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Illinois Grants Plaintiffs’ Motion for “Partial Decertification,” Seeking Subclasses

Medina v. Happy’s Pizza Franchise, LLC

In May 2010, three plaintiffs filed a suit against Happy’s Pizza for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The plaintiffs claimed that the company regularly instructed them to work more than forty hours per week without overtime compensation. All three plaintiffs worked at Happy’s Chicago locations, but sought to include similarly situated Happy’s employees. After the Court granted conditional certification, 254 plaintiffs opted into the lawsuit. The vast majority of the plaintiffs that joined worked in Michigan and Ohio.

Happy’s moved to dismiss the case based on plaintiff’s failure to join the franchisees that the various opt-in plaintiffs worked for as defendants. In response, the plaintiffs moved for a partial decertification, in which they asked the court to transfer all of the opt-in plaintiffs who had not worked for Happy’s restaurants in Chicago to the appropriate districts in Michigan or Ohio as subclasses.

The Court rejected, among other arguments, the defendants’ claims that the partial decertification would be inappropriate because the court lacked the authority to transfer the Ohio and Michigan plaintiffs into subclasses in those states and that the plaintiffs were not similarly situated to one another. Instead, the Court accepted the plaintiffs’ request for partial decertification, acknowledging that since the plaintiffs who opted in were working at different restaurants than the named plaintiffs, a significant part of the evidence for each subclass would be distinct. The Court reasoned that dividing the class into subclasses would be an effective way to bring the action against Happy’s Pizza, since each of the plaintiffs were similarly situated in that all plaintiffs were not being appropriately paid overtime. Click here to read more about the case.