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Akinsinde v. Not-For-Profit Hospital Corp.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 29, 2018

Irene Akinsinde, Plaintiff,
v.
Not-For-Profit Hospital Corporation, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          AMIT P. MEHTA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Irene Akinsinde is a former nurse at Defendant Not-For-Profit Hospital Corporation who was fired after 11 years of service. In this action, Plaintiff claims that her termination came about due to her employer's negligent supervision of her immediate supervisor, who had a personal vendetta against her. She also seeks payment of unpaid overtime wages under federal and District of Columbia law. Defendant has moved for summary judgment on all claims.

         For the reasons discussed below, the court grants Defendant's motion as to Plaintiff's negligent supervision claim and her D.C. Wage Payment and Collection Law claim, and in part as to her claims for unpaid overtime wages under federal and District of Columbia law. Plaintiff may proceed to trial on her wage claims premised on unpaid 30-minute meal breaks, but not as to two 15-minute breaks per shift, as there is no dispute that Plaintiff received compensation for the latter time periods.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff Irene Akinsinde is a licensed practical nurse, who for nearly 11 years worked in the psychiatric ward for Defendant Not-For-Profit Hospital Corporation, which does business as United Medical Center. See Def Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 43 [hereinafter Def's Mot.], Def's Stmt. of Undisputed Material Facts [hereinafter Def's Stmt.], ECF No. 43-1 ¶¶ 1, 4-5, 105; Pl.'s Mem. in Opp'n to Def's Mot., ECF No. 45 [hereinafter Pl.'s Mem.], Aff of Irene Akinsinde, ECF No. 45-3 [hereinafter Pl.'s Aff], ¶¶ 2, 3. According to Plaintiff, while employed at United Medical Center, she worked eight-and-a-half-hour shifts. Def's Mot., Ex. 1, ECF No. 43-2 [hereinafter Def's Mot. Ex. 1.], at 14-15.[1] During each shift, she was afforded two 15-minute breaks and one 30-minute meal break. Id. at 13; Pl.'s Mem. at 1; Am. Compl. (Second), ECF No. 15 [hereinafter Compl.] ¶ 9. Due to chronic understaffing in the psychiatric ward, however, Plaintiff asserts she was unable to take these breaks and was not paid for this extra work. Pl.'s Aff. ¶¶ 26, 27. According to Plaintiff, this nonpayment occurred over the entirety of her employment. Id. ¶ 27.

         It is undisputed that Plaintiff was the subject of a number of disciplinary actions during her employment. Def's Stmt. ¶¶ 69-75; Pl.'s Resp. to Def's Stmt., ECF No. 45-1 at 3 (questioning the veracity of the underlying complaints, but not contesting the disciplinary actions imposed). The grounds for these actions included tardiness, “a pattern of harassing and belittling behavior, ” failing to complete assigned work and fraudulently covering it up, and “rude and unprofessional” conduct. Def's Stmt. ¶¶ 69-75. Though Plaintiff does not contest the fact of these disciplinary actions, she insists that they “have to be taken with a large box of salt.” Pl.'s Resp. to Def's Stmt. at 3. She asserts that her supervisor, Ms. Grea Neverson-Daniels, falsified the complaints and “pressured others to make false charges against [Plaintiff].” Id. Plaintiff claims that Ms. Neverson-Daniels harbored ill will towards her because of a romantic relationship that she had with Ms. Neverson-Daniels' late husband before they married. Id.

         This unchecked animus, Plaintiff contends, led to her termination. On or about February 15, 2015, a patient filed a formal complaint against Plaintiff, alleging a pattern of unprofessional behavior. Def.'s Mot. at 22-23; Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 40. The complaint accused Plaintiff of yelling at the patient and-when the patient responded by refusing to take her medication-throwing the medication in the trash. Def.'s Mot. at 23; Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 40. Ms. Neverson-Daniels forwarded the complaint to higher-ups at the hospital and, after reviewing the complaint, a group of three supervisors, including Ms. Neverson-Daniels, decided to terminate Plaintiff. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 103- 104; Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Stmt. at 4-5 (conceding the firing but not the reason for it). Plaintiff was fired on March 9, 2015. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 105-107; Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Stmt. (not disputing Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 105-107).

         B. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff originally filed this case in D.C. Superior Court on February 17, 2016. See Notice and Pet. for Removal, ECF No. 1, at 1. After removal to this court, Plaintiff amended her complaint and asserted claims for: (1) violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), the D.C. Minimum Wage Revision Act, and the D.C. Wage Payment and Collection Law, arising from the failure to pay overtime wages; (2) negligent supervision; (3) fraud; and (4) intentional interference with prospective advantage. Am. Compl., ECF No. 6. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss, which the court granted in part. Mem. Op. and Order, ECF No. 11.

         Plaintiff then filed a Second Amended Complaint, repleading only federal and District of Columbia wage claims and a negligent supervision claim. Compl. ¶¶ 29-54. Defendant moves for summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) Plaintiff's negligent supervision and District of Columbia wage claims are preempted by the federal Labor Management Relations Act (“LMRA”); (2) the undisputed record evidence does not support her negligent supervision claim; (3) there is insufficient evidence to support her federal and District of Columbia claims for unpaid overtime wages; and (4) her District of Columbia wage claims are actionable, if at all, only under the D.C. Minimum Wage Revision Act. See generally Def.'s Mot.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate “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). A “genuine dispute” of a “material fact” exists when the fact is “capable of affecting the substantive outcome of the litigation” and “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Elzeneiny v. District of Columbia, 125 F.Supp.3d 18, 28 (D.D.C. 2015). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating “the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). When the moving party would not bear the burden at trial on a particular claim or issue, it need only make a showing that the non-moving party lacks evidence from which a reasonable jury could find in the non-moving party's favor. Id. at 322-23.

         In assessing a motion for summary judgment, the court considers all relevant evidence presented by the parties. See Brady v. Office of Sergeant at Arms, 520 F.3d 490, 495 (D.C. Cir. 2008). The court looks at the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all justifiable inferences in that party's favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). If the court determines “no reasonable jury could reach a verdict in her favor, ” then summary judgment is appropriate. Wheeler v. Georgetown Univ. Hosp., 812 F.3d 1109, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2016). When ruling on a summary judgment motion, courts are “not to make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.” Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Preemption Under the LMRA

         The court begins with Defendant's assertion that Plaintiff's negligent supervision and District of Columbia wage claims are preempted by Section 301(a) of the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a). See Def.'s Mot. at 4-8, 13-16. For reasons that will become apparent, the court addresses this argument only as to Plaintiff's District of Columbia wage claims. Defendant maintains, in short, that the wage claims are preempted because their resolution is substantially dependent on interpreting the collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) to which Plaintiff was bound as a member of a union. See Def.'s Mot. at 16 (asserting that evaluating those claims “would require extensive analysis of Plaintiff's hours worked, ...


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