Court Approves Class Notice and Enlarges Period Covered by FLSA Claim in Overtime Class Action

Update, Sept. 21, 2007: Defendants have moved for reconsideration, and the briefing is complete. We are waiting for a decision.


In April 2007, I joined Alan Fuchsberg of the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Firm in New York City, in representing the plaintiffs and their class in a case claiming failure to pay overtime to carpet installers in the New York City area. The case, Byfield and Lee v. ABC Carpets, had originally been filed in February 2000 under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Labor Law. The court had previously denied defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and had previously certified the class and approved the collective action. The defendants maintain that the installers are independent contractors, not employees, and that therefore they were not required to pay overtime. That issue will be resolved at trial.

On August 6, 2007, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan approved plaintiffs’ plan for Class Notice, requiring defendants to make their records available to allow notice to be sent, allowing plaintiffs’ counsel to communicate with class members, and approving the text of plaintiffs’ proposed Class Notice.

The New York Labor Law claims go back to February 9, 1994, six years before the filing of suit. The Fair Labor Standards Act claims are subject to a two-year period of limitations, which can be extended to three years if the violation of the FLSA is willful, and the period of limitations keeps running until each individual files a Consent Form allowing his or her individual rights to be litigated within the FLSA “collective action.”

Here, the court granted plaintiffs’ request that the period of limitations be tolled on equitable grounds, effectively bringing a much longer period within the scope of the FLSA. The Order stated in part:

“3. The Court determines that equitable tolling is proper from September 26, 2000, to date, for the filing of consent forms, because of the agreement of counsel, in a document made known to the Court, that counsel for plaintiffs would not contact those Carpet Installation Mechanics who were currently working with defendants without going through defense counsel, and defendants’ continuation of that agreement to the present.”

“4. If for any reason an appellate court determines that equitable tolling from September 26, 2000, to date is not proper, the Court determines that equitable tolling is proper from October 31, 2000, to date, because of defendants’ refusal on that date to provide the name, last known address and telephone number of each Carpet Installation Mechanic, as plaintiffs had requested in discovery, and defendants’ continuation of that refusal to the present.”

This should allow a much more complete remedy, if plaintiffs can prove their claims.

The Court has not decided any issue on the merits, so a trial will be necessary to see if plaintiffs win or lose.

Note: Past results are no guarantee of future results, because the outcome of cases depends on the facts and the law applicable to those cases.

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Richard T. Seymour
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