United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
L. FRIEDRICH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
suit concerns whether Adams Restaurant Group unlawfully
classified former employee Anastacio Rodriguez as an
executive rather than as the nonmanagerial laborer he says he
was. Rodriguez sued the restaurant and its executive chef
under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the District of Columbia
Minimum Wage Act, and the District of Columbia Wage Payment
and Wage Collection Law. Dkt. 1. Before the Court is the
defendants' motion for summary judgment. Dkt. 27. For the
reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and
denied in part.
Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay overtime
compensation (at least 150 percent of the rate of regular
compensation) to a covered employee working more than forty
hours in a week. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a). The Act exempts
certain employees from that requirement, however, including
those who work “in a bona fide executive . . .
capacity.” Id. § 213(a). The D.C. Minimum
Wage Act mirrors these provisions. D.C. Code §§
32-1003(c), 32-1004(a). The D.C. Payment and Wage Collection
Law sets timing requirements for payment of wages and defines
wages to include overtime premiums. Id. §§
32-1301 et seq.
Anastacio Rodriguez alleges that defendants Adams Restaurant
and executive chef Claudia Rivas's classification of him
as a bona fide executive-and their corresponding decision not
to pay him overtime-violated those laws. During discovery,
Rodriguez and his former superiors gave very different
accounts of his role with the company, both sides serving
their own narrative. The restaurant's witnesses recalled
Rodriguez regularly exercising managerial power, while
Rodriguez described his work as manual-labor intensive and
without administrative input or leadership.
restaurant initially hired Rodriguez as a part-time
“line cook” in June 2015, paying him $14 an hour
to prepare ingredients and cook food. Rivas Dep. at 72:12-15,
Dkt. 27-3. An immigrant from Mexico with only a high school
education, Rodriguez had nineteen years of culinary
experience but no formal culinary education. Rodriguez Dep.
at 16:19-20, 19:13-20, Dkt. 28-1; Rivas Dep. at 212:4-13;
228:18-229:15, Dkt. 27-3. In September 2015, the restaurant
promoted him to sous chef with a $55, 000 annual salary and
classified him as exempt from the overtime requirement. Adams
Restaurant Answers to Pl.'s First Set of Interrogs.,
Answer to Interrog. No. 9, at 10-11, Dkt. 27-4. According to
Rodriguez, his hours per week jumped from about forty to
about seventy. Rodriguez Dep. at 44:6-8, Dkt. 28-1; Rodriguez
Answers to Defs.' Interrog. Answer No. 3 at 4-5. Dkt.
28-1, Ex. B.
first, another sous chef, Louis Benitez, also worked at the
restaurant. See Rodriguez Dep. at 48:14-18, Dkt.
28-1. Rodriguez testified that he and Benitez both worked
full days during their overlapping time as sous chefs, with
Benitez supervising him. Rodriguez Dep. at 49:1-5, 52:7-19,
Dkt. 28-1. The restaurant, on the other hand, claims that one
of the sous chefs was responsible for the day shift while the
other was responsible for the night shift. Adams Dep. at
160:18-161:7, Dkt. 27-6. In any event, Benitez left the
restaurant after a month or two and Rodriguez became the only
sous chef. See Rodriguez Dep. at 49:15-17, Dkt.
28-1, Ex. A; id. at 63:12-20, Dkt. 27-5. After about
half a year, Rodriguez was fired in March 2016. Adams
Restaurant Answers to Pl.'s First Set of Interrogs.,
Answer to Interrog. No. 9, at 10-11.
Rodriguez's tenure, Rivas lived in Florida and visited
the restaurant only two to five times per month. Rivas Dep.
at 31:2-3, Dkt. 27-3. According to Rodriguez, however, she
monitored employees daily through surveillance video,
regularly informed them that she was watching them, and often
provided corrective instruction and reprimands. Rodriguez
Dep. at 118:11-119:15, Dkt. 28-1; Rodriguez Decl. ¶ 6,
Dkt. 28-1, Ex. C. Rodriguez also claimed that Rivas
“fired a lot of people” in the kitchen while
Rodriguez was sous chef (and that he did not fire anyone
himself). Rodriguez Dep. at 50:2-10, 59:3-5, Dkt. 28-1.
Rodriguez testified that he was supervised by both Rivas and
a restaurant manager (and Benitez at first), though Rivas
disputed that. Rodriguez Decl. ¶ 5; Rivas Dep. at
372:6-7 (“[Rodriguez] didn't have someone
supervising him, he was a supervisor.”). Rivas
testified that Rodriguez supervised line cooks, but Rodriguez
recounted that he offered the line cooks very little
instruction beyond some informal training during three line
cooks' first day on the job. Rivas Dep. at 174:14-17;
Dkt. 27-3; Rodriguez Dep. at 86:16-20, 88:2-17, 89:8-16,
90:21-91:9, Dkt. 28-1. Rodriguez conducted approximately
three interviews of prospective hires, but he says that his
questions were limited to “Where have you
worked?” and “What do you know how to do?,
” and he simply relayed the answers to the restaurant
manager, who made the hiring decision without his input.
Rodriguez Dep. at 59:6-61:20, Dkt. 28-1. But see
Adams Restaurant Answers to Pl.'s First Set of
Interrogs., Answer to Interrog. No. 2, at 4
(“[Rodriguez] possessed the independent authority to
hire and fire other employees.”). According to the
restaurant, Rodriguez's primary duty was managing the
restaurant's kitchen operations and staff, but according
to Rodriguez, his daily schedule generally consisted of
preparing food and cooking. Adams Restaurant Answers to
Pl.'s First Set of Interrogs., Answer to Interrog. No. 2,
at 4; Dkt. 28-1, Ex. B, Pl.'s Interrog. Answer No. 2, at
being fired, Rodriguez sued Adams Restaurant and Rivas
(collectively, the restaurant) under the Fair Labor Standards
Act, the District of Columbia Minimum Wage Act, and the
District of Columbia Wage Payment and Wage Collection Law.
See Compl. at 4-7; 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et
seq.; D.C. Code §§ 32-1001 et seq.;
D.C. Code §§ 32-1301 et seq. After
discovery, the restaurant moved for summary judgment. Adams
Restaurant Mot. Summ. J., Dkt. 27. The case was reassigned to
the undersigned judge on December 4, 2017.
grants summary judgment if the moving party “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). A
“material” fact is one with potential to change
the substantive outcome of the litigation. See Liberty
Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248; Holcomb v. Powell, 433
F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006). A dispute is
“genuine” if a reasonable jury could determine
that the evidence warrants a verdict for the nonmoving party.
See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248;
Holcomb, 433 F.3d at 895. “If there are no
genuine issues of material fact, the moving party is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law if the nonmoving party
‘fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party's case,
and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial.'” Holcomb, 433 at 895 (quoting
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)).
reviewing the record, the court “must draw all
reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it
may not make credibility determinations or weigh the
evidence.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing
Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). “Thus, although
the court should review the record as a whole, it must
disregard all evidence favorable to the moving party that the
jury is not required to believe, ” id. at 151,
and it “is . . . to believe” “[t]he
evidence of the non-movant, ” Liberty Lobby,
477 U.S. at 255.
same time, to win at summary judgment a defendant “need
only identify the ways in which the plaintiff has failed to
come forward with sufficient evidence to [allow] a reasonable
jury to find in her favor on one or more essential elements
of her claim.” Grimes v. District of Columbia,
794 F.3d 83, 93 (D.C. Cir. 2015); see also Celotex,
477 U.S. at 323-325. And while the defendant bears this
burden of establishing that the plaintiff lacks sufficient
evidence, the defendant need not produce any evidence of its
own. The plaintiff, meanwhile, “cannot rely on the
allegations of her own complaint in response to a summary
judgment motion, but must substantiate them with . . .
evidence that a reasonable jury could credit in support of
each essential element of her claims.” Grimes,
794 F.3d at 94. The plaintiff “must do more than simply
show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts, ” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986), and must
establish that the evidence is not “so one-sided that
reasonable men and women must find” for the defendant.
Radtke v. Lifecare Mgmt. Partners, 795 F.3d 159, 166
(D.C. Cir. 2015).
judgment is appropriate, in sum, when “the parties
agree about the facts-what happened-and the court accepts the
movant's view of the legal implications of those facts,
or . . . when a putatively disputed body of evidentiary
material could not, even assuming a sympathetic factfinder,
reasonably support a finding crucial to the ...