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Peggy Dinkel, Valarie Gadson, and Deidre Beckford, For Themselves and v. Medstar Health

July 25, 2012

PEGGY DINKEL, VALARIE GADSON, AND DEIDRE BECKFORD, FOR THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MEDSTAR HEALTH, INC., AND WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs, current and former employees of Washington Hospital Center ("WHC"), claim that Defendants violated the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") and the District of Columbia Minimum Wage Act ("DC-MWA") by failing to compensate them for "meal break" and "uniform maintenance" work. This opinion resolves two motions: Defendants' [21] Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Concerning Plaintiffs' Uniform Maintenance Claim ("Motion for Summary Judgment") and Plaintiffs' [27] Motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) for a Continuance to Take Discovery ("Rule 56(d) Motion"). Upon careful consideration of the parties' submissions, the relevant authorities, and the record as a whole,*fn1 Plaintiffs' Rule 56(d) Motion shall be GRANTED and Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment shall be DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Defendants may renew their motion after merits discovery and in accordance with a schedule set by the Court.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Peggy Dinkel, Valarie Gadson, and Deidre Beckford, current and former WHC employees, commenced this action on May 26, 2011, asserting claims under the FLSA and DCMWA on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated. See Pls.' [1] Compl. On September 28, 2011, Marlene Barber, Adama Gibateh, Jovita Ike, Donna Lawrence, Rajini Raj, Vilasini Sarang, and Barbara Townsend consented to join in the action as plaintiffs. See Pls.' [16] Consents.

Plaintiffs claim that Defendants violated the FLSA and DC-MWA by failing to compensate them for so-called "meal break" and "uniform maintenance" work. See Pls.' [1] Compl. ¶¶ 42-52. Plaintiffs' uniform maintenance claim, the only claim subject to the pending motions, turns on the overarching allegation that Defendants maintained and enforced policies that required Plaintiffs to "clean and maintain all the components of their work uniform in good and presentable condition" but failed to compensate Plaintiffs for such activities. Id. ¶ 31.

All WHC employees are subject to Human Resource Policy 402, entitled "Dress and Appearance." See Defs.' [21] Stmt. ¶ 10; Pls.' [26-2] Stmt. ¶ 10. That policy outlines "[t]he standards of dress and appearance . . . set[ting] forth the minimum requirements to which all associates . . . are required to adhere." Defs.' [21] Stmt. Ex. C, Attach. 1 at 1. Among other things, "[e]very associate is expected to practice daily hygiene and good grooming habits, which includes [sic] wearing neat uniforms or clothing and shoes." Id. at 2.

Associates must also wear the uniform designated by departmental policy. See Defs.' [21] Stmt. ¶ 12; Pls.' [26-2] Stmt. ¶ 12. Nurses typically wear ciel scrubs, Emergency Services Technicians typically wear gray scrubs, and Unit Clerks typically wear a blazer or vest, a dress shirt or blouse, slacks or a skirt, and a neck tie for male clerks. See Defs.' [21] Stmt. ¶¶ 21, 24, 35; Pls.' [26-2] Stmt. ¶¶ 21, 24, 35.

Associates are responsible for maintaining their own uniforms. See Defs.' [24] Stmt. ¶¶ 26, 37; Pls.' [26-2] Stmt. ¶¶ 26, 37. Defendants contend that uniforms can be machine-washed at home with other clothing and do not require special treatment. See Defs.' [24] Stmt. ¶¶ 27-30, 38-39. Plaintiffs respond that their uniform maintenance activities include spot cleaning, washing, drying, and ironing their uniforms. See Pls.' [28-1] Decls. ¶ 5; Pls.' [31-1] Decls. ¶ 13. Plaintiffs further claim that because their work exposes them to bacteria and germs that could be transmitted through contact, they regularly wash their uniforms after each use and separately from their ordinary laundry. See Pls.' [28-1] Decls. ¶¶ 6-9. Plaintiffs estimate that these activities subsume between one and three hours during a typical week. See id. ¶ 10.

II. DISCUSSION

Defendants contend that they are entitled to pre-discovery summary judgment on Plaintiffs' "uniform maintenance" claim because the limited uniform maintenance actually required by Defendants' policies does not qualify as compensable activity under the FLSA or DC-MWA. This contention further divides into two basic arguments. First, Defendants argue that uniform maintenance is not a compensable "principal" activity. See Defs.' [21] Mem. at 6-8; Defs.' [29] Mem. at 2-7. Second, Defendants argue that the time spent on uniform maintenance is de minimis. See Defs.' [21] Mem. at 8-9.

In response to these arguments, Plaintiffs counter in part that they should be allowed to conduct discovery on the relationship between Defendants' uniform maintenance policies and their infection-control and patient-safety practices before having to defend against a motion for summary judgment on these grounds. Because the Court finds that Plaintiffs are entitled to conduct discovery, Plaintiffs' Rule 56(d) Motion shall be GRANTED and Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment shall be DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

Plaintiffs seek relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d), which provides:

When Facts Are Unavailable to the Non-movant. If a non-movant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition, the court may:

(1) defer considering the motion or deny it; (2) allow time to obtain affidavits or declarations or to take discovery; or (3) ...


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