N.M. federal court refuses to apply Bristol-Myers to FLSA case

Whether Bristol-Myers applies to prevent out-of-state plaintiffs from joining FLSA collective actions in a state where the defendant is not subject to general jurisdiction is a highly divisive issue these days.  In the absence of Supreme Court and with sparse Circuit court authority, district courts across the country have struggled with the issue.  In an oilfield overtime case, a federal court in New Mexico recently held that Bristol-Myers does not apply to FLSA collective actions.  In Dahl v. Petroplex Acidizing, in a decision issued on January 2, 2024, the court conditionally certified an FLSA collective action of workers who performed work in Texas and New Mexico.  Petroplex is a Texas company that provides acidizing and cementing services throughout the Permian Basin in New Mexico and West Texas. Plaintiffs were oilfield workers who alleged that Petroplex improperly classified Acidizers/Treaters as exempt from FLSA’s overtime provisions and failed to pay them at the time-and-one-half overtime rate. In certifying the case as a collective action, the court declined to apply Bristol-Myers to exclude the workers who performed only work in Texas.  In reaching its decision, the Court concluded:

[T]he FLSA claims of the named plaintiff here arise out of and relate to Petroplex’s contacts with New Mexico. And, significantly, the FLSA itself does not purport to preclude claims by out-of-state opt-in plaintiffs. From a policy perspective, permitting all available opt-in plaintiffs, including non-resident plaintiffs, to pursue their FLSA claims against Petroplex in the same proceeding promotes efficiency and uniformity in the resolution of common issues of law and fact. In contrast, fracturing the current FLSA collective litigation into multiple separate lawsuits would lead to potentially disparate judgments and would risk burdening the federal courts with duplicative work. Moreover, absent a clear directive from the Tenth Circuit or Supreme Court as to Bristol-Myers‘s application to FLSA claims filed in federal court, the Court will not extend its holding in a way that threatens to undermine the congressional policy of providing an efficient mechanism for similarly situated employees to enforce wage and hour laws against their employer in a single collective action. 

This is not the first time a New Mexico federal court ruled on the Bristol-Myers issue.  In Bone v. XTO Energy, Inc., 561 F. Supp. 3d 1132, 1137 (D.N.M. 2021), Chief Judge William Johnson extended Bristol-Myers’s holding to an FLSA collective action. So there are now two federal decisions from New Mexico that reach different conclusions regarding the applicability of Bristol-Myers to FLSA collective actions.  Ultimately the Tenth Circuit and the Supreme Court will need to address this divisive issue.  

About the author: Josh Borsellino is a Texas-based attorney that represents workers on claims for unpaid overtime.  If you have questions about unpaid overtime, call Josh at 817.908.9861 or email him here for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation of your overtime matter.  

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