The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides a mechanism for similarly-situated employees to join together and pursue a nationwide collective action against their employer. If the court adjudicating such a collective action lacks general personal jurisdiction over the employer, however, there exists an unsettled issue: Does each employee have to establish that the court has specific personal jurisdiction over the employer with respect to that employee’s FLSA claim? Some district courts have said yes, while others have said no. No circuit court has addressed the issue. As a practical matter, such a requirement would mean that employees who do not reside or work in the state where the collective action is pending could not be part of the collective action.
Southern District Magistrate Judge Barbara Moses recently addressed this open question in Pettenato v. Beacon Health Options, 2019 WL 5587335 (Oct. 25, 2019). Judge Moses found that because the court lacked general jurisdiction over the defendant employer, each plaintiff had to establish specific jurisdiction over the defendant as to his or her FLSA claim. As a result, the FLSA claims of all out-of-state plaintiffs were dismissed.
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