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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Supreme Court Decides Employment Lawsuit; Justice Kagan Strongly Disagrees with Supreme Court’s Majority Opinion in Registered Nurse’s Overtime Payment Collective Lawsuit Against Medical Provider

     Supreme Court Justice Kagan came out swinging on behalf of a registered nurse and other employees in case decided by US Supreme Court in Genesis Healthcare Corp. et al. v. Symczyk, argued December 3, 201 and decided April 16, 2013.

      In some of the strongest criticism of a US Supreme Court Majority Opinion by a dissenting Justice, Justice Kagan wrote in her dissenting opinion, “Feel free to relegate the majority's decision to the furthest reaches of your mind: The situation it addresses should never again arise.” 

     In a 5 to 4 split opinion, Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court and Justice Kagan strongly criticized the majority opinion. Justice Kagan in a strongly worded dissent said that the US Supreme Court's majority’s holding [decision and opinion] would encourage employers to pick off potential employee plaintiffs one by one if a collective action is filed by one employee on behalf of others also under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

      This could be done by calculated offers judgement, whereby an employer offers to settle the case by offering the named plaintiff everything the employee plaintiff asks for in lawsuit, before certification of the entire class of employees who have similar claims, thereby frustrating the goals of this type of collective actions.

     
       The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), provides that an employee may bring an action to recover damages for specified violations of the Act on behalf of himself and other "similarly situated" employees. The FLSA establishes federal minimum-wage, maximum hour, and overtime guarantees that cannot be modified by contract. The FLSA, gives employees the right to bring a private cause of action on their own behalf and on behalf of "other employees similarly situated" for specified violations of the FLSA. A suit brought on behalf of other employees is known as a "collective action." In this matter a nurse working at Pennypack Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, had filed a complaint on behalf of herself and "all other persons similarly situated." 
 
       In this case, Laura Symczyk ,who was a registered nurse at Pennypack Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, filed the original complaint on behalf of herself and other workers  deemed in her complaint as "all other persons similarly situated. The nurse, Laura Symczyk,  alleged that the employer  violated the FLSA by automatically deducting 30 minutes of time worked per shift for meal breaks for certain employees, even when the employees performed compensable work during those breaks. She remained the only plaintiff throughout the proceedings and  sought monetary damages for the alleged violations of the FLSA.
 
       When the employer answered the complaint, they simultaneously served her with an offer of judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68. The offer included $7,500 for alleged unpaid wages, in addition to"such reasonable attorneys' fees, costs, and expenses . . . as the Court may determine." The employer stipulated that if she  did not accept the offer within 10 days after service, the offer would be deemed withdrawn. She did not respond within 10 days and the employer filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The employer  argued that because they offered her complete relief on her individual damages claim, she no longer possessed a personal stake in the outcome of the suit, rendering the action moot. Laura Symczyk  objected, arguing that the employer was inappropriately attempting to "pick off " the named plaintiff, Laura Symczyk ,  before the collective-action process with other employee plaintiffs could unfold. 
 
      The first court, The District Court, found that it was undisputed that no other individuals, i.e., as "all other persons similarly situated",  had joined the nurse Laura Symczyk’s suit and that the Rule 68 offer of judgment fully satisfied Laura Symczyk’s individual claim. The District Court concluded that employer defendant’s Rule 68 offer of judgment mooted her lawsuit, which it dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
 
      The Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court, the District Court,  that no other potential plaintiff i.e,"all other persons similarly situated"  had opted into the suit, that the employer's offer fully satisfied Symczyk individual claim, and that whether or not such an offer is accepted by a plaintiff,  it generally moots a plaintiff 's claim. 
 
       However, the Court of Appeals disagreed with the lower court as to the entire case being moot and held that the collective action part was not moot and it reversed the District Court’s decision as to this. The Court of Appeals explained that calculated attempts by some defendants to "pick off " named plaintiffs with strategic Rule 68 offers before certification of the collective action could short circuit the process, and, thereby, frustrate the goals of collective actions. The Court of Appeals determined that the case must go back to the District Court  to allow Symczyk to seek "conditional certification" in the District Court.
 
       The employer, who did not want a collective action by other employees to be allowed to go forward, filed to have the matter be decided by the US Supreme Court. The nine Justices were asked to sort out the specific issue of what a federal court should do when a lawsuit has been filed by a plaintiff  not only for themselves, but for a group of other persons  also,  and the Defendant makes an offer to provide everything that the Plaintiff sought in her lawsuit. The lower courts disagree on whether they have authority in that situation, in particular  when the Defendant's settlement offer is not accepted by the Plaintiff . Often, under Rule 23 of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,  lawsuits filed on behalf of a group are as class actions. This case  however while having similarities to a “class action” is different and the underlying issue here relates back to two sources: the first is Constitution, and the second arises from the rules that govern federal courts.
 
        The Constitution's Article III bars federal courts from deciding any case unless it involves a real live controversy, an  ongoing dispute,  throughout its time in court. If not, the case becomes "moot," and ends.
 
         Rule 68 of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure is designed to encourage parties to settle lawsuits  and provides that, fourteen days before a civil case is to go to trial, the Defendant can make an offer to settle the case, Within the next fourteen days, the plaintiff can accept the offer and if the plaintiff does accept the offer, the lawsuit ends.  If the offer is not accepted, the offer  is "considered withdrawn."
 
         If there is only one plaintiff  suing to advance his claim, some federal courts have ruled that if the Defendant offers to give the plaintiff everything the plaintiff  claimed, that brings the  case to its end, whether or not the plaintiff accepts the Defendant's offer.   The theory is  that the plaintiff has already won since the Defendants offered everything to the Plaintiff that the Plaintiff asked for in complaint,   whether or not the plaintiff  accept the victory, and the plaintiff  has no remaining interest in the case.  However, other courts have departed from the theory that it brings the entire lawsuit to an end, when the lawsuit was brought on behalf also of a group besides the plaintiff.    The courts that do no follow this theory that it brings the entire lawsuit to an end expressed concern that a Defendant offering to settle with one individual in the group may only be a manipulation to end the case,  to get the entire case out of court. The thought is it could be used as a tactic for Defendants to pick off  their opposition, one at a time.
 
        Here, the employer Genesis Healthcare Corp., who was the Defendant in the trial court was the “Petitioner” when the matter proceeded to the Supreme Court The registered nurse, Symczyk who was the Plaintiff in the trial court is called the “Respondent” in the Supreme Court.
 
         The Supreme Court’s syllabus for the opinion in Genesis Healthcare Corp. V. Symczyk  lays the case out in part as follows:
 
“ Because respondent had no personal interest in representing putative, unnamed claimants, nor any other continuing interest that would preserve her suit from mootness, her suit was appropriately dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. ....
While the Courts of Appeals disagree whether an unaccepted Rule 68 offer that fully satisfies a plaintiff’s individual claim is sufficient to render that claim moot, respondent conceded the issue below and did not properly raise it here. Thus, this Court assumes, without deciding, that petitioners’ offer mooted her individual claim. ...
 
Well-settled mootness principles control the outcome of this case. After respondent’s individual claim became moot, the suit became moot because she had no personal interest in representing others in the action. To avoid that outcome, respondent relies on cases that arose in the context of Rule 23 class actions, but they are inapposite, both because Rule 23 actions are fundamentally different from FLSA collective actions and because the cases are inapplicable to the facts here.” ...Neither Sosna v. Iowa, 419 U. S. 393, nor United States Parole Comm’n v. Geraghty, 445 U. S. 388, support respondent’s position. Geraghty extended the principles of Sosna—which held that a class action is not rendered moot when the named plaintiff’s individual claim becomes moot after the class has been duly certified—to denials of class certification motions; and it provided that, where an action would have acquired independent legal status but for the district court’s erroneous denial of class certification, a corrected ruling on appeal “relates back” to the time of the erroneous denial....
 
However, Geraghty’s holding was explicitly limited to cases in which the named plaintiff’s claim remains live at the time the district court denies class certification. .... Here, respondent had not yet moved for “conditional certification” when her claim became moot, nor had the District Court anticipatorily ruled on any such request. She thus has no certification decision to which her claim could have related back. More fundamentally, essential to Sosna and Geraghty was the fact that a putative class acquires an independent legal status once it is certified under Rule 23. By contrast, under the FLSA, “conditional certification” does not produce a class with an independent legal status, or join additional parties to the action. .....
 
A line of cases holding that an “inherently transitory” class action claim is not necessarily moot upon the termination of the named plaintiff’s claim.. is similarly inapplicable. Respondent argues that a defendant’s use of Rule 68 offers to “pick off” a named plaintiff before the collective-action process is complete renders the action “inherently transitory.” But this rationale was developed to address circumstances in which the challenged conduct was effectively unreviewable because no plaintiff possessed a personal stake in the suit long enough for litigation to run its course, and it has invariably focused on the fleeting nature of the challenged conduct giving rise to the claim, not on the defendant’s litigation strategy. Unlike a claim for injunctive relief, a damages claim cannot evade review, nor can an offer of full settlement insulate such a claim from review. Putative plaintiffs may be foreclosed from vindicating their rights in respondent’s suit, but they remain free to do so in their own suits.”
 
 
     Justice Clarence Thomas, delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and Alito,  joined in the opinion. 
 
     Justice Elena Kagan, filed a strong dissenting opinion, in which Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor,  joined.
 
     Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court, and he stated in part:
 
“While the Courts of Appeals disagree whether an unaccepted offer that fully satisfies a plaintiff’s claim is sufficient to render the claim moot, we do not reach this question, or resolve the split, because the issue is not properly before us. The Third Circuit clearly held in this case that respondent’s individual claim was moot...Acceptance of respondent’s argument to the contrary now would alter the Court of Appeals’ judgment, which is impermissible in the absence of a cross-petition from respondent. ...Moreover, even if the cross-petition rule did not apply, respondent’s waiver of the issue would still prevent us from reaching it. In the District Court, respondent conceded that “[a]n offer of complete relief will generally moot the [plaintiff ’s] claim, as at that point the plaintiff retains no personal interest in the outcome of the litigation.”...
 
Respondent made a similar concession in her brief to the Court of Appeals, see App. 193, and failed to raise the argument in her brief in opposition to the petition for certiorari. We, therefore, assume, without deciding, that petitioners’ Rule 68 offer mooted respondent’s individual claim. ....We turn, then, to the question whether respondent’s action remained justiciable based on the collective-action allegations in her complaint. A straightforward application of well-settled mootness principles compels our answer. In the absence of any claimant’s opting in, respondent’s suit became moot when her individual claim became moot, because she lacked any personal interest in representing others in this action. While the FLSA authorizes an aggrieved employee to bring an action on behalf of himself and “other employees similarly situated,” .... the mere presence of collective-action allegations in the complaint cannot save the suit from mootness once the individual claim is satisfied. In order to avoid this outcome, respondent relies almost entirely upon cases that arose in the context of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 class actions....But these cases are inapposite, both because Rule 23 actions are fundamentally different from collective actions under the FLSA,...and because these cases are, by their own terms, inapplicable to these facts. It follows that this action was appropriately dismissed as moot.
 
Respondent contends that she has a sufficient personal stake in this case based on a statutorily created collective-action interest in representing other similarly situated employees under §216(b). ...In support of her argument, respondent cites our decision in Geraghty, which in turn has its roots in Sosna. Neither case supports her position. In Sosna, the Court held that a class action is not rendered moot when the named plaintiff ’s individual claim becomes moot after the class has been duly certified. ...More fundamentally, essential to our decisions in Sosna and Geraghty was the fact that a putative class acquires an independent legal status once it is certified under Rule 23. 
 
Under the FLSA, by contrast, “conditional certification” does not produce a class with an independent legal status, or join additional parties to the action. The sole consequence of conditional certification is the sending of court-approved written notice to employees...who in turn become parties to a collective action only by filing written con- sent with the court, ..So even if respondent were to secure a conditional certification ruling on remand, nothing in that ruling would preserve her suit from mootness.
 
Respondent also advances an argument based on a separate, but related, line of cases in which the Court held that an “inherently transitory” class-action claim is not necessarily moot upon the termination of the named plaintiff ’s claim.....Our cases invoking the “inherently transitory” relation back rationale do not apply. The “inherently transitory” rationale was developed to address circumstances in which the challenged conduct was effectively unreviewable, because no plaintiff possessed a personal stake in the suit long enough for litigation to run its course....
 
While settlement may have the collateral effect of foreclosing unjoined claimants from having their rights vindicated in respondent’s suit, such putative plaintiffs remain free to vindicate their rights in their own suits. They are no less able to have their claims settled or adjudicated following respondent’s suit than if her suit had never been filed at all.
Finally, respondent argues that the purposes served by the FLSA’s collective-action provisions—for example, efficient resolution of common claims and lower individual costs associated with litigation—would be frustrated by defendants’ use of Rule 68 to “pick off ” named plaintiffs before the collective-action process has run its course. Both respondent and the Court of Appeals purported to find support for this position in our decision in Roper, 445 U. S., at 339...Roper’s holding turned on a specific factual finding that the plaintiffs’ possessed a continuing personal economic stake in the litigation, even after the defendants’ offer of judgment....
 
As already explained, here, respondent conceded that petitioners’ offer “provided complete relief on her individual claims,” ......The Court of Appeals concluded that respondent’s individual claim became moot following petitioners’ Rule 68 offer of judgment. We have assumed, without deciding, that this is correct. Reaching the question on which we granted certiorari, we conclude that respondent has no personal interest in representing putative, unnamed claimants, nor any other continuing interest that would preserve her suit from mootness. Respondent’s suit was, therefore, appropriately dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.”
 
     Justice Elena Kagan issued a  strong dissenting opinion and disagreed with the majority opinion on every major point and she wrote a sharp and sarcastic criticism of the majority opinion. 
 
     Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined Justice Kagan in the dissenting opinion:
 
     Justice Kagan, dissenting:
 
“The Court today resolves an imaginary question, based on a mistake the courts below made about this case and others like it. The issue here, the majority tells us, is whether a “‘collective action’” brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), 29 U. S. C. §201 et seq., “is justiciable when the lone plaintiff’s individual claim becomes moot.” Ante, at 1. Embedded within that question is a crucial premise: that the individual claim has become moot, as the lower courts held and the majority assumes without deciding. But what if that premise is bogus? What if the plaintiff’s individual claim here never became moot? And what if, in addition, no similar claim for damages will ever become moot? In that event, the majority’s decision—founded as it is on an unfounded assumption—would have no real-world meaning or application. The decision would turn out to be the most one-off of one-offs, explaining only what (the majority thinks) should happen to a proposed collective FLSA action when something that in fact never happens to an individual FLSA claim is errantly thought to have done so. That is the case here, for reasons I’ll describe. Feel free to relegate the majority’s decision to the furthest reaches of your mind: The situation it addresses should never again arise.
 
Consider the facts of this case, keeping an eye out for anything that would render any part of it moot. Respondent Laura Symczyk brought suit under a provision of the FLSA, 29 U. S. C. §216(b), “on behalf of herself and others similarly situated.” App. 21. Her complaint alleged that her former employer, petitioner Genesis Healthcare Corporation (Genesis), violated the FLSA by treating 30 minutes of every shift as an unpaid meal break, even when an employee worked during that time. Genesis answered the complaint and simultaneously made an offer of judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68. That settlement proposal covered only Symczyk’s individual claim, to the tune of $7,500 in lost wages. The offer, according to its terms, would “be deemed withdrawn” if Symczyk did not accept it within 10 days. App. 79. That deadline came and went without any reply. The case then proceeded in the normal fashion, with the District Court setting a schedule for discovery. Pause here for a moment to ask whether you’ve seen anything yet that would moot Symczyk’s individual claim. No? Neither have I.
 
Nevertheless, Genesis moved to dismiss Symczyk’s suit on the ground that it was moot. The supposed logic went like this: We (i.e., Genesis) offered Symczyk complete relief on her individual damages claim; she “effectively reject[ed]the [o]ffer” by failing to respond; because she did so, she “no longer has a personal stake or legally cognizable interest in the outcome of this action”; accordingly, the court“should dismiss her claims.” Id., at 67. Relying on Circuit precedent, the District Court agreed; it dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction—without awarding Symczyk any damages or other relief—based solely on the unaccepted offer Genesis had made. See App. to Pet. for Cert. 35 (citing Weiss v. Regal Collections, 385 F. 3d 337, 340 (CA3 2004)). And finally, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit concurred that Genesis’s offer mooted Symczyk’s individual claim (though also holding that she could still proceed with a collective action). ...That thrice-asserted view is wrong, wrong, and wrong again. 
 
We made clear earlier this Term that “[a]s long as the parties have a concrete interest, however small, in the outcome of the litigation, the case is not moot.” ....[a] case becomes moot only when it is impossible for a court to grant any effectual relief whatever to the prevailing party.”...By those measures, an unaccepted offer of judgment cannot moot a case. When a plaintiff rejects such an offer—however good the terms—her interest in the lawsuit remains just what it was before. And so too does the court’s ability to grant her relief. An unaccepted settlement offer—like any unaccepted contract offer—is a legal nullity, with no operative effect. As every first-year law student learns, the recipient’s rejection of an offer “leaves the matter as if no offer had ever been made.”.....Nothing in Rule 68 alters that basic principle; to the contrary, that rule specifies that “[a]n unaccepted offer is considered withdrawn.” Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 68(b). So assuming the case was live before—because the plaintiff had a stake and the court could grant relief—the litigation carries on, unmooted. 
 
For this reason, Symczyk’s individual claim was alive and well when the District Court dismissed her suit. Recall: Genesis made a settlement offer under Rule 68; Symczyk decided not to accept it; after 10 days, it expired and the suit went forward. Symczyk’s individual stake in the lawsuit thus remained what it had always been, and ditto the court’s capacity to grant her relief. After the offer lapsed, just as before, Symczyk possessed an unsatisfied claim, which the court could redress by awarding her damages. As long as that remained true, Symczyk’s claim was not moot, and the District Court could not send her away empty-handed. So a friendly suggestion to the Third Circuit: Rethink your mootness-by-unaccepted-offer theory. And a note to all other courts of appeals: Don’t try this at home.
 
To this point, what I have said conflicts with nothing In the Court’s opinion. The majority does not attempt to argue, à la the Third Circuit, that the unaccepted settlement offer mooted Symczyk’s individual damages claim. Instead, the majority hangs its hat on a finding of waiver.   The majority notes—correctly—that Symczyk accepted the Third Circuit’s rule in her briefs below, and also failed to challenge it in her brief in opposition to the petition for certiorari; she contested it first in her merits brief before this Court. That enables the majority to “assume, without deciding,” the mootness of Symczyk’s individual claim and reach the oh-so-much more-interesting question relating to her proposed collective action. ...
 
1.The majority also justifies this approach on the ground that Symczyk did not file a cross-petition for certiorari objecting to the Third Circuit’s decision. But that is because Symczyk got the judgment she wanted in the Third Circuit. As the majority agrees, a cross-petition is necessary only when a respondent seeks to “alter” the judgment below. Ante, at 5; see E. Gressman, K. Geller, S. Shapiro, T. Bishop, & E. Hartnett, Supreme Court Practice 490 (9th ed. 2007) (“[A] party satisfied with the action of a lower court should not have to appeal from it in order to defend a judgment in his or her favor on any ground”). Here, the Third Circuit reversed the District Court’s dismissal of Symczyk’s FLSA suit, ruling that her collective action could go forward even though her individual claim was moot; accordingly, accepting Symczyk’s new argument would lead not to modifying the appellate judgment, but to affirming it on a different ground. In any event, we have never held that the cross-petition requirement is jurisdictional. See id., at 493–494. We can choose to excuse the absence of a cross-petition for the same reasons, discussed next, that we can consider an issue not raised below. ...But as this Court noted in a similar case, “assum[ing] what the facts will show to be ridiculous” about a predicate question—just because a party did not think to challenge settled Circuit precedent—runs “a risk that ought to be avoided....The question Symczyk now raises (“Did an unaccepted settlement offer moot my individual FLSA claim?”) is logically prior to—and thus inextricably intertwined with—the question the majority rushes to resolve (“If an unaccepted settlement offer mooted Symczyk’s individual FLSA claim, could a court proceed to consider her proposed collective action?”).Indeed, the former is so much part and parcel of the latter that the question Genesis presented for our review—and on which we granted certiorari—actually looks more like Symczyk’s than like the majority’s. Genesis asked: “Whether a case becomes moot . . . when the lone plaintiff receives an offer from the defendants to satisfy all of the plaintiff’s claims.” Symczyk, of course, would respond “no,” because merely receiving an offer does not moot any claim. The majority’s refusal to consider that obviously correct answer impedes “intelligent resolution of the question presented.” ....By taking a fallacy as its premise, the majority ensures it will reach the wrong decision.
 
Still, you might think, the majority’s approach has at least this benefit: In a future FLSA case, when an individual claim for damages in fact becomes moot, a court will know what to do with the collective allegations. But no, even that much cannot be said for the majority’s opinion. That is because the individual claims in such cases will never become moot, and a court will therefore never need to reach the issue the majority resolves. 
 
The majority’s decision is fit for nothing: Aside from getting this case wrong, it serves only to address a make-believe problem.... ....
To see why, consider how a collective FLSA action seeking damages unfolds. A plaintiff (just like Symczyk, but let us now call her Smith, to highlight her typicality) sues under §216(b) on behalf of both herself and others. To determine whether Smith can serve as a representative party, the court considers whether the workplace policy her suit challenges has similarly affected other employees. If it has, the court supervises their discovery and notification, and then “oversee[s] the joinder” of any who want Smith to represent them. ...During that period, as the majority observes, the class has no “independent legal status.”.... At the same time, Smith’s own claim is in perfect health. Because it is a damages claim for past conduct, the employer cannot extinguish it by adopting new employment practices. Indeed, the claim would survive even Smith’s own demise, belonging then to her estate. Smith’s individual claim, in short, is not going away on its own; it can easily wait out the time involved in assembling a collective action.[A]claim for damages cannot evade review; it remains live until it is settled [or] judicially resolved.
 
Now introduce a settlement offer into the picture: Assume that before the court finally decides whether to permit a collective action, the defendant proposes to pay Smith the value of her individual claim in exchange for her abandonment of the entire litigation. If Smith agrees, of course, all is over; like any plaintiff, she can assent to a settlement ending her suit. But assuming Smith does not agree, because she wishes to proceed on behalf of other employees, could the offer ever succeed in mooting her case? I have already shown that it cannot do so in the circumstances here, where the defendant makes an offer, the plaintiff declines it, and nothing else occurs: On those facts, Smith’s claim is as it ever was, and the lawsuit continues onward. But suppose the defendant addition ally requests that the court enter judgment in Smith’s favor—though over her objection—for the amount offered to satisfy her individual claim. Could a court approve that motion and then declare the case over on the ground that Smith has no further stake in it? That course would be less preposterous than what the court did here; at least Smith, unlike Symczyk, would get some money. But it would be impermissible as well.
 
For starters, Rule 68 precludes a court from imposing judgment for a plaintiff like Smith based on an unaccepted settlement offer made pursuant to its terms. The text of the Rule contemplates that a court will enter judgment only when a plaintiff accepts an offer. See Rule 68(a) (“If. . . the [plaintiff] serves written notice accepting the offer, either party may then file the offer and notice of acceptance, plus proof of service. The clerk must then enter judgment”). And the Rule prohibits a court from considering an unaccepted offer for any purpose other than allocating litigation costs—including for the purpose of entering judgment for either party. See Rule 68(b) (“Evidence of an unaccepted offer is not admissible except in a proceeding to determine costs”). That injunction accords with Rule 68’s exclusive purpose: to promote voluntary cessation of litigation by imposing costs on plaintiffs who spurn certain settlement offers. ....The Rule provides no appropriate mechanism for a court to terminate a lawsuit without the plaintiff’s consent.
 
Nor does a court have inherent authority to enter an unwanted judgment for Smith on her individual claim, in service of wiping out her proposed collective action. To be sure, a court has discretion to halt a lawsuit by entering judgment for the plaintiff when the defendant unconditionally surrenders and only the plaintiff’s obstinacy or madness prevents her from accepting total victory. But the court may not take that tack when the supposed capitulation in fact fails to give the plaintiff all the law authorizes and she has sought. And a judgment satisfying an individual claim does not give a plaintiff like Smith, exercising her right to sue on behalf of other employees, “all that [she] has . . . requested in the complaint (i.e., relief for the class)....No more in a collective action brought under the  FLSA than in any other class action may a court, prior to certification, eliminate the entire suit by acceding to a defendant’s proposal to make only the named plaintiff whole. That course would short-circuit a collective action before it could begin, and thereby frustrate Congress’s decision to give FLSA plaintiffs “the opportunity to proceed collectively.”.....It is our plaintiff Smith’s choice, and not the defendant’s or the court’s, whether satisfaction of her individual claim, without redress of her viable class wide allegations, is sufficient to bring the lawsuit to an end.
 
And so, the question the majority answers should never arise—which means the analysis the majority propounds should never apply. The majority assumes that an individual claim has become moot, and then asks whether collective allegations can still proceed by virtue of the relation-back doctrine. But that doctrine comes into play only when a court confronts a jurisdictional gap—an individual claim becoming moot before the court can certify a representative action. And in an FLSA case for damages, that gap cannot occur (unless a court, as here, mistakenly creates it): As I have explained, the plaintiff’s individual claim remains live all the way through the court’s decision whether to join new plaintiffs to the litigation. Without any gap to span, the relation-back doctrine has no relevance. Neither, then, does the majority’s decision....
 
The Court could have resolved this case..by correcting the Third Circuit’s view that an unaccepted settlement offer mooted Symczyk’s individual claim. Instead, the Court chose to address an issue predicated on that misconception, in a way that aids no one, now or ever.  I respectfully dissent.”
 
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