United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
MISTY D. MORSE, Plaintiff,
EQUITY LIFESTYLE PROPERTIES INC., Defendant.
JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, District Judge.
Presently pending before the Court is Defendant Equity Lifestyle Properties Inc.'s ("Equity") Motion to Dismiss Commission-Based Overtime Claim and Deny Conditional Certification Motion Because Both Are Moot. [Filing No. 27.] The Court held a hearing on the motion on April 28, 2014, and denied Equity's motion from the bench. The Court also granted Plaintiff Misty Morse's Motion to Certify FLSA Collective Action Status and Issue Notice, [Filing No. 3], and her Motion for Approval of Proposed Collective Action Notice, [Filing No. 5]. This Order explains the Court's reasoning for its rulings.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
In considering a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the Court "must accept the complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draw reasonable inferences from those allegations in the plaintiff's favor." United Transp. Union v. Gateway W. Ry. Co., 78 F.3d 1208, 1210 (7th Cir. 1996). When a defendant raises a factual challenge to the Court's subject matter jurisdiction, the Court "may properly look beyond the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists." Apex Digital, Inc. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 572 F.3d 440, 444 (7th Cir. 2009) (collecting cases). When a defendant argues that a plaintiff's claim is moot, the burden is on the defendant to demonstrate mootness. See, e.g., Killian v. Concert Health Plan, 742 F.3d 651, 660 (7th Cir. 2013) ("The burden of demonstrating mootness is a heavy one, '... borne by the party seeking to have the case declared moot") (citations omitted); Maddox v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., 528 Fed.Appx. 669, 671 (7th Cir. 2013) ("[B]ecause the defendants assert that the case is moot, they bear the burden of persuasion") (citations omitted).
Plaintiff Mindy Morse worked at Horseshoe Lakes RV Community ("Horseshoe") in St. Bernice, Indiana from 2005 to 2013. [Filing No. 1 at 2.] She worked for Horseshoe's previous owner first, then for Equity when it purchased Horseshoe sometime after her initial employment. [Filing No. 1 at 2.] She was first employed as a ranger, then ultimately as an administrative assistant. [Filing No. 1 at 2.] Equity terminated Ms. Morse on August 27, 2013. [Filing No. 1 at 2.] Throughout her employment, Ms. Morse was a non-exempt employee who Equity compensated on an hourly-paid basis. [Filing No. 1 at 3.]
Ms. Morse initiated this lawsuit against Equity on November 25, 2013. [Filing No. 1.] She alleges that Equity failed to pay her for all of her hours worked and all of her overtime work performed. [Filing No. 1 at 3.] Specifically, she alleges that Equity committed the following wage violations:
Ms. Morse was only allowed to clock in for work at her scheduled start time and clock out at her scheduled end time; she was required to report up to an hour early for work to prepare for her day but could not clock in until her scheduled start time; and she was required to work after she had clocked out for the day;
She was required to work without compensation at special events hosted by Horseshoe, such as holidays and weekend celebrations;
Equity's computerized time-keeping system automatically deducted a thirtyminute meal break from her time on each day she worked, but she was never permitted to take a bona fide meal period and, instead, had to work through her lunch break;
Equity did not pay based upon a continuous work day method because it did not measure her hours of work from the first principal activity each day to the last principal activity and did not pay for all of the hours in-between; and
Equity did not include Ms. Morse's commissions in its computation of her overtime wages because it did not include the commission wages in its calculation of her regular rate of pay before calculating her overtime rate of compensation (by multiplying her regular rate of pay by 1.5) in weeks when she was owed overtime compensation.
[Filing No. 1 at 2-6.] Ms. Morse also alleges that Equity wrongfully withheld her final pay check, and refused to release it until she signed a "Separation and Release Agreement" releasing Equity from any legal claims she might bring against Equity, including wage and hour and employment-related claims. [Filing No. 1 at 6.] Ms. Morse did not sign the Agreement. [Filing No. 1 at 6.]
Ms. Morse asserts a collective action claim under Section 16(b) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (the "FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), on behalf of "all current and former employees of Equity's communities who were underpaid overtime compensation based upon a failure to include commission pay in the calculation of each employee's regular rate." [Filing No. 1 at 7.] She also asserts individual claims for violating the FLSA and the Indiana Wage Claims Act by failing to pay her for all hours worked. [Filing No. 1 at 11-12.]
The same day that she filed her Complaint, Ms. Morse filed a Motion to Certify FLSA Collective Action Status and Issue Notice, in which she seeks certification of a collective action class of:
All non-exempt employees of Equity who currently work or previously worked at one or more of Equity's communities nationwide, who worked overtime hours in one or more weeks, and who received commissions at any time from November 25, 2010 until the present.
[Filing No. 3]. Ms. Morse also filed a Motion for Approval of Proposed Collective ...