United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
ANDREW PRESSON and KIMBERLY MYRIS, ; on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
RECOVERY CONNECTIONS COMMUNITY; JOURNEY TO RECOVERY, LLC; JENNIFER A. WARREN; PHILLIP J. WARREN; 3M & N, INC. d/b/a ZAXB Y' S; WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA LIONS, INC. d/b/a MARJORIE MCCUNE MEMORIAL CENTER; INTEGRITY-HOMINY VALLEY, LLC d/b/a HOMINY VALLEY RETIREMENT CENTER; INTEGRITY-CANDLER 02 LLC d/b/a HOMINY VALLEY RETIREMENT CENTER; INTEGRITY-CANDLER LIVING CENTER, LLC d/b/a CANDLER LIVING CENTER; INTEGRITY-CANDLER 01 LLC d/b/a CANDLER LIVING CENTER; INTEGRITY SENIOR PROPERTIES INVESTMENTS, LLC; CEDARBROOK RESIDENTIAL CENTER, INC.; and THE AUTUMN GROUP, INC. d/b/a OAK HILL LIVING CENTER, Defendants.
TERRENCE W. BOYLE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
cause comes before the Court on plaintiffs' motion for
Court-authorized notice pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).
Two sets of defendants have filed oppositions to the motions,
plaintiffs have replied, and the matter is ripe for ruling.
For the reasons that follow, plaintiffs' motion is
instituted this action by filing a complaint on September 27,
2018, alleging collective action claims under the Fair Labor
Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq.,
for unpaid minimum wage and overtime wages and alternatively
alleging class action claims for violations of the North
Carolina Wage and Hour Act. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 95-25.1,
et seq. and 13 N.C. Admin. Code 12.0100, et
seq. Plaintiffs further allege claims for unjust
enrichment, unfair and deceptive trade practices, N.C. Gen.
Stat. § 75-1.1, and conversion. See [DE 1].
following is derived from the allegations in the complaint.
Defendant Recovery Connections Community (RCC) is a
residential substance abuse recovery provider operated under
the common control of defendants Jennifer and Phillip Warren.
There are five RCC substance abuse rehabilitation homes which
are located in Asheville, Angier, Fairview, and Black
Mountain, North Carolina. Defendant Journey to Recovery is a
limited liability corporation which holds itself out as a
substance abuse counseling provider and whose president and
chief executive officer is defendant Phillip Warren.
residents are individuals with substance abuse and addiction
disorders who live in RCC homes in order to receive substance
abuse education, addiction assessments by professionals, life
skills, vocational training, community support groups, and
animal and equine therapy. The standard enrollment period for
RCC residents is two years. As a condition of residency, RCC
program participants are required to perform labor and work
both for RCC and at local offsite businesses. These offsite
businesses with whom RCC contracts to provide resident labor
include the remaining defendants, which are a restaurant and
several adult care homes.
allege that RCC fails to provide therapeutic treatment and
training to its residents, and instead requires them to
perform arduous labor for long hours without pay.
have summarized the complained of conduct as follows:
While operating under the guise of a residential substance
abuse recovery provider, Defendant [RCC] requires its program
residents to work long hours-up to 16 hours per day-for area
businesses, and then pockets the residents' wages for its
own benefit. The businesses that contract with Recovery
Connections benefit from this scheme by receiving access to a
pool of sub-market rate labor performed by Recovery
Connections residents. These businesses pay Recovery
Connections a negotiated rate for the labor pool's work,
knowing that the Recovery Connections residents receive no
compensation for their labor. Recovery Connection's
deceptive marketing of itself as a substance abuse recovery
service provider, and Defendants' practices of profiting
off the unpaid labor of individuals seeking substance abuse
rehabilitation are unlawful and violate public policy.
offsite business defendants have, through counsel, answered
the complaint and filed memorandums in opposition to the
instant motion. Defendants Jennifer and Phillip Warren have
answered the complaint pro se but have failed to
file any memorandum in response to the instant motion.
Clerk's default pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a) was
entered against defendants RCC and Journey to Recovery on
June 25, 2019.
FLSA expressly allows employees to maintain a collective
action for, inter alia, "unpaid minimum wages,
or their unpaid overtime compensation." 29 U.S.C. §
216(b). To bring a collective action under the FLSA, the
putative plaintiffs must satisfy two requirements: (1) they
must establish they are "similarly situated" and
(2) they must affirmatively consent to the named plaintiffs
class representation. Id. As to the question of
whether the putative plaintiffs are "similarly
situated," the Court applies a two-step approach.
See Cameron-Grant v. Maxim Health Care Servs., Inc.,
347 F.3d 1240, 1243 (11th Cir. 2003).
first, "notice" step of the process, the Court
determines whether the plaintiff and potential opt-in
plaintiffs are sufficiently "similarly situated" to
warrant notice being given to allow potential plaintiffs to
opt-in and to proceed as a collective action through
discovery; at this initial stage, a lenient standard applies.
Choimbol v. Fairfield Resorts, Inc., 475 F.Supp.2d
557, 562 (E.D. Va. 2006) ("Because the court has minimal
evidence, this determination is made using a fairly lenient
standard.") (internal quotation and citation omitted);
see also Dearman v. Collegiate Horn. Servs., Inc.,
No. 517CV00057RJCDCK, 2018 WL 1566333, at *2 (W.D. N.C. Mar.
30, 2018). The focus is on whether the plaintiffs and
potential opt-in plaintiffs will be "similarly situated
with respect to the legal and, to a lesser extent, the
factual issues to be determined." De Luna-Guerrero
v. N. Carolina Grower's Ass'n, Inc., 338
F.Supp.2d 649, 654 (E.D. N.C. 2004) (quotation and ...