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Amaya v. Logo Enterprises, LLC

United States District Court, District of Columbia

May 4, 2017

TOMAS LEMUS AMAYA Plaintiff,
v.
LOGO ENTERPRISES, LLC, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Tomas Lemus Amaya worked for six years as a kitchen hand at the Pollo Granjero restaurant in Washington, D.C. In this suit, he seeks to recover from the restaurant and its owner unpaid minimum and overtime wages for a period of approximately two years. Despite having been served, defendants Logo Enterprises, LLC (“Logo Enterprises”) and its owner Juan Loyola have not responded to the complaint or the clerk's entry of default. Amaya now petitions the Court to enter a default judgment, seeking a monetary judgment against Defendants in the amount of $300, 163.82, which includes unpaid minimum and overtime wages, liquidated damages, attorney fees, expenses, and court costs. Because Amaya has adequately demonstrated Defendants' liability and that he is entitled to monetary relief, the Court will enter default judgments against Logo Enterprises and Loyola.

         I. Background

         The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) requires employers to pay a federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, and overtime payments at a rate of one-and one-half times the employee's regular hourly wage for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. See 29 U.S.C. §§ 206-207. The statute further requires employers to pay state-established minimum wages if they are higher than the federal minimum wage. See id. § 218.

         The District of Columbia Wage Payment and Collection Law (“DCWPCL”) establishes the minimum wage that employers must pay to persons employed in the District of Columbia. See D.C. Code § 32-1001. During the time periods alleged in Amaya's complaint, the D.C. minimum wage was $8.25 per hour from January 1, 2013 until June 30, 2014; $9.50 from July 1, 2014 until June 30, 2015; and $10.50 from July 1, 2015 until the end of Amaya's employment on October 21, 2015. See D.C. Code § 32-1003. Because the federal minimum wage was lower during all relevant periods, Amaya's minimum hourly wage is established by the DCWPCL.

         Logo Enterprises and Loyola are employers as defined by the FLSA and the DCWPCL.[1]Logo Enterprises is a limited liability company operating under the name Pollo Granjero. Compl. ¶ 6. Pollo Granjero employed Amaya as a kitchen hand, starting in 2009 until approximately October 21, 2015. Compl. ¶¶ 9-11.[2] Amaya filed suit on January 5, 2016 alleging that Defendants violated both the FLSA and DCWPCL by paying him less than the required minimum wage and no overtime pay despite his working an average of 83 hours per week. Id. ¶¶ 6-7, 17, 40-41. Accordingly, Amaya argues that he is entitled to $313, 128.00, which includes unpaid wages from January 1, 2013 until October 21, 2015, liquidated damages, court costs, and attorney fees and expenses.

         Loyola and the Company were properly served on January 12, 2016 and February 4, 2016 respectively. Neither Defendant filed a response, and the Clerk of the Court entered a default against both. In September 2016, Amaya filed a Motion for Default Judgment, which has received no response in the past six months.

         II. Standard of Review

         The standard for default judgment is a two-step procedure. See e.g., Ventura v L.A. Howard Constr. Co., 134 F.Supp.3d 99, 102 (D.D.C. 2015). A plaintiff must request first that the Clerk of the Court enter a default against an opposing party who has “failed to plead or otherwise defend, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a), which “establishes the defaulting party's liability for the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint.” Boland v. Elite Terrazzo Flooring, Inc., 763 F.Supp.2d 64, 67 (D.D.C. 2011). A plaintiff must then petition the court for a default judgment against the parties. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2). The purpose of default judgments is to prevent absentee defendants from escaping liability by refusing to participate in judicial proceedings. See Elite Terrazzo Flooring, 763 F.Supp.2d at 67.

         Once liability has been established, courts have considerable latitude in determining the appropriate award through an independent evaluation of the alleged damages. Courts may choose to hold a hearing or can base their assessments on “detailed affidavits or documentary evidence” submitted by plaintiffs in support of their claims. Boland v. Providence Constr. Corp., 304 F.R.D. 31, 36 (D.D.C. 2014) (quoting Fanning v. Permanent Sol. Indus, Inc., 257 F.R.D. 4, 7 (D.D.C. 2009)). However, the Court is not required to hold a hearing “‘as long as it ensures that there is a basis for the damages specified in the default judgment.'” Elite Terrazzo Flooring, Inc., 763 F.Supp.2d at 67.

         III. Analysis

         The Court will first consider Defendants' liability and then turn to evaluating the relevant damages.

         A. Liability

         The FLSA requires that an employer pay his employees for hours worked in excess of forty hours per week “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). The DCWPCL likewise requires employer to compensate employees for overtime “at a rate not less than 11/2 times the regular rate at which the employee is employed.” D.C. Code § 32-1003. Under the DCWPCL, if an employer fires an employee, “the employer shall pay the employee's wages earned not later than the working day following such discharge.” D.C. Code § 32-1303. If an employee quits or resigns, however, ...


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