the Defendants. It will simply prevent preclusion of claims based upon the delay in discovery and any collective action certification.”  Id. at *11-12; see also Struck v. PNC Bank N.A., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41666, *10 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 19, 2013) (“[t]he extreme delay in receipt of actual notice in this case – through no fault of the potential plaintiffs – will prove highly prejudicial.”).

Likewise, in Stickle v. SCI Western Mkt. Support Ctr., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83315 (D. Ariz. Sept. 30, 2008), conditional certification was delayed by the district court’s consideration of defendant’s motion to dismiss.  See id. at *2-4.  After denying the motion to dismiss, the court turned to whether the FLSA’s limitations period should be tolled to account for the delay.  See id. at *61.  The court ruled that tolling was appropriate.  See id. at *61-65.  In making this ruling, the court explained that judges “have equitably tolled the statute of limitations in a FLSA action when doing so is in the interest of justice,” id. at *63 (citing cases), and reasoned as follows: “The Court finds it appropriate in the interest of justice to toll the statute of limitations here. Defendants here will not be prejudiced by an equitable toll.  See, e.g., Baden-Winterwood, 484 F. Supp. 2d 822, 828 (S.D. Oh. 2007) (defendant was fully aware of its scope of potential liability on the date the suit was filed). If not tolled, the statute of limitations could act to deprive consenting employees of their right of action.  Partlow, 645 F.2d at 761; see also Lee v. ABC Carpet & Home, 236 F.R.D. 193, 199 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) (holding that “the time during which a party is prevented from obtaining legal relief is not counted for purposes of statutes of limitations.”).  Here, the Court has not made a determination as to Plaintiffs’ collective action notification pending its determination of Defendants” Motions to Dismiss.  As the Supreme Court noted in Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc. v. Sperling, 493 U.S. 165, 170, 110 S. Ct. 482, 107 L. Ed. 2d 480 (1989), the inherent benefits of  the collective action “will disappear” if plaintiffs are not notified of the suit before their statute of limitations expires. Similarly, here, without tolling the statute of limitations, Plaintiffs will have lost the time between the filing of the Motions to Dismiss on February 8, 2008 until the filing of the instant Motion that they could have used to notify potential class members. Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ Motion for an Equitable Toll of the Statute of Limitations is granted. Plaintiffs’ statute of limitations is hereby tolled from the date Defendants filed their Motions to Dismiss, February 8, 2008, until the date Plaintiffs re-file their motion for expedited collective action notification.” Id. at *64-65.

In Abadeer v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 136978 (M.D. Tenn. Dec. 14, 2010), the district court tolled the FLSA limitations period for seven months in conjunction with allowing defendant to take pre-conditional certification discovery.  See id. at *7-8.  Next, after the court granted conditional certification, defendant further delayed the proceedings by seeking an unsuccessful appeal of the conditional certification decision.  See id. at *8-9.  The court, citing pertinent caselaw, tolled the limitations period to account for these delays.  See id. at *9-15; accord Roslies-Perez v. Superior Forestry Service, Inc., 652 F. Supp. 2d 887, 899 (M.D. Tenn. July 28, 2009).

In Ruffin v. Entertainment of the Eastern Panhandle, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1511 (N.D.W.V. Jan. 5, 2012), the district court decided to delay resolution of plaintiffs’ conditional certification motion until after it resolved certain “set-off” issues stemming from the defendant’s asserted counterclaims.  See id. at *4-5.  However, in order to ensure that employees were not prejudiced by this approach, the court tolled the FLSA limitations period.  See id. at *6-9.  The court recognized that “[s]everal courts have allowed equitable tolling of FLSA claims where the case’s litigation posture has delayed the court’s consideration of the motion for conditional certification and notice.”  Id. at *6-7 (citing cases).  Relying on such authority, the court reasoned: “Like the cases listed above, this action presents a proper situation in which to apply the doctrine of equitable tolling. Ruffin moved for conditional certification on August 26, 2011, which the parties fully briefed by September 23, 2011. However, this Court subsequently decided that the FLSA setoff issue should be resolved before determining whether conditional certification should be granted. As such, this Court ordered briefing scheduled to conclude on February 28, 2012. As a result, claims of putative opt-in plaintiffs could become time-barred before those potentially similarly-situated individuals receive notice of this action. This constitutes a circumstance beyond those individuals’ control. Accordingly, this Court holds that the FLSA statute of limitations should be equitably tolled pending a determination on conditional certification.” Id. at *7-8.

The above decisions provide just a few examples of district courts exercising their authority to toll the FLSA limitations period where (i) plaintiffs’ counsel have acted diligently in seeking conditional certification and (ii) resolution of the conditional certification motion is delayed through no fault of plaintiffs or their counsel.

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