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Gomez-Cruz v. Cornerstone Cafe, Inc.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

May 3, 2019

CORNERSTONE CAFÉ, INC. et al., Defendants.




         Plaintiff Juliana Gomez-Cruz worked at Cornerstone Café in Washington, D.C. for 13 years before her termination in November 2017. She brought this action against the cafe and its owners, Dae Woong Kim and Kookhee Park (collectively, “Defendants”), to recover the statutorily required minimum and overtime wages that she alleges were not paid during her employment. Defendants were properly served but failed to respond to Plaintiff's Complaint, after which Plaintiff obtained an entry of default. Plaintiff then moved for default judgment, seeking the relief requested in her Complaint. For the reasons discussed below, the court grants Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment.


         A. Factual Background[1]

         Plaintiff Juliana Gomez-Cruz worked for Defendants Dae Woong Kim and Kookhee Park at their buffet and carryout restaurant, Cornerstone Café, from October 2004 through November 2017. See Compl., ECF No. 1 [hereinafter Compl.] ¶¶ 2-7, 10. Defendants served as joint owner-managers of the café throughout Plaintiff's employment and were the “ultimate authorities” as to Plaintiff's supervision, work schedule, and conditions of employment. Id. ¶ 6. Plaintiff's responsibilities at the café included food preparation, taking customer orders, washing dishes and cleaning, and providing customer service. Id. ¶ 21. Each week, Plaintiff typically worked Monday through Friday between 5:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., without taking a break of more than five minutes. Id. ¶¶ 23-24. In all, Plaintiff “typically and customarily worked at or about forty-six and one-half hours per week.” Mot. for Default J., ECF No. 13 [hereinafter Pl.'s Mot.], Aff. of Juliana Gomez-Cruz, ECF No. 13-1 [hereinafter Pl.'s Aff.], ¶ 9.

         During Plaintiff's employment, Defendants maintained no timekeeping system, Compl. ¶ 22; nor did they provide Plaintiff with a paystub or report reflecting the hours she worked, id. ¶ 27. Defendants also purportedly withheld a certain portion of Plaintiff's gross pay for taxes. Id. ¶ 25. Plaintiff approximates that she “worked at or about [45 to 48] hours per week.” See id. ¶¶ 12-13.

         For her labor, Defendants paid Plaintiff a flat weekly salary of $400 from October 2004 through June 2008, $420 from July 2008 through September 2015, and $440 from October 2015 through the date of her termination in November 2017. Id. ¶¶ 15-17. At no point during her employment did Defendants discuss an hourly rate or terms of overtime work and compensation with Plaintiff. Id. ¶¶ 18-20. Plaintiff received compensation on a weekly basis by both cash and check, with no payroll reporting system reflecting the time she worked or any federal or state deductions. Id. ¶¶ 25-27.

         B. Procedural Background

         On May 15, 2018, Plaintiff filed this action against Defendants alleging that they failed to pay her overtime and minimum wages during various periods of her employment in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq., the D.C. Minimum Wage Act Revision Act of 1992 (“DCMWA”), D.C. Code §§ 32-1001 et seq., and the D.C. Wage Payment and Wage Collection Act (“DCWPA”), D.C. Code §§ 32-1301 et seq. See generally Compl. In support of these claims, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants misinformed her about her rights under federal and District of Columbia law and failed to post any notice of employee rights within the café. Compl. ¶¶ 29-33.

         On August 6, 2018, after receiving no proof of service from Plaintiff, the court issued an Order to Show Cause as to why the case should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m) and Local Civil Rule 83.23. See Order to Show Cause, ECF No. 3; Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(c). In response, on August 13, 2018, Plaintiff filed three affidavits showing that she properly served Defendants with a copy of the Complaint and a summons on August 13, 2018. See Affs. of Service, ECF Nos. 4-6. Despite being served, Defendants did not answer the Complaint or otherwise appear.

         On September 18, 2018, the court issued a second Order to Show Cause, which directed Plaintiff to seek an entry of default and move for entry of default judgment or risk dismissal of the case. See Order to Show Cause, ECF No.7. Plaintiff filed an Affidavit for Default on October 11, 2018, see Aff. For Default, ECF No. 8, and the Clerk of the Court entered a default against Defendants, see Clerk's Entry of Default, ECF No. 10. Plaintiff, however, failed to move for default judgment as directed and so the court dismissed the action, without prejudice, for want of prosecution on November 20, 2018. See Order, ECF No. 11.

         Plaintiff subsequently filed a Motion for Reconsideration and for an Extension of Time to File a Motion for Default Judgment, see Pl.'s Mot. for Reconsideration, ECF No. 12, which the court granted on December 3, 2018, see Minute Order, Dec. 3, 2018. In her Motion for Default Judgment, Plaintiff seeks entry of judgment against Defendants in the amount of $16, 272.13 in unpaid wages plus three times that sum in liquidated damages, for a total award of $65, 088.52. Pl.'s Mot. at 4-6.

         III. ...

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