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Escamilla v. Nuyen

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 3, 2016

JOSE MILTON BAUTISTA ESCAMILLA, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID NUYEN D/B/A USA HOME CHAMPION REALTY D/B/A OPMAX, USA HOME CHAMPION REALTY, INC., OPMAX MANAGEMENT, LLC, OPMAX, LLC, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ALAN KAY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Jose Milton Bautista Escamilla (“Plaintiff” or “Mr. Escamilla”) seeks partial Summary Judgment against Defendants David Nuyen d/b/a USA Home Champion Realty and d/b/a Opmax (“Mr. Nuyen”), USA Home Champion Realty, Inc. (“Home Champion Realty”), Opmax Management, LLC (“Opmax Mgmt.”), and Opmax, LLC (“Opmax”) (collectively, “Defendants”). (See Mot. for Partial Summary Judgment (“Motion”) [26].) Plaintiff and Defendants consented to a referral of the case to this Court for all purposes, including trial. (Order of Referral [11].) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff’s Motion is denied. An appropriate Order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Statutory Framework

         The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (“FLSA”), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., sets forth the requirements under which an employee is entitled to overtime pay. The D.C.

         Minimum Wage Revision Act of 1992 (“DCMWA”), D.C. Code §§ 32-1001 et seq., largely mirrors the FLSA’s overtime requirements. See Williams v. W.M.A. Transit Co., 472 F.2d 1258, 1260-61 (D.C. Cir. 1972). Specifically, the FLSA provides that “no employer shall employ any of his employees . . . for a workweek longer than forty hours unless such employee receives compensation for his employment in excess of the hours above specified at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed.” 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). Somewhat tantamount, the FLSA defines an “employer” as “any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee” and an “employee” as “any individual employed by an employer.” Id. § 203(d)-(e)(1).

         In construing the FLSA, the Supreme Court determined that “‘economic reality’ rather than ‘technical concepts’ is to be the test of employment.” Goldberg v. Whitaker House Coop., Inc., 366 U.S. 28, 33 (1961). The economic reality test considers “whether the alleged employer (1) had the power to hire and fire the employees, (2) supervised and controlled employee work schedules or conditions of employment, (3) determined the rate and method of payment, and (4) maintained employment records.” Morrison v. Int’l Programs Consortium, Inc., 253 F.3d 5, 11 (D.C. Cir. 2001) (quoting Henthorn v. Dep’t of Navy, 29 F.3d 682, 684 (D.C. Cir. 1994)).

         Any violation of the FLSA’s overtime provisions results in liability “to the employee or employees affected in the amount of their unpaid minimum wages, or their unpaid overtime compensation, as the case may be, and in an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.” 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). The employee’s private right of action is subject to a two-year statute of limitations unless the employer committed a “willful violation, ” in which case the statute of limitations is extended to three years. Id. § 255(a). An employer commits a willful violation if “the employer either knew or showed reckless disregard for the matter of whether its conduct was prohibited by the statute.” McLaughlin v. Richland Shoe Co., 486 U.S. 128, 133 (1988).

         A court may refuse to award liquidated damages under the FLSA if the employer shows that he acted “in good faith” and “had reasonable grounds for believing that his act or omission was not a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.” 29 U.S.C. § 260. A court’s decision to refrain from awarding liquidated damages is reviewed for abuse of discretion, but a court’s determination of “good faith” and “reasonable grounds” is reviewed for clear error. See Thomas v. Howard Univ. Hosp., 39 F.3d 370, 372-73 (D.C. Cir. 1994).

         B. Factual Background

         Plaintiff began working for David Nuyen (hereafter “Mr. Nuyen” or “Defendant”[1]) in March 2008. (Pl.’s Mot. [26-1] at 1; Decl. Sung Dang [27] at 18.) Sung Dang (hereafter “Mr. Dang”) hired Plaintiff to work in Mr. Nuyen’s apartment buildings. (Def.’s Am. Interrog. Answers [26-7] at 2.) Plaintiff signed a contract with Mr. Dang and Mr. Nuyen, but Defendant has been unable to locate a copy of the contract. (Id.) Plaintiff worked for Mr. Nuyen until January 2013. (Pl.’s Mot. [26-1] at 1; Decl. Sung Dang [27] at 18.)

         On May 22, 2014, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant, alleging that Defendant denied Plaintiff overtime pay in violation of the FLSA during the course of his employment with Defendant. (Pl.’s Compl. [1] at 2, 8-9.) Specifically, Plaintiff claims he worked approximately 66 hours per week during his 253 weeks of employment with Defendant but was paid $10 per hour-his regular rate of pay-for all hours worked. (Pl.’s Compl. [1] at 6.) Defendant claims that Plaintiff rarely, if ever, worked 40 hours per week during his 253 weeks of employment and that Plaintiff was paid per job as an independent contractor rather than per hour. (Def.’s Opp’n [27] at 7, 11.) Based on the deposition of Mr. Nuyen and the affidavits of Plaintiff’s coworkers, Plaintiff now moves for partial summary judgment. (Pl.’s Mot. [26] at 1-2.) Specifically, Plaintiff seeks summary judgment on the following issues: (1) that Plaintiff was Defendant’s employee under the FLSA, (2) that Defendant violated the FLSA by denying Plaintiff overtime pay, (3) that Mr. Nuyen was Plaintiff’s employer under the FLSA and thus jointly and severally liable to Plaintiff along with corporate Defendants, (4) that Plaintiff is entitled to liquidated damages under the FLSA, and (5) that Plaintiff is entitled to equitably toll his claims to the beginning of his employment. (Id.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is to 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); accord Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). The moving party must set forth the foundation for its motion and identify segments of the record demonstrating an absence of genuine dispute of material facts. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, a court must draw all inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. McCready v. Nicholson, 465 F.3d 1, 7 (D.C. Cir. 2006). Because “[c]redibility determinations, the weighing of inferences and the drawing of inferences from the facts are jury functions, ” a court must deny summary judgment to the extent that reasonable minds could differ over the import of the evidence. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250-51, 255.

         Because the Court will be the trier of fact on an issue if this case proceeds to trial, the summary judgment rules are slightly altered. “[T]he ‘Court is not confined to deciding questions of law, but also may . . . draw a derivative inference from undisputed subsidiary facts, even if those facts could support an inference to the contrary, so long as the inference does not depend upon an evaluation of witness credibility.’” Oao Alfa Bank v. Ctr. for Pub. Integrity, 387 F.Supp.2d 20, 39 (D.D.C. 2005) (ellipses in original) (quoting Cook v. Babbitt, 819 F.Supp. 1, 11 & n.11 (D.D.C. 1993)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff argues he is entitled to summary judgment on the following issues: (1) that Plaintiff was Defendant’s employee under the FLSA, (2) that Defendant violated the FLSA by denying Plaintiff overtime pay, (3) that Mr. Nuyen was Plaintiff’s employer under the FLSA and is jointly and severally liable to Plaintiff along with corporate Defendants, (4) that Plaintiff is entitled to liquidated damages under the FLSA, and (5) that Plaintiff’s claims are properly tolled to the beginning of his employment. (Pl.’s Mot. [26] at 1-2.)

         1. This Court will not strike Defendant’s Opposition ...


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