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Sanchez v. St. Joseph/Candler Health System, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division

March 16, 2018




         Before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment (doc. 31) . The Clerk has given Plaintiffs notice of the summary judgment motion and the summary judgment rules, of the right to file affidavits or other materials in opposition, and the consequences of default. Therefore, the notice requirements of Griffith v. Wainwright, 772 F.2d 822, 825 (11th Cir. 1985) (per curiam), have been satisfied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs Connie Sanchez and Glenda McNair were employed by Defendant as Team Leads for the Patient Registration Department at St. Joseph's Hospital and Candler Health Center, respectively. (Sanchez Dep., Doc. 31-3, at 75; McNair Dep., Doc. 31-4, at 42.) As team leads, Plaintiffs oversaw forty-two registration specialists ("registrars"). (Sanchez Dep. at 75.) Registrars are in charge of collecting demographic, [1] medical, billing, and insurance information from patients. (Id. at 86-88; McNair Dep. at 43-44.) This information was used to provide medical care and for billing purposes. (Sanchez Dep. at 86-88; McNair Dep. at 43-44.)

         Plaintiffs' duties included: (1) helping register patients during busy periods; (2) delivering money collected from various departments to the campuses' cashier; (3) confirming that the money collected matched what each department reported; (4) ensuring each department had a sufficient number of registrars; (5) calling IT when the registration department experienced computer problems; (6) ordering supplies; and (7) learning the hospital's new billing software. (Sanchez Dep. at 104-05.) The parties agree that Plaintiffs' most important duty was ensuring each department had a sufficient number of registrars. (Id. at 118-19; McNair Dep. at 92.) This involved Plaintiffs calling registrars to fill empty shifts and rotating patients from one department to another when a department was short-handed.[2](Sanchez Dep. at 100; McNair Dep. at 83, 115.) According to Defendant, Plaintiffs had power to move employees from one department to another depending on the amount of traffic in each department. (McNair Dep. at 46, 83.) However, Ms. Allen testified that Plaintiffs' decision was based on a defined number of registrars that were supposed to be in each department. (Allen Dep., Doc. 31-17, at 18-19.)

         When a registrar called in sick or there was an opening in the schedule, Plaintiffs called through a list of all forty-Registrars to find a replacement. (McNair Dep. at 56.) Plaintiffs would choose whom to call first based on who they thought was most likely to agree to cover that shift. (Sanchez Dep. at 174; McNair Dep. at 162-63.) The decision to cover a shift was voluntary and registrars would frequently refuse. (Sanchez Decl., Doc. 35-8, ¶ 4; McNair Decl., Doc. 35-9, ¶ 4.) Additionally, Plaintiffs had no authority to decide a replacement was unnecessary. (McNair Dep. at 160.) Therefore, finding someone to fill an empty shift could take hours. (Id. at 57.) This duty took up much of Plaintiffs' workday and an additional fourteen hours on-call each week. (Sanchez Dep. at 118, 248; McNair Dep. at 114.)

         Plaintiffs are no longer working for Defendant. Ms. McNair quit on August 8, 2014, and Ms. Sanchez was fired on March 11, 2015. (Sanchez Dep. at 222; McNair Dep. at 102.) On August 16, 2016, Plaintiffs initiated this action alleging that Defendant failed to pay overtime as mandated by the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA")/ 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. Defendant now moves for summary judgment arguing that Plaintiffs are exempt from the FLSA's overtime requirement.


         A motion for summary judgment will be granted if there is no disputed material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Facts are material if they could affect the results of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986) . The court must view facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all inferences in its favor. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The movant initially bears the burden of proof and must demonstrate the absence of a disputed material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant must also show no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party on any of the essential elements. Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1115 (11th Cir. 1993).

         If the movant carries its burden, the non-moving party must come forward with significant, probative evidence showing there is a material fact in dispute. Id. at 1116. The non-movant must respond with affidavits or other forms of evidence provided by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Id. at 1116 n.3. The non-movant cannot survive summary judgment by relying on its pleadings or conclusory statements. Morris v. Ross, 663 F.2d 1032, 1033-34 (11th Cir. 1981) . After the non-movant has met this burden, summary judgment is granted only if "the combined body of evidence is still such that the movant would be entitled to a directed verdict at trial - that is, such that no reasonable jury could find for the non-movant." Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1116.


         Defendant moves for summary judgment arguing that because Plaintiffs fall under both the executive and administrative exemption, they are not entitled to overtime.

         The FLSA was designed to introduce labor standards to eliminate working conditions that threaten the "minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency, and general well-being of workers." 29 U.S.C. § 202(a). Under the FLSA, an employee engaged in "commerce or the production of commerce" must be paid time and a half if she works over forty hours a week. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). However, the law does not apply to workers "employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity." 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1).

         Exemptions under the FLSA are narrowly construed against the employer. Walters v. Am. Coach Lines of Miami, Inc., 575 F.3d 1221, 1226 (11th Cir. 2009); Morgan v. Family Dollar Stores, Inc., 551 F.3d 1233, 1269 (11th Cir. 2008) (“[T]he exemption is to be applied only to those clearly and unmistakably within the terms and spirit of the exemption." (internal quotation mark omitted)). Furthermore, the employer bears the burden of proving the applicability of an exemption and must do so by presenting” 'clear and affirmative evidence."' Birdwe ...

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