Nicholas B. Carter and Maria T. Davis obtained an order from a federal judge in Massachusetts denying certification of a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act against their franchisor client.
The claimants, two former store managers of the franchisor, failed to file a notice of consent for a collective action within the strict two-year deadline imposed by federal law. The notice of consent is a prerequisite to seeking certification of a collective action under the FLSA involving other potential claimants.
The U.S. District Court judge in his ruling said the two-year deadline is unambiguous and the law must be strictly followed based on prior precedent.
The judge rejected the former managers' argument that equity should toll the statute of limitations period from expiring.
Equitable tolling, he wrote, applies either when extraordinary circumstances beyond a claimant's control make it impossible to file a timely FLSA notice of consent, or when a defendant's misconduct causes a claimant to miss the filing deadline.
The former managers, who filed their complaint in October 2012, had voluntarily agreed to an order putting their case on hold until a related federal case was resolved on appeal. The stay order was lifted in January 2016 following resolution of the appeal in the related case.
The former managers had numerous opportunities within the two-year deadline to request the court to lift the stay order so they could timely file the notice of consent, according to the judge.
"[The] plaintiffs could have filed their notices of consent before agreeing to the stay or moved to lift the stay at any time to file their notices of consent," the judge wrote. "They even could have moved to conditionally certify the class and then moved for a stay before discovery."
Because these options were within the control of the former managers, equitable tolling did not apply to their missed deadline, the judge held.