Jon Campisi Nov. 11, 2011, 10:14am

A federal judge in Philadelphia has granted a plaintiff’s request for class action status in a case involving a company’s alleged failure to pay overtime to a certain group of employees.

Judge Jan E. DuBois, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, ruled Nov. 8 in favor of Connie Titchenell’s motion for conditional certification of collective class in her case against Apria Healthcare Inc.

Titchenell is suing her former employer for allegedly failing to pay her for the extra 10 to 15 hours per week she often worked at the company as a customer service specialist.

The plaintiff accuses the defendant of violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

In her motion seeking class status, Titchenell argued that additional employees at the company, which has 12,300 workers in 500 offices nationwide, 2,087 of whom are customer service specialists like her, experienced the same fate as that of the plaintiff.

Titchenell, who began working for the company in 1996, and, since 2007, had been employed at the Sharon Hill, Pa. location, was terminated in September 2010.

Beginning in March 2009, Titchenell alleges in her complaint, she routinely worked extra hours, but never received pay for her overtime.

In opposing the class action status, Apria had argued that Titchenell’s claim “is based on individual facts and circumstances that are not encountered or experienced by Apria Customer Service Specialists nationwide,” and that class certification is “unwarranted and infeasible,” according to the court opinion.

The judge, however, felt otherwise.

“Plaintiff has presented modest evidence that other potential plaintiffs are similarly situated,” DuBois wrote in his ruling.

However, the judge limited in scope the potential plaintiffs that could join in on the class action.

“Accordingly, the Court grants plaintiff’s motion but limits the proposed class to ‘all non-exempt Customer Service Specialists employed by Apria who have worked and/or are still working in any branch office of Apria anywhere in the United States during the liability period and who have not been paid overtime by Apria for work in excess of forty hours per week,’” the judge’s ruling states.

The ruling ordered counsel for both parties to submit to the court within five days an agreed-upon form of notice to be sent to potential class members.

“The notice shall reflect the proper scope of the potential class and shall provide for insertion by the Court of the beginning date of the class period, which will be three years prior to the date the Court approves the notice,” the ruling states.

The notice will give potential class members 45 days to opt in to the collective action.

Titchenell’s lawsuit against California-based Apria Healthcare Group, Inc., was filed on Jan. 26 of this year by Trevose, Pa. attorney Frank Schwartz.

Additional defendants named in the litigation are the company’s chief executive officer, Norman C. Payson, and Apria’s chief operating officer, identified as Daniel E. Greenleaf.

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