Supreme Court Dodges Offer of Judgment Mootness Question; Holds that Moot Claim Ends FLSA Collective Action

A sharply divided Supreme Court held today in Genesis HealthCare Corp. v. Symczyk that if an unaccepted offer of judgment does indeed moot an individual claim (a question the Court expressly declined to reach) then the individual’s would - be collective action under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) is also moot. The narrowly framed 5 - 4 majority opinion by Justice Thomas drew distinctions between FLSA collective actions and Fed. R. Civ. P. 23 class actions that will likely further limit the ruling’s precedential value.

The plaintiff in Symczyk worked as a registered nurse for Genesis HealthCare. She brought a FLSA action claiming that her employer automatically charged her for meal breaks without regard to whether she took an uninterrupted break. She purport ed to bring the action on behalf of herself and other similarly situated individuals under the FLSA’s collective action provision, § 29 U.S.C. 216(b). Genesis answered the complaint and served an offer of judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 68 for $7,500 in alleged unpaid wages, as well as attorney’s fees, costs and expenses as determined by the court. Symczyk did not respond to the offer. Genesis then filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that the offer left her without an ongoing personal stake in the litigation. The district court granted the motion, noting that no other plaintiff had joined the action and that there was no pending motion for collective action status.

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