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Castillo v. United Rentals (North America), Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

July 16, 2018

RICARDO CASTILLO, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED RENTALS (NORTH AMERICA), INC., Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING LEAVE TO AMEND

          James L. Robart United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Before the court is Plaintiff Ricardo Castillo's motion for leave to file a second amended complaint that would substitute the named plaintiff in this class and collective action. (Mot. (Dkt. # 44).) Defendant United Rentals (North America), Inc. ("United Rentals") opposes the motion. (Resp. (Dkt. # 47).) The court has considered the motion, the submissions in favor of and in opposition to the motion, the relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law. Being fully advised, [1] the court GRANTS the motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On October 23, 2017, Mr. Castillo brought a class and collective action on behalf of current and former hourly employees of United Rentals, asserting various wage and hour claims under federal and state law. (See generally FAC (Dkt. # 34).) Specifically, Mr. Castillo alleges that United Rentals (1) failed to provide minimum and overtime wages as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), and the Washington Minimum Wage Act ("WMWA"), RCW ch. 49.46; (2) failed to provide meal and rest breaks; (3) failed to pay all wages due upon termination; and (4) willfully refused to pay wages owed.[2] (See FAC ¶ 3.)

         Mr. Castillo worked as an Equipment Associate for United Rentals and alleges that hourly employees are "typically scheduled to work over ten hours a day, five days a week" but are often denied compensation for all hours worked, including overtime. (Id. ¶ 23.) Moreover, Mr. Castillo alleges that the "pace of the work" required by United Rentals is too demanding to allow "full, timely, legally compliant rest breaks." (Id. ¶ 26.) Moreover, United Rentals allegedly "has a policy of disallowing [hourly employees] from leaving the store during meal and rest breaks," thus resulting in hourly employees // remaining on-call during breaks, even though United Rentals automatically deducts the break time from employees' pay each day. (Id. ¶¶ 27, 31.)

         On December 20, 2017, United Rentals moved to dismiss Mr. Castillo's original complaint for failure to state a claim. (See MTD (Dkt. #16).) The court granted the motion in part and allowed Mr. Castillo to amend the dismissed claims. (3/19/18 Order (Dkt. # 30) at 22.) Mr. Castillo filed an amended complaint on April 3, 2018. (See FAC.) Because of the amended complaint, the court vacated the original case schedule that had set various deadlines for class certification and decertification under the FLSA. (3/27/18 Order (Dkt. # 33) at 6-7.) The parties proposed a new case schedule-which the court adopted-requiring Mr. Castillo to file a motion for conditional FLSA certification by July 16, 2018, and setting subsequent dates for class certification discovery and briefing. (See Stip. (Dkt. # 36); 4/16/18 Order (Dkt. # 37) at 4.)

         On April 6, 2018, Sean Powell, a former Driver for United Rentals, filed a notice of consent to join the collective action. (Not. (Dkt. # 35) at 1; id., Ex. 1 (attaching Mr. Powell's opt-in consent form).) Mr. Powell worked for United Rentals from May 2015 to October 2017 in Washington. (Id.;see Leimbach Decl. ¶ 6, Ex. 1 ("SAC") ¶¶ 20-22.) Although he did not work in-store, he alleges that United Rentals also required him to work in excess of forty hours per week without compensation (SAC ¶ 23) and required him to remain on-call during his breaks to "make emergency deliveries" and to "assist customer or co-workers" (id. ¶ 27). Like Mr. Castillo, Mr. Powell asserts that United Rentals's "pressure to complete job assignments, including making deliveries, picking up loads, waiting on customers and taking customer calls, was too constant" for adequate breaks (id. ¶ 28), and yet, United Rentals regularly deducts the break time (id. ¶ 24).

         After Mr. Powell's opt-in, the parties continued to engage in discovery to prepare for the certification motions. Parties scheduled Mr. Castillo's deposition for June 6, 2018. (Simpson Decl. (Dkt. # 48) ¶ 7; Leimbach Deck (Dkt. # 44-1) ¶ 3.) However, on June 5, 2018, Mr. Castillo's counsel notified United Rentals that "[d]ue to unforeseen circumstances, Mr. Castillo is not available to be deposed." (Id. ¶ 9, Ex. G ("Email Correspondence") at 7.) Mr. Castillo's counsel later conceded that "Mr. Castillo ha[d] been unreachable." (Id. at 5.) Mr. Castillo ultimately determined that "for personal reasons," he could no longer act as the named plaintiff but wished to remain part of the putative class and collective action. (Castillo Decl. (Dkt. # 44-4) ¶ 4.) He agreed for Mr. Powell to substitute in as the representative plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 5.) Because the parties could not reach agreement on amendment, Mr. Castillo filed the instant motion requesting leave to withdraw as the representative plaintiff, to substitute Mr. Powell as named plaintiff, and to amend the complaint with factual allegations specific to Mr. Powell. (See generally Mot.; SAC.) The court now addresses the motion.

         III. ANALYSIS

         The parties' dispute boils down to two issues: (1) whether substitution of a named plaintiff is appropriate before the court certifies a class or collective action; and (2) if so, whether amendment is proper under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a). (See generally Mot.; Resp.) The court takes up each issue in turn.

         A. Pre-Certification Substitution

         United Rentals argues that substitution of named plaintiffs is never allowed before the class or collective is certified. (Resp. at 7-10.) But "there is no bright-line rule calling for denial of leave to amend" before certification. In re: Lithium Ion Batteries Antitrust Litig., No. 13-MD-2420 YGR, 2016 WL 948874, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 14, 2016); see also Chao Chen v. GEO Grp., Inc., No. C17-5769RJB, 2018 WL 2949449, at *2 (W.D. Wash. June 13, 2018) (granting pre-certification substitution). Instead, the law is more nuanced than United Rentals represents.

         United Rentals is correct that when the named plaintiffs claim is defective-say, for instance, the named plaintiff lacks standing-substitution of that named plaintiff is permissible only when the class or collective has already been certified. See Myers v. Intuit, Inc., No. I7cvI228-WQH-BLM, 2018 WL 2287425, at *7-8 (S.D. Cal. May 18, 2018) (denying pre-certification substitution of a named plaintiff who had no standing); see also Bernor v. Takeda Pharms. Am., Inc., No. LACV 12-04856-VAP (JPRx), 2018 WL 588563, at *4-5 (CD. Cal. Jan. 25, 2018) (denying pre-certification substitution when the named plaintiffs claims were moot); Velazquez v. GMAC Mortg. Corp., No. CV 08-05444 DDP (PLAx), 2009 WL 2959838, at *1 (CD. Cal. Sept. 10, 2009) (denying pre-certification substitution when deposition evidence revealed that the named plaintiffs were inadequate). In such a situation, courts do not allow amendments that amount to a '"back-door attempt to ...


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