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Ramsey v. Wallace Electric Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

March 27, 2015

REBECCA RAMSEY, Plaintiff,
v.
WALLACE ELECTRIC COMPANY and PHILLIP WALLACE SR., Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, Jr., District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants Wallace Electric Company's ("WEC") and Phillip Wallace Sr.'s ("P. Wallace") (collectively "Defendants") Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff Rebecca Ramsey's ("Plaintiff") claim for overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") [25].

I. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

On November 18, 2013, Plaintiff filed her Complaint against Defendants seeking overtime wages under the FLSA. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants willfully failed to pay Plaintiff time-and-a-half for each hour in excess of forty (40) hours worked during a work week. Plaintiff claims she is entitled to overtime pay from November 18, 2010, through December 4, 2013.[1] Plaintiff also claims she is entitled, under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), to liquidated damages, attorneys' fees and the costs of this litigation.

On June 16, 2010, Plaintiff began working for WEC, a small business in McDonough, Georgia, that provides electrical services, including service repair work, preventive maintenance, electrical systems design and electrical renovations. Defendant P. Wallace is Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of WEC. Plaintiff did not have a formal title at WEC, but had various responsibilities in running WEC's day-to-day business. When Plaintiff was hired by WEC, she understood she would be paid a salary. Plaintiff's starting salary was $570.00 per week, later raised to $620.00 per week. WEC ranged in size from fifty to ninety-one employees. The majority of WEC's employees are electrical technicians who perform electrical work for WEC's clients at the clients' place of business. WEC had six (6) office workers who performed administrative tasks, and assisted in the day-to-day management of WEC's business. Plaintiff was one of the six office workers.

Plaintiff worked in WEC's business office and had a variety of administrative responsibilities. Debbie Wallace was the office manager, and was Plaintiff's immediate supervisor. Plaintiff's responsibilities at WEC were not prescribed by any written handbooks or formal policies. She described her job duties in a memorandum she prepared dated July 27, 2011. Ramsey Dep. Tr. 118-119., Ex. 6.

Defendant P. Wallace testified at his deposition that the employees, who worked in the business office, including Plaintiff, "managed a very vital area of the business that was critical to the financial well-being of the company." Wallace Dep. Tr. 23: 11-14. P. Wallace also stated that the employees in the business office, including Plaintiff, "had to make decisions downstream, people under them had to get approval from them. So they had to report to them, and their say so is what stuck." Id. at 23: 17-19. For example, although Wallace acknowledged that he had the final decision-making authority at WEC, Wallace believed Plaintiff independently handled:

[a]nything as far as information that they may need or directions to be given from, you know, new hire-packages of forms to be filled out, directions of how to fill them out, insurance that they have to deal with with the men, their time as far as getting recorded properly and turned in properly, pay rates, all of that stuff was in Rebecca's hands.

Id. at 26: 1-11.

Plaintiff admits that one of her most "significant" and "valuable" duties was "talking to a customer." Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts ("SOMF") at ¶ 130; Wallace Dep. Tr. 73: 18-74: 4. Plaintiff was responsible for service call intakes. She interacted with WEC's customers by answering the telephone, collecting customer information, inquiring about customer needs, confirming the availability of technicians, and creating purchase orders that were posted on a job board for assignments. See Ramsey Dep. Tr. 53: 4-12-54: 1-10. After purchase orders were posted, a lead technician assigned technicians to particular jobs. Pl.'s SOMF at ¶ 52.

Although Plaintiff did not place supply orders, she ensured that supplies were properly delivered by manually matching items received against the packing list delivered with the supplies. Id. at ¶ 94. After verifying delivery, Plaintiff physically moved each item to the correct wooden pallet for the particular job for which the supplies were ordered. Id. at ¶ 95. Plaintiff informed supervisors that their supplies had arrived, with supervisors being responsible for directing the materials to the correct job site. Id. at ¶¶ 96-97.

Plaintiff also received invoices for materials ordered for each job, confirmed the materials required were ordered for jobs, and validated that the time spent on each job was posted correctly to the job. Defs.' SOMF at ¶ 44. Plaintiff also was responsible for reviewing the time technicians billed on invoices and she matched the time billed on the invoices to the technicians' time-sheets [sic]. Id. at ¶ 56. Plaintiff was responsible for identifying any discrepancies in a time-sheet [sic] or an invoice, and Defendants relied on her to make sure that the time billed on invoices was accurate. See Ramsey Dep. Tr. 62: 6-25. "It was rare" for her manager, Debbie Wallace, to review invoices before they were sent to a customer and Wallace only reviewed invoices if a customer complained. Id. at 63: 5-10. Plaintiff described "post[ing] invoices" as her "main job, " and stated that WEC's "whole business was built around ordering materials to place on jobs." Id. at 66: 15-16; 67: 23-25-68: 1.

Some of WEC's projects required a permit from the state, city or local governments. Plaintiff prepared the documentation required to obtain these governmental permits, and consulted with the local government to "find out how much everything would cost, break it all down." Id. at 80: 13-20. She also called the government when lines were required to be marked before work was performed by WEC employees. Pl.'s SOMF at ¶ 72.

Plaintiff also performed a variety of Human Resources ("HR") functions. She was responsible for managing WEC's insurance benefits program, tracking employee vacation hours, and informing WEC's employees whether they were eligible for vacation time requested. Pl.'s SOMF at ¶¶ 84-86. Plaintiff was responsible for preparing separation notices for employees after determining they were no longer employed by the company. Id. at ¶¶ 114-115. Plaintiff communicated with employees about WEC's insurance plan choices, enrolled employees in the plans, tracked insurance claims, and answered questions regarding WEC's health benefits. Defs.' SOMF at ¶¶ at 76-77. Plaintiff verified WEC's list of insured employees and ensured that employees, who left WEC's employment, were removed from the company's insurance plan. Id. at ¶ 78. Plaintiff made recommendations to senior management that certain employees be terminated on three or four occasions while she was at WEC. Id. at ¶ 96.

B. Procedural History

On June 27, 2014, Defendants moved for summary judgment on Plaintiff's claim for overtime pay under the FLSA. Defendants contend that Plaintiff is an administrative employee exempt under the FLSA because her primary duties were office work directly related to the management or general business operations of WEC, and she exercised discretion and independent judgment regarding matters of significance in the performance of her duties. On August 1, 2014, Plaintiff responded to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, and argued that she is not exempt from ...


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