Employer-Obtained Declarations (AKA “Happy Camper” Statements) Are Often Afforded Little Weight – Especially in the Context of Class Certification

Courts around the country have consistently held that declarations submitted by an employer on behalf of current employees are of little value in deciding whether a class should be certified.  This is because it should be of no surprise that these “Happy Camper” statements hold questionable value when they are obtained in the context of an employer-employee relationship.  Notably, the Southern District of Alabama in Longcrier v. HL-A Co, Inc., 595 F. Supp. 2d 1218 (S.D. Ala. Dec. 10, 2008) struck declarations obtained by a defendant where such statements were obtained in a manner that mislead and deceived the employees – employees who happened to also be potential class members.

Moreover, in determining whether potential class members are similarly situated or whether their claims are capable of classwide resolution, individual statements from employees created at the bequest of the employer have little value toward determining that issue.  For example, the Northern District of Ohio in Creely v. HCR Manor Care, Inc., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61376 (N.D. Oh. June 9, 2011), a case involving inter alia overtime violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and uninterrupted meal break violations, stated that it was not persuaded by 35 “happy camper” affidavits submitted by the defendant.  The court explained: “These affidavits are of little use at this juncture.  Just as courts have not traditionally required a plaintiff seeking conditional certification to come forward with some threshold quantity of opt-in plaintiffs [ . . . ] it is no more helpful for the employer to round up a small sample of favorable statements form employees.  [ . . . ]  While it is likely true that not all hourly employees will opt-in to the collective action, the Court’s function at this stage of conditional certification is not to perform a detailed review of individualized facts from employees hand-picked by [Defendant].”  Creely, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS at **62-63.  See also Rindfleisch v. Gentiva Health Services, Inc., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 57949 (N.D. Ga. April 13, 2011).   In West v. Lowes Home Centers, Inc., the Western District of Louisiana granted conditional certification despite employer-obtained declarations stating that plaintiffs had not yet had the chance to depose the employees providing the declarations and further noted that such deposition testimony was not needed to support collective adjudication.  West, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 139737 (W.D. La. Dec. 16, 2010).

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