Does an unaccepted offer of judgment for full relief made prior to a motion to certify moot the plaintiff’s claim in an FLSA collective action? That was the question we hoped the Supreme Court would answer in Genesis Healthcare Corp. v. Symczyk. Unfortunately, the majority in the 5-4 opinion issued April 16 refused to decide that question, finding that the issue was not properly before the Court because the plaintiff had conceded her claim was moot in the district court and Third Circuit, and had not contested the issue in her opposition to the petition for certiorari. While we now know from the dissent that Justices Kagan, Breyer, Sotomayor and Ginsburg would find that an unaccepted offer of judgment has no impact on the validity of the underlying claim, the majority opinion leaves unresolved a split among the Circuits. The Seventh Circuit accepts the argument that a claim must be dismissed as moot when an offer of judgment for full relief is made prior to a motion to certify, while the Third, Fifth and Ninth Circuits allow plaintiffs to circumvent mootness by immediately filing a motion to certify (the Second and Sixth Circuits accept mootness but reject the argument that the case should be dismissed, finding instead that judgment should be entered for the plaintiff in the amount offered by the defendant). Because the issue remains in doubt, Defendants in FLSA collective actions may prefer to pursue settlement with the individual plaintiff before a motion to certify has been filed to end the claim, rather than make an offer of judgment, in order to avoid endless litigation over the impact of the offer.
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