In an interesting case of first impression, a federal court in Kansas held that the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Genesis HealthCare Corp. v. Symczk does not allow defendants to negate an Fair Labor Standards Act claim by making an offer of judgment to a representative plaintiff.
In Michaels v. City of McPherson, Kansas, the city served an offer of judgment on the lone plaintiff asserting an FLSA claim while the motion for conditional certification was pending (and, of course, before any class members were able to opt into the class). The city then opposed the plaintiff’s motion to amend the complaint to add a new representative plaintiff on the grounds that the amendment was futile, asserting that the offer of judgment mooted the plaintiff’s claims under the ruling in the Genesis case and therefore deprived the court of jurisdiction.
The court disagreed, distinguishing the Genesis decision on the basis that the court in that case had assumed, without deciding, that the plaintiff’s claims were moot, and had neither addressed the issue of whether an unaccepted offer of judgment that fully satisfies the plaintiff’s claim actually moots the claim, nor whether the existence of a pending motion for conditional certification changes the analysis.
Although the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has yet to address the issue of what moots a pending FLSA claim, the Kansas federal court held that the offer of judgment in the Michaels case failed to moot the plaintiff’s claim because the city failed to state how it had determined the amount of the offer, making it impossible for the plaintiff to determine if it fully satisfied his claim. Moreover, the Michaels court concluded that even if the offer had fully compensated the plaintiff, it would frustrate the purpose of the FLSA to allow a defendant to “pick off” a representative plaintiff, especially where the court has not yet had the opportunity to rule on the pending motion for conditional certification.