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Morales v. Humphrey

United States District Court, District of Columbia

May 18, 2016




         Plaintiffs in this case are three maintenance workers formerly employed by a residential landlord in the District of Columbia. In this suit, they allege that in 2012, 2013, and 2014, their erstwhile employer, Defendant Melvin Humphrey, failed to pay them overtime wages as required by D.C. and federal law. The federal statute they believe entitles them to overtime payment is the Fair Labor Standards Act, which mandates time-and-a-half wages for hours worked over forty each week. See 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). The Act, however, applies only to “enterprise[s] engaged in commerce,” id., a class of businesses whose characteristics include, inter alia, earning at least $500,000 per year. See 29 U.S.C. § 203(s)(1)(A)(ii). Convinced that his business brought in less than that amount during the years that Plaintiffs worked for him, Humphrey quickly moved for summary judgment on that basis. Plaintiffs rejoined that they had no way of knowing how much Defendant’s business earned without discovery; agreeing, the Court denied Humphrey’s motion without prejudice.

         Discovery having now concluded, Humphrey again moves for summary judgment on the same ground. In essence, then, Defendant’s present Motion poses the $500,000 Question: Did his rental business earn enough, in gross receipts, to qualify as an “enterprise” governed by the FLSA or not? As it turns out, the record still does not admit of a clear answer, so the Court will again deny summary judgment.

         I. Background

         Most of the underlying facts of this case are undisputed. The Court will first set out those facts, as well as the case’s procedural history. It will later delve into the disputed facts in the Analysis section.

         Plaintiffs William Ernesto Chilin Morales, Jorge Eduardo Rico Turrubiartes, and Carlos R. Orellana-Murga are former employees of Humphrey who worked to maintain low-income apartment and housing units Defendant owns and leases in the Southeast quadrant of the District of Columbia. See ECF No. 20, Attach. 6 (Defendant’s Statement of Facts), ¶¶ 1-3; ECF No. 21 at 2-4 (Plaintiffs’ Statement of Facts) at 2, ¶¶ 1-9. Humphrey owns approximately twenty properties and leases around eighty residential units. See Def. SOF, ¶ 3; Pl. SOF, ¶ 9. The only records Humphrey keeps regarding the rent paid by his tenants are his bank statements; he maintains no other accounting records relating to these apartment units. See Def. SOF, ¶ 4; Pl. SOF, ¶ 10.

         All three Plaintiffs worked for Humphey from 2012 to 2014, although their start and end dates differ slightly. See Def. SOF, ¶¶ 10, 12-13; Pl. SOF, ¶¶ 3, 5, 7. Plaintiffs were paid a daily amount, regardless of the hours they worked each day: Morales received $120, and Murda and Turrubiartes each received $135. See Def. SOF, ¶¶ 9-13; Pl. SOF, ¶¶ 3-8.

         Plaintiffs allege in their Complaint that this rate was intended to cover eight hours of work per day, and that under federal and D.C. law, they should have been compensated at a rate of one and a half times their regular hourly rate for all additional hours worked. See ECF No. 3 (Amended Complaint) at 1-2. According to Plaintiffs, on many weeks they were compensated for only forty hours of work (five daily payments), even though they were “required to work an average of sixty hours per week.” See id., ¶¶ 9-11. At least one Plaintiff, Murga, was eventually terminated as a result of his repeated requests for overtime payment. See id., ¶ 12.

         Plaintiffs filed suit in this Court in August of 2014, contending that Defendant’s compensation practices violated the overtime-protection provisions of the D.C. Minimum Wage Revision Act (DCMWRA), the D.C. Wage Payment and Collection Law (DCWCL), and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). See id. at 1. In March of 2015, Defendant moved for partial summary judgment. See ECF No. 9, Attach. 2 (First MSJ). He argued, principally, that he did not meet the minimum-income requirement of the FLSA, which covers only enterprises earning at least $500,000 per year. See First MSJ at 3. He attached redacted versions of his bank statement as proof that his business brought in less than the half-million dollars required by the statute. See id., Exhs. A, B, C.

         Yet the Court was not persuaded. It found that the question of whether Humphrey’s real-estate business satisfied the FLSA’s threshold income requirements was premature without further discovery, as Plaintiffs had argued, and it denied his partial-summary-judgment motion without prejudice. See Morales v. Humphrey, 309 F.R.D. 44, 48-49 (D.D.C. 2015). It permitted additional discovery under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) so that Plaintiffs could gather “facts essential to justify [their] opposition” to Humphrey’s motion, including by “obtain[ing] affidavits or declarations.” Id. at 47 (quoting F.R.C.P. 56(d)).

         The record now fleshed out, Defendant renews his Motion for Summary Judgment. See ECF No. 20. The current Motion largely mirrors its predecessor, arguing again that the business does not meet the $500,000 FLSA threshold. See MSJ at 4-5. Defendant also addresses in part the merits of Plaintiffs’ FLSA claim, contending that one Plaintiff was entitled only to minimum-wage payments and that, at most, Defendant is liable only for one half the regular rate for Plaintiffs’ overtime hours. See id. at 6-9. More important, this time around the parties’ briefings have the benefit of Humphrey’s full, unredacted bank statements, produced during discovery. See ECF 21 (Opp.), Exh. 6 (Full Bank Statements). The Court, accordingly, will revisit the FLSA income requirement with the aid of this additional evidence.

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment may be granted if “the movant shows 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); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986); Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006). A fact is “material” if it is capable of affecting the substantive outcome of the litigation. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248; Holcomb, 433 F.3d at 895. A dispute is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007); Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248; Holcomb, 433 F.3d at 895. “A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion” by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record” or “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1).

         When a motion for summary judgment is under consideration, “[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255; see also Mastro v. Potomac Electric Power Co., 447 F.3d 843, 850 (D.C. Cir. 2006); Aka v. Wash. Hosp. Ctr., 156 F.3d 1284, 1288 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (en banc). On a motion for summary judgment, the Court must “eschew ...

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