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Guevara v. Ischia, Inc.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 6, 2014

MOISES BATRES GUEVARA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ISCHIA, INC., et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

JOHN D. BATES, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Moises Batres Guevara and Jose Gabino Batres Guevara ("the Guevaras") bring this action against defendants Ischia, Inc. and Vittorio Testa (doing business as Ristorante La Perla, or "La Perla"), alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq. ("FLSA") and the District of Columbia Minimum Wage Act Revision Act of 1992, D.C. Code 32-1001 et seq. ("DCMWA"). The Guevaras used to work for Testa-the primary owner, president, and executive chef at La Perla-and allege that they regularly worked uncompensated overtime hours at his restaurant. Before the Court is [19] the Guevaras' motion for partial summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part the Guevaras' motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

Moises Batres Guevara worked at La Perla from October 2010 to May 2011, Pls.' Stmt. of Material Facts Not in Dispute [ECF No. 19-1] ("Pls.' Stmt.") ¶ 7, as a line cook, Dep. of Moises Guevara [ECF No. 19-5] ("M. Guevara Dep.") at 12-15. Jose Gabino Batres Guevara worked at La Perla from 2007[1] to May 2013, Pls.' Stmt. ¶ 8, primarily as a dishwasher, Dep. of Jose Guevara [ECF No. 19-4] ("J. Guevara Dep.") at 13. Through the duration of their employment, the Guevaras earned a flat weekly salary. Pls.' Stmt. ¶ 9. Jose Guevara started off with a salary of $450 per week, and ultimately earned a raise to $575 per week. Compl. ¶ 21. Moises Guevara began at $300 per week, and by the time he left was earning $425 per week. Id . ¶ 20. Their pay was always calculated on a weekly basis; it did not fluctuate based on the amount of hours actually worked. Pls.' Stmt. ¶ 9. The Guevaras never received any separately designated overtime pay. Id . ¶ 13. In fact, the parties never discussed overtime. See id. ¶ 12.

The Guevaras claim to have regularly worked in excess of forty hours per week, but that they never received any additional overtime pay, in violation of the FLSA and the DCMWA. Jose Guevara also argues that his total compensation was frequently below the District of Columbia's $8.25 minimum wage.[2] Defendants deny these allegations. The Guevaras now move for partial summary judgment on their overtime claims, asserting that there is no genuine dispute of material fact as to liability, or as to their entitlement to liquidated damages under the FLSA and the DCMWA. In other words, the Guevaras seek a trial only on the amount of damages-with any amount found by the jury to be doubled under the FLSA and the DCMWA's liquidated damages provisions. Defendants want a trial on all disputed issues, including liability.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings and the evidence demonstrate that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The moving party may successfully support its motion by identifying those portions of "the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, " which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1); see also Celotex , 477 U.S. at 323.

In determining whether there is a genuine dispute of material fact sufficient to preclude summary judgment, the Court must regard the non-movant's statements as true and accept all evidence and make all inferences in the non-movant's favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A non-moving party, however, must establish more than the "mere existence of a scintilla of evidence" in support of its position. Id. at 252. Moreover, "[i]f the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Id. at 249-50 (citations omitted). Summary judgment, then, is appropriate if the nonmovant fails to offer "evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant]." Id. at 252.

DISCUSSION

The area of disagreement between the parties is narrow. Defendants concede that the Guevaras meet the statutory definition of "employees, " and that they were subject to the overtime and minimum wage protections of the FLSA and the DCMWA. See Pls.' Stmt. ¶ 6; see also 29 U.S.C. 207(a)(1) (requiring payment of an overtime premium "not less than one and one-half times the regular rate" of payment for any hours worked in excess of forty per week). Defendants also concede that the Guevaras never received any separately designated overtime pay, Pls.' Stmt. ¶ 13, and that it is possible that the Guevaras sometimes worked more than forty hours per week, id. ¶ 14. But defendants argue that there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether the Guevaras ever worked more than forty hours in any given week, and that this factual dispute precludes summary judgment. The Court agrees. Summary judgment is inappropriate on this lean record; the factual uncertainties at the heart of this case will need to be resolved by a jury.

I. Liability

The Guevaras move for summary judgment on the issue of liability for their overtime claims under the FLSA and the DCMWA. Due to Testa's failure to dispute the point, the Court will enter partial summary judgment on the narrow issue-predicate to a finding of liability- that both Testa and Ischia, Inc. qualify as "employers" under the FLSA and the DCMWA. The Court will deny the Guevaras' motion for summary judgment on the broader question of liability, however, because, on this record, a reasonable jury could come to more than one conclusion as to whether the Guevaras ever worked uncompensated overtime hours.

A. Testa's Status as an "Employer"

Both the FLSA and the DCMWA require "employers" to pay their "employees" an overtime premium for any hours worked in excess of forty hours per week. See 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1); D.C. Code 32-1003(c).[3] There is no dispute that both of the Guevaras qualify as "employees" under the statutes, see Pls.' Stmt. ¶ 7-8, and that Ischia, Inc. was their "employer, " see id. ¶ 6. At least during discovery, however, Testa appeared to dispute whether he, as an individual, also qualified as a statutory "employer, " and ...


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