Popular sandwich delivery company Jimmy John’s Enterprises was denied the request to consolidate claims stemming from the chain’s employees, stating they are misclassified under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and thus denied basic minimum wage and overtime pay. Jimmy John’s argued that two FLSA misclassification lawsuits against the company were “substantially identical;” however, U.S. District Judge Charles P. Korocas denied the consolidation request without a stated reason.
In July 2014, plaintiffs Emily Brunner and Caitlin Turowski filed a putative class action on behalf of current and former Jimmy John’s assistant managers allegedly misclassified by the sandwich chain and its franchisees JS Fort Group Inc., JJ Severson Affiliates Five Inc. and JJ Severson Affiliates Inc. to avoid having to pay minimum wage and overtime pay, but still require them to work long shifts. The same claims were made in another Jimmy John’s FLSA lawsuit filed by plaintiff Alexander Whiton in February 2015, which was later consolidated with the previous suit.
Meanwhile, in Florida federal court, three plaintiffs filed yet another Jimmy John’s FLSA lawsuit in January, but later dismissed that lawsuit and took the opportunity to join a proposed collective action filed by Scott Watson in Ohio federal court in March of this year.
Jimmy John’s argued that the facts in the Watson case and the Brunner case were similar enough in nature that all the lawsuits should be consolidated into one litigation.
However, Watson’s counsel was against Jimmy John’s attempts to consolidate its case with Brunner’s, saying the Watson case is a simple unpaid overtime case, while the Brunner case is a “complicated, multilayered matter involving corporate defendants, multiple franchisees, unique pleading theories, a purported Rule 23 defendant class, claims for injunctive and declaratory relief from noncompete clauses, and state law claims.” This, Watson counsel said, would delay its case and result in diminished claims for its plaintiffs.
Jimmy John’s disagreed with the Watson counsel’s claims of integral differences in the two cases. According to Jimmy John’s, the case still relies on the same “joint employer” theory causing the issue of alleged misclassification.
“The Watson litigation would not be delayed by consolidation, but rather would benefit from it, by enabling the Watson plaintiffs to take advantage of the discovery that has already taken place in Brunner, and allow the parties to proceed to a determination of that key question as quickly as possible,” the chain replied to Watson’s opposition to consolidate the Jimmy John’s FLSA lawsuits.
Judge Korocas apparently disagreed.
Source: Law 360