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United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri Grants Conditional Certification in Jackson v. Synergies3

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri Grants Conditional Certification in Jackson v. Synergies3

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri recently conditionally certified a putative class of satellite installation technicians pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) in Jackson v. Synergies3 Tec Svcs., No. 4:19-cv-00178, 2019 WL 5579514 (E.D. Mo. Oct. 29, 2019).

Factual Background

On February 4, 2019, plaintiffs filed a complaint under the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., against defendant Synergies3 Tec Services, LLC (“Synergies3”) on behalf of themselves and similarly situated satellite installation technicians to recover unpaid overtime compensation. Jackson, 2019 WL 5579514, at *1. Synergies3 is a satellite installation provider for AT&T (DirecTV), registered to conduct business in Missouri, Illinois, and other states across the United States. Id. Synergies3 contracts with installation technicians to provide satellite installation and maintenance services for DirecTV and its customers. Id.

Plaintiffs alleged that although Synergies3 classified them and similarly situated installation technicians as independent contractors, the installation technicians were, in fact, employees under state and federal law. Jackson, 2019 WL 5579514, at *1. Plaintiffs asserted Synergies3 intentionally misclassified installation technicians as independent contractors to avoid paying them overtime wages. Id. Plaintiffs further alleged Synergies3 unlawfully denied them overtime pay even when they worked more than 40 hours per workweek through paying installation technicians on a per-job, or piece rate, basis. Id.

Shortly after filing their complaint, plaintiffs filed a motion pursuant to Section 216(b) of the FLSA to conditionally certify a collective action of all installation technicians who worked for Synergies3 and whom Synergies3 classified as “independent contractors” at any time within three years before plaintiffs filed their complaint. Jackson, 2019 WL 5579514, at *1. In support of their motion for conditional certification, plaintiffs filed declarations from other individuals who attested they worked for Synergies3 as installation technicians and who also alleged Synergies3 did not pay them overtime wages even though they typically worked over 40 hours per workweek.

The Installation Technicians were Similarly Situated

The Court granted plaintiffs’ motion for conditional certification. Jackson, 2019 WL 5579514, at *2-3. The Court found that plaintiffs provided substantial allegations that the putative class members (i.e., the installation technicians) were together victims of a common policy or plan to violate the FLSA whereby plaintiffs and the other installation technicians were misclassified as independent contractors. Id. The Court based its finding on the following averments by plaintiffs: (1) plaintiffs alleged Synergies3 misclassified installation technicians as independent contractors to avoid paying overtime wages; (2) plaintiffs alleged the putative class worked exclusively for Synergies3 on a full-time and continuing basis; (3) plaintiffs alleged the putative class was subject to Synergies3’s direction and control as to the manner in which they performed their work; and (4) plaintiffs alleged that Synergies3 set putative class members’ schedules. Id. at *3.

The Court granted FLSA conditional certification on the basis of the plaintiffs presenting declarations from seven installation technicians who worked for Synergies3 in four different states, each stating that Synergies3 paid them by piece rate, classified them as independent contractors, and did not pay them for overtime hours worked. Jackson, 2019 WL 5579514, at *3. The Court noted that other courts have conditionally certified FLSA collective actions on far less evidence than that presented by the plaintiffs in this case. Id. (citing Wacker v. Personal Touch Home Care, Inc., No. 4:08-cv-93, 2008 WL 4838146, at *4 (E.D. Mo. Nov. 6, 2008)). Accordingly, the Court held that plaintiffs presented sufficient evidence to establish a “colorable basis” for conditional certification. Id. (citation omitted).

The Court Declined to Limit the Class

Synergies3 argued that, if the Court grants conditional certification, then it should limit the class to only those installation technicians who worked in the same geographic locations as the declarants. Jackson, 2019 WL 5579514, at *5. The Court declined to limit the class because the cases relied upon by Synergies3 to support its argument concerned “off-the-clock” FLSA cases in which instructions to work off-the-clock could widely vary across a company’s offices or locations. Id. Here, Synergies3 did not suggest that local managers had discretion to classify installation technicians as either employees or independent contractors. Id. The Court thus declined to limit the class. Id.

Class Notice

The Court approved notice to be mailed to all installation technicians who worked for Synergies3 and whom Synergies3 classified as independent contractors at any time since February 4, 2016 (three years before the date plaintiffs filed their original complaint). Jackson, 2019 WL 5579514, at *6. The Court ordered a 45-day notice period and declined plaintiffs’ request for posting the notice in offices and resupply warehouses where installation technicians pick up equipment. Id. at *7. The Court declined posting the notice because plaintiffs did not allege or provide any other evidence suggesting notification by U.S. Mail would be unreliable. Id.

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The Law Offices of Kevin J. Dolley represents clients in labor law, employment law and employment discrimination matters throughout the State of Missouri, including St. Louis, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Boone County, Jefferson County, Lincoln County, Jackson County, Phelps County, Franklin County, Ste. Genevieve, St. Clair and the Cities of St. Louis, Kansas City, St. Charles, O'Fallon, Lake St. Louis, Hillsboro, Troy, Clayton, Rolla, Columbia, Jefferson City, Kirksville, Farmington, Cuba, Augusta, Union, Maryland Heights, Cape Girardeau and Springfield.

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