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Godburn v. Adams Tile & Terrazzo Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Athens Division

March 31, 2017

SPENCER GODBURN, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
ADAMS TILE & TERRAZZO, INC., a Georgia Corporation; RUEBEN ADAMS; an individual, and SCOTT ADAMS, an individual, Defendants.

          ORDER ON MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          C. ASHLEY ROYAL, SENIOR JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Plaintiff Spencer Godburn and opt-in Plaintiffs Jorge Salinas and Leonardo Garcia bring this action asserting violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., and seeking unpaid overtime compensation from Defendants Adams Tile & Terrazzo, Rueben Adams, and Scott Adams. Before the Court are Defendants&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39; Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and Plaintiffs&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39; Motion for Summary Judgment. Having read and considered the Motions, the record in this case, the applicable law, and the parties&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39; arguments, the Court HEREBY GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendants&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39; Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [Doc. 41] and DENIES Plaintiffs&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39; Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 43');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3]. Specifically, the Court finds Rueben Adams and Scott Adams cannot be held individually liable, and the Court cannot grant judgment as a matter of law to either party on Plaintiffs&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39; claims for overtime compensation and willfulness.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is proper if the movant “shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”[1] Not all factual disputes render summary judgment inappropriate; only a genuine issue of material fact will defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment.[2] This means that summary judgment may be granted if there is insufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party or, in other words, if reasonable minds could not differ as to the verdict.[3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3" name="FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3" id= "FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3]

         On summary judgment, the Court must view the evidence and all justifiable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party; the Court may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.[4" name="FN4" id="FN4">4] The moving party “always bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact” and that entitle it to a judgment as a matter of law.[5');">5');">5');">5" name="FN5');">5');">5');">5" id="FN5');">5');">5');">5">5');">5');">5');">5] If the moving party discharges this burden, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to respond by setting forth specific evidence in the record and articulating the precise manner in which that evidence creates a genuine issue of material fact or that the moving party is not entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.[6');">6" name="FN6');">6" id= "FN6');">6">6');">6] This evidence must consist of more than mere conclusory allegations or legal conclusions.[7');">7" name="FN7');">7" id= "FN7');">7">7');">7]

         The standard of review for cross-motions for summary judgment does not differ from the standard applied when only one party files a motion.[8" name="FN8" id= "FN8">8] “Cross-motions for summary judgment will not, in themselves, warrant the court in granting summary judgment unless one of the parties is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on facts that are not genuinely disputed.”[9] The Court will consider each motion on its own merits, resolving all reasonable inferences against the party whose motion is under consideration.[10" name="FN10" id="FN10">10]

         BACKGROUND

         In this suit for overtime compensation, both Plaintiffs and Defendants have filed motions for summary judgment. Plaintiffs seek summary judgment on all of their claims, contending (1) the evidence establishes they worked more than 40 hours per week, but Defendants did not pay them overtime in compliance with the FLSA; (2) Defendants&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39; violation was willful; and (3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3) Defendants Rueben Adams and Scott Adams[11" name="FN11" id= "FN11">11] are individually liable as employers under the FLSA. Defendants seek summary judgment on two grounds: (1) Defendants Rueben and Scott are not employers under the FLSA, and therefore must be dismissed; and (2) insufficient evidence exists to establish a genuine issue of material fact as to whether they willfully violated the FLSA. The pertinent background is as follows.

         Defendant Adams Tile & Terrazzo (“the Company”) is a small family business that installs commercial flooring. Defendants Rueben and Scott are brothers, and each owns 5');">5');">5');">50 percent of the Company.[12] They serve as the Company&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39;s only corporate officers.[3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3" name="FN13');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3" id= "FN13');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3">13');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3] The Company&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39;s labor force is divided into three distinct crews: (1) the pouring crew, which pours terrazzo flooring; (2) the grinding crew, which grinds and polishes the floor; and (3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3) the “punch-out” crew, which fixes any remaining problems.[4" name="FN14" id="FN14">14]A different supervisor manages each crew.[5');">5');">5');">5" name="FN15');">5');">5');">5" id= "FN15');">5');">5');">5">15');">5');">5');">5]

         Rueben and Scott have different duties in the Company. Rueben serves as the Company&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39;s Chief Executive Officer, and his duties are corporate in nature, as they involve bidding for projects, negotiating prices, and scheduling the crews&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39; work assignments.[6');">6" name="FN16');">6" id= "FN16');">6">16');">6] He does not oversee the crews&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39; on-site work activities, and no evidence indicates he maintains employment records.[7');">7" name= "FN17');">7" id="FN17');">7">17');">7] Although Rueben approves all firings, he “normally” does not interview or hire crewmembers; the crew leaders do.[8" name="FN18" id="FN18">18] Indeed, Rueben did not interview, hire, or fire Plaintiffs.[19] Although Rueben “informally” approves pay raises proposed by the crew leaders, he does not set pay rates, and no evidence indicates he determines crewmembers&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39; overtime compensation.[20] When an employee disputes the amount of a paycheck, Rueben calls the crew leader, who resolves the discrepancy.[21]

         Although Scott also serves as a corporate officer, the record is unclear as to his title, and no evidence shows he bears responsibility for any corporate duties.[22] Scott is the crew leader of the pouring crew, and his duties appear limited to that position.[3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3" name= "FN23');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3" id="FN23');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3">23');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3]Both Scott and the pouring crew foreman share the authority to hire and fire members of the pouring crew.[4" name="FN24" id= "FN24">24] Scott, however, did not interview, hire, or fire Plaintiffs.[5');">5');">5');">5" name="FN25');">5');">5');">5" id= "FN25');">5');">5');">5">25');">5');">5');">5]

         Although Scott is “always on the job” while the crew works, the pouring crew foreman ordinarily manages the day-to-day operations of the crew; Scott only “sometimes” does so.[6');">6" name="FN26');">6" id="FN26');">6">26');">6] Both Scott and the foreman share the authority to set wages for members of the pouring crew.[7');">7" name="FN27');">7" id= "FN27');">7">27');">7] Typically, however, the foreman keeps track of crewmembers&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39; hours worked, and Scott only does so on the rare occasions the foreman is unavailable.[8" name="FN28" id= "FN28">28] On those “rare” occasions, Scott submits the crewmembers&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39; hours to the office manager.[29]No evidence indicates Scott determines his crewmembers&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39; overtime compensation.

         Plaintiffs are laborers who worked for the Company and were paid on an hourly basis. During the pertinent time period, Plaintiff Godburn worked primarily on the grinding crew but testified he also worked on Scott&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39;s pouring crew “four or five times” in “late 2014” or “early 2015');">5');">5');">5.”[3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">30" name="FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">30" id= "FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">30">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">30] Plaintiffs Garcia and Salinas worked exclusively on the grinding crew.[3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">31" name="FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">31" id="FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">31">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">31]

         Defendants paid Plaintiffs two checks each pay period-one check for their regular hours and another for overtime hours worked.[3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">32" name="FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">32" id= "FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">32">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">32] The parties, however, dispute the amount of Plaintiffs&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39; overtime compensation. Plaintiffs contend Defendants only paid them their regular hourly rate for each overtime hour worked, instead of one and one-half times their hourly rate as required under the FLSA. As evidence, Plaintiffs submit three charts summarizing their hours worked, pay stubs, and overtime calculations.[3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">33');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3" name="FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">33');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3" id="FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">33');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">33');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3] Defendants, however, contend they paid Plaintiffs double their regular rate for each overtime hour worked and therefore did not violate the FLSA.[3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">34" name="FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">34" id= "FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">34">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">34] No checks, pay stubs, or overtime calculations are in the record.

         On December 10, 2014, Plaintiff Godburn filed this action seeking unpaid overtime compensation on behalf of himself and those similarly situated. Plaintiffs Garcia and Salinas then opted into the suit. The parties&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39; cross motions for summary judgment are now ripe for ruling.

         DISCUSSION

         The Court will first address Rueben and Scott&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39;s individual liability, and then turn to Plaintiffs&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39; claims for overtime compensation and willfulness.

         I. Individual Liability

         Defendants contend Rueben and Scott must be dismissed because they are not “employers” under the FLSA. The FLSA creates a private right of action against an “employer” who violates the overtime provisions set forth in 29 U.S.C. § 207');">7.[3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">35');">5');">5');">5" name="FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">35');">5');">5');">5" id= "FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">35');">5');">5');">5">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">35');">5');">5');">5] An employer is “any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee.”[3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">36');">6" name="FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">36');">6" id="FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">36');">6">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">36');">6] Thus, “a corporate officer with operational control of a corporation&#3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39;s covered enterprise is an employer along with the corporation, jointly and severally liable under the FLSA for unpaid wages.”[3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">37');">7" name="FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">37');">7" id= "FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">37');">7">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">37');">7]

         To be personally liable, a corporate officer “must either be involved in the day- to-day operation or have some direct responsibility for the supervision of the employee.”[3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">38" name="FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">38" id= "FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">38">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">38] To determine whether an officer meets this standard, courts consider the “economic reality” of the relationship between the parties, including “whether the alleged employer (1) had the power to hire and fire the employees; (2) supervised and controlled employee work schedules or conditions of employment; (3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3) determined the rate and method of payment; and (4) maintained employment records.”[3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39" name="FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39" id="FN3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">3');">39] No single factor is dispositive.[40" name="FN40" id="FN40">40] ‚ÄúRelevant control for purposes of ...


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