St. Louis Record

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Judge denies class certification in engineers' overtime suit against Tech Mahindra


By John Breslin | Apr 1, 2019

ST. LOUIS - Employees of an information technology company have been denied class action certification in a lawsuit over alleged non-payment of overtime.

Tech Mahindra, which provides tech services to banks, investment firms, telecommunications companies, and railroads, is being sued by two named engineers over being classified as exempt from overtime protection under the "computer professional exemption" banner of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

But the plaintiffs asked the U.S. District Corut for the Eastern District of Missouri to certify the action as a class, to sue on behalf of all of the company's information technology "delivery" engineers.

Exemptions under the FLSA center on an employee's primary duties. The company claims its engineers carry out various tasks, including consulting with users, as well designing, developing, and testing computer systems.

The plaintiffs claim their duties are different from those listed in the company's manual, and therefore they are not exempt under the act.

Two named plaintiffs filed suit on behalf of  "other employees similarly situated.” According to the court documents, this amounted to 47 employees.

District Judge John Ross, in his ruling, stated that, to certify a class, the plaintiffs "need only make a modest factual showing, based upon the pleadings and affidavits, that the proposed class members were victims of a single decision, policy, or plan."

Tech Mahindra argued the plaintiffs are not "similarly situated" and there is no way to determine overall damages because of the disparate nature of the jobs done by the employees, who work in 15 different states and hold eight separate job titles.

"Given that members work in different offices, on different projects, for different clients, and under different supervisors, the differences far exceed any similarities they share," Ross concluded. "Accordingly, this factor weighs against a finding that the collective-action members are similarly situated and in favor of decertification."

The judge ruled that it would be "both unfair and logistically impossible to try this case on representative evidence."

The plaintiffs also wanted to move forward with class action under Missouri and Washington state law. Ross also denied certification under the state laws, again ruling "there are significant and material differences between employees included in the class definitions that would make it extremely difficult to make a prima facie showing of liability based on the common evidence."

Denying the class certification, Ross said the claims of the two named plaintiffs remain before the court. Others who opted in to the action have 60 days to file separate claims.

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