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DeArmond v. Alliance Energy Services, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

November 29, 2017

DAVID DEARMOND
v.
ALLIANCE ENERGY SERVICES, LLC

         SECTION I

          ORDER & REASONS

          LANCE M. AFRICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a motion for partial summary judgment filed by plaintiff David DeArmond (“DeArmond”), on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, regarding the ability of defendant Alliance Energy Services, LLC (“Alliance”) to rely on certain defenses. For the following reasons, the motion is denied.

         I.

         This Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) case arises from Alliance's failure to pay its employees overtime compensation for attendance at mandatory safety meetings. Acknowledging that it made “some unintentional payroll errors, ”[1] Alliance contacted the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”).[2] The DOL reviewed Alliance's report and opened an administrative proceeding.[3] The DOL's investigation concluded that Alliance's FLSA violations resulted in underpayment to 85 employees totaling $43, 382.38 covering the period from June 16, 2015 to April 27, 2017.[4] “Under [DOL] supervision, Alliance [then] issued payment, at the overtime rate, to affected current and former employees.”[5]

         DeArmond estimates that Alliance paid approximately $13, 000 to employees participating in the present case, excluding DeArmond himself.[6] Despite these payments, DeArmond and a number of other Alliance employees continue to pursue this collective action, arguing that they are entitled to additional liquidated damages under the FLSA.

         DeArmond now moves for judgment as a matter of law, arguing that Alliance is precluded from asserting the defenses of waiver and good faith. Alliance opposes the motion in part.

         II.

         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 dispute 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, the nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine dispute 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). “Although the substance or content of the evidence submitted to support or dispute a fact on summary judgment must be admissible . . ., the material may be presented in a form that would not, in itself, be admissible at trial.” Lee v. Offshore Logistical and Transp., LLC, 859 F.3d 353, 355 (5th Cir. 2017) (quotation omitted).

         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. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. 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).

         III.

         DeArmond argues that Alliance is precluded from asserting the defenses of waiver and good faith. The Court considers each in turn.

         A.

         At the outset, Alliance concedes that-with one exception-the liquidated damages claims asserted by DeArmond and his fellow plaintiffs have not been waived.[7] Of the 32 plaintiffs currently involved in this case, Alliance contends that only the claims of Ronnie Bates (“Bates”) have been waived.[8] The Court confines its analysis accordingly.[9]

The FLSA provides that The Secretary [of Labor] is authorized to supervise the payment of the unpaid minimum wages or the unpaid overtime compensation owing to any employee or employees . . . and the agreement of any employee to accept such payment shall upon payment in full constitute a waiver by such employee of any right he may have . . . to such unpaid minimum wages or unpaid overtime compensation and an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.

29 U.S.C. § 216(c). “For there to be a valid waiver[, ] section 216(c) simply requires (a) that the employee agree to accept the payment which the Secretary determines to be due and (b) that there be ‘payment in full.'” Sneed v. ...


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