Ex-Bloomberg Campaign Workers Win Collective Action Cert.
A New York federal judge on Thursday conditionally certified a collective action by former staffers that worked on Mike Bloomberg’s failed presidential bid who accused the billionaire’s campaign of failing to pay unpaid overtime and reneging on a promise to employ them through November.
Manhattan U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein, who is overseeing the litigation along with U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain, said in a 12-page order that the former field organizers have cleared the hurdles to proceed with the case.
The order noted that at this preliminary stage in the case, the focus of the court’s inquiry was not on whether the campaign violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. Instead, it’s whether the named plaintiffs have sufficiently demonstrated that they and potential opt-in challengers are together victims of a common policy or plan that violated the law, the judge explained.
Among other things, the Bloomberg campaign argued in court filings that some field organizers had event planning responsibilities and there is no commonality between the plaintiffs and the group they hope to represent.
But Judge Gorenstein disagreed and said the plaintiffs have met their burden. They provided declarations from 23 former Bloomberg campaign field organizers across 15 different states that contain substantively identical information, and the filings corroborated their claim that organizers nationwide performed the same duties and were subject to the same overtime policy, according to the order.
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Donna Wood launched the suit in late March in the Southern District of New York weeks after Bloomberg ended his campaign earlier that month, having spent $1 billion but gaining little traction with Democratic voters.
The suit alleges that field workers such as Wood worked overtime and were not paid for it in violation of the FLSA and that the campaign promised them, and other organizers, guaranteed work through the November general election. That promise was part of an effort to recruit them after Bloomberg got a late start relative to other candidates and needed to quickly beef up his organization, the complaint added.
The Bloomberg campaign is also facing another class action in New York federal court by other former campaign staffers who similarly allege fraud in inducing them to sign on. That suit does not make FLSA claims.
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