United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division
CONSTANTINO SANCHEZ-RODRIGUEZ, JOSE ALBERTO AGUILERA-HERNANDEZ, ULISES EDGARDO CRUZ-GONZALEZ, ESMTH GONZALEZ-RODRIGUEZ, VALENTIN ALVARADO-HERNANDEZ, DANIEL RODRIGUEZ-GARCIA, and ESDRAS SAffl MENDIOLA-BORDES, on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated persons, Plaintiffs,
JACKSON'S FARMING COMPANY OF AUTRYVILLE a/k/a JACKSON'S FARMING COMPANY OF AUTRYVILLE, WILLIAM BRENT JACKSON, and WILLIAM RODNEY JACKSON, Defendants.
C. DEVER III Chief United States District Judge
January 18, 2017, the parties filed a joint motion for class
certification [D.E. 37]. As explained below, the motion is
lawsuit concerns collective and class action claims pursuant
to the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLS A"), 29 U.S
.C. § § 201, et secu, the North Carolina Wage and
Hour Act ("NCWHA"), N.C. Gen. Stat. §§
95-25.1, et seq., and the North Carolina common law of
contracts. Plaintiffs are migrant agricultural workers who
worked for defendants, a farm and its individual officers or
owners, pursuant to the H-2A guest worker program, in and
around Sampson County, North Carolina. The FLSA collective
claim, along with the first NCWHA class claim, seeks payment
of back wages and liquidated damages based upon
defendants' alleged failure to timely pay the class
members the named plaintiffs seek to represent weekly wages
that were at least the minimum wage rate required by 29
U.S.C. § 206(a). The second NCWHA class claim seeks back
wages and liquidated damages based upon the alleged failure
of defendants to pay all wages when due at the wage rate that
was disclosed to all named plaintiffs, except
Aguilera-Hernandez, and the class members they seek to
represent for all hours worked for those workweeks in which
they performed piece work for defendants. The third NCWHA
class claim seeks back wages and liquidated damages based
upon the alleged failure to pay the named plaintiffs and the
class they seek to represent for travel time "all in a
day's work." Finally, the "Contract Class"
claim seeks back wages for the alleged failure to pay the
named plaintiffs and the class they seek to represent all
wages due at the adverse effect wage rate ("AEWR")
or contract rate to which plaintiffs were entitled as a
condition of their employment. Defendants deny liability for
parties have negotiated a settlement agreement in this action
that includes class-wide relief. For settlement purposes
only, defendants consent to and join in the joint motion for
class certification pursuant to the settlement agreement
reached between the parties, which is the result of a
compromise to resolve the disputes between them and does not
constitute an admission of any liability by any party.
parties' settlement calls for the certification of a
class, pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure and 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). The class is defined
All migrant or seasonal agricultural workers who performed
temporary or seasonal work in agriculture under the H-2A
guest worker program for Jackson Farming Company of
Autryville, William Brent Jackson, or William Rodney Jackson
at any time during calendar years 2015 and through September
pursuant to the settlement agreement, the parties now seek to
certify a class under the NCWHA for underpaid wages and
liquidated damages under N.C. Gen. Stat. §§
95-25.22(a) and 95-25.22(al) and Rule 23(b)(3).
settlement is reached before Rule 23 certification, the law
permits a class to be certified solely for settlement
purposes. Covarrubias v. Capt. Charlie's Seafood.
Inc.. No. 2:10-CV-10-F, 2011 WL 2690531, at *2 (E.D.
N.C. July 6, 2011) (unpublished). The parties seeking class
certification still must meet the four prerequisites of Rule
23(a)(1)-(4) and then must establish that they constitute a
proper class of at least one of the types described in Rule
23 (b)(1)-(3). Nonetheless, courts need not inquire whether
the class will be manageable at trial because settlement
makes a trial unnecessary. See Amchem Prods.. Inc. v.
Windsor. 521 U.S. 591, 620 (1997).
court must make two initial findings before determining
whether to certify a class action: that a precisely defined
class exists, and that the class representative is a member
of the proposed class. Havwood v. Barnes. 109 F.R.D.
568, 576 (E.D. N.C. 1986); see E. Tex. Motor Freight
Sys.. Inc. v. Rodriguez. 431 U.S. 395, 403 (1977).
the proposed class is defined as all migrant or seasonal
agricultural workers who performed temporary or seasonal work
in agriculture under the H-2A guest worker program for
Jackson's Farming Company of Autryville, William Brent
Jackson, or William Rodney Jackson at any time during
calendar years 2015 and through September 28, 2016, and is,
therefore, sufficiently precise. Haywood. 109 F.R.D.
at 576. Plaintiffs worked for defendants as temporary or
seasonal agricultural workers during the relevant time
period. Therefore, they are members of the class they seek to
court may certify a class under Rule 23 if it is satisfied
that the prerequisites of Rule 23(a) have been satisfied.
See Gen. Tel. Co. of the Southwest v. Falcon. 457
U.S. 147, 161 (1982). However, the trial court does not
examine the merits of the underlying claims when it decides a
motion for class certification. See Eisen v. Carlisle
& Jacquelin. 417 U.S. 156, 177-78 (1974).
should "give Rule 23 a liberal rather than a restrictive
construction, adopting a standard of flexibility in
application which will in the particular case best serve the
ends of justice for the affected parties and... promote
judicial efficiency." Gunnells v. Healthplan Servs..
Inc.. 348 F.3d 417, 424 (4th Cir. 2003) (quotations
omitted) (omission in original); In re A.H. Robins.880 F.2d 709, 740 (4th Cir. 1989); see Kidwell v.
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