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Wellman v. Grand Isle Shipyard, Inc.

United States District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana

May 6, 2015

DEAN WELLMAN
v.
GRAND ISLE SHIPYARD, INC.

SECTION I

ORDER AND REASONS

LANCE M. AFRICK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Before the Court[1] is a motion for summary judgment filed by defendant, Grand Isle Shipyard, Inc. (“GIS”). Plaintiffs oppose the motion.[2] For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs are former employees of GIS who allege that they are owed wages for uncompensated overtime hours.[3] Plaintiffs allege that they were compensated pursuant to a “straight time for overtime” policy instead of the time-and-a-half minimum rate for overtime hours required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).[4] See 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1).[5] Plaintiffs contend that GIS willfully violated the FLSA and that it must compensate them for unpaid overtime wages, as well as reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.[6]

The Court conditionally certified the above-captioned matter as a collective action on November 7, 2014.[7] The conditionally certified class consists of “[a]ll persons employed by Grand Isle as Project Managers and paid on an hourly basis at any time during the three years prior to the date of this notice.”[8] Fourteen individuals opted in to the lawsuit, and GIS has not moved to decertify the class.

GIS contends that summary judgment is appropriate as to all plaintiffs because they are exempt from the FLSA’s overtime requirements pursuant to the “highly compensated employee” exemption, which is set forth in 29 C.F.R. § 541.601.[9] GIS also contends that the appropriate statute of limitations period is two years, not three, and that several of the plaintiffs’ claims are time-barred.[10] GIS further asserts that an award of statutory liquidated damages would not be appropriate in this case.[11] Finally, GIS contends that four plaintiffs should be dismissed for failing to timely opt in to the collective action.[12]

STANDARD OF LAW

Summary judgment is proper when, after reviewing the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits, the court determines that there is no genuine issue of material fact. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. “[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment need not produce evidence negating the existence of material fact, but need only point out the absence of evidence supporting the other party’s case. Id.; Fontenot v. Upjohn Co., 780 F.2d 1190, 1195 (5th Cir. 1986).

Once the party seeking summary judgment carries its burden pursuant to Rule 56, the nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The showing of a genuine issue is not satisfied by creating “‘some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ’ by ‘conclusory allegations, ’ by ‘unsubstantiated assertions, ’ or by only a ‘scintilla’ of evidence.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). Instead, a genuine issue of material fact exists when the “evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The party responding to the motion for summary judgment may not rest upon the pleadings, but must identify specific facts that establish a genuine issue. Id. The nonmoving party’s evidence, however, “is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [the nonmoving party’s] favor.” Id. at 255; see also Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 552 (1999).

DISCUSSION

I. Highly Compensated Employee Exemption

As stated, the FLSA provides that “[n]o employer shall employ any of his employees . . . for a workweek longer than forty hours . . . unless such employee receives compensation for his employment in excess of the hours above specified at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed.” 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). The FLSA does, however, provide certain exemptions to this requirement. E.g., id. § 213(a)(1) (exempting from § 207 “any employee employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity”). The Department of Labor (“DOL”), which is tasked with administering the FLSA, see Id. § 204, has published regulations that define this exemption pursuant to its statutory authority.[13]

GIS contends that plaintiffs are not entitled to overtime wages on the basis of the exemption for “highly compensated employees, ...


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