Alliance Bernstein

STATUS: Active

Outten & Golden LLP, along with co-counsel, the Law Offices of Gregory R. Fidlon, P.C. of Atlanta, Georgia, represents a group of AllianceBernstein associate portfolio managers. AllianceBernstein is a global investment management firm providing investment services to clients. The Plaintiffs brought this case as a collective action under the FLSA and a class action under the New York Labor Law on behalf of themselves and other current and former APMs. Plaintiffs allege that AllianceBernstein associate portfolio managers were misclassified as exempt from the overtime pay requirements of the FLSA and New York Labor Law and seek unpaid overtime back pay, liquidated damages, attorneys’ fees and other relief.

The Plaintiffs allege that at AllianceBernstein, the associate portfolio manager position is an entry-level position with a standard job description that does not vary from office to office or department to department within the company. AllianceBernstein employs APMs in three portfolio management groups (“PMGs”): institutional equity, fixed income, and private client. The primary job of all AllianceBernstein associate portfolio managers is entering trade orders, which are clerical, data entry functions that involve minimal, if any, discretion or independent judgment. AllianceBernstein associate portfolio managers in all three sub-groups perform the same job duties and operate under the same reporting structure and deadlines. AllianceBernstein associate portfolio managers have no managerial job duties—they do not manage or supervise anyone, nor do they have authority to make operational decisions but must stay within AllianceBernstein’s set parameters. AllianceBernstein associate portfolio managers have little or no direct contact with clients and do not recommend investment options; AllianceBernstein’s research department and the client’s financial advisor perform those tasks.

On July 20, 2011, Plaintiffs filed a motion for conditional certification of a collective action, asking the Court to require AllianceBernstein to provide them with contact information for all AllianceBernstein associate portfolio managers who worked at AllianceBernstein during the past three years and to authorize them to send them notice. In response, Defendants argued that the Supreme Court’s decision in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes (“Dukes”) precluded a collective action. Plaintiffs responded that Dukes, an employment discrimination class action not an misclassification overtime lawsuit, has nothing to do with whether a collective action is appropriate in this case. The Plaintiffs here, unlike the plaintiffs in Dukes, challenge a specific, company-wide misclassification policy that applies to all AllianceBernstein associate portfolio managers in the same way – misclassifying AllianceBernstein associate portfolio managers as exempt from the overtime protections of the FLSA and the New York Labor Law. AllianceBernstein’s primary defense (the FLSA’s administrative exemption) also unites all class members because it turns on a common legal issue – whether the AllianceBernstein associate portfolio managers’ primary duty is administrative work or production work. Plaintiffs argued that it is production work under Davis v. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., 587 F.3d 529, 531-34 (2d Cir. 2009), and is perfect for collective adjudication.

On August 24, 2011, the Court agreed with Plaintiffs that the case should be certified as a an FLSA collective action and granted Plaintiffs’ motion. Notice was mailed to all APMs within the relevant period on October 19, 2011.

(*Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.)


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