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York v. Advocates for Juvenile & Adult Rights

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 16, 2018

YORK, ET AL
v.
ADVOCATES FOR JUVENILE AND ADULT RIGHTS

         SECTION "L" (3)

          ORDER & REASONS

         Before the Court are Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgement, R. Doc. 31, Defendant's motion to dismiss, R. Doc. 35, Defendant's motion in limine, R. Doc. 36, and Plaintiffs' motion to certify the class, R. Doc. 53. Having heard oral argument and considered the parties' briefs and the applicable law, the Court issues this Order & Reasons.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case involves a claim for unpaid wages and interest under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Plaintiffs Beverly York and Linda Wilson were employed by defendant Advocates for Juvenile and Adults Rights, Inc. as personal care aides (later re-titled Direct Service Workers). R. Doc. 1 at 2. Plaintiffs claim they were required to work overtime, were not compensated for wait time between job assignments, were not reimbursed for travel costs, and were charged for equipment, uniforms, and required certification and licensing. R. Doc. 1 at 5-7. Plaintiffs also allege defendants did not comply with the record-keeping provisions of the FLSA and wrongfully deducted or failed to pay wages as required by Louisiana law. R. Doc. 1 at 6, 8. Plaintiffs are seeking unpaid wages, liquidated damages, prejudgment interest, and attorney's fees. R. Doc. 1 at 7. Plaintiffs', in their complaint, seek recovery under both federal and state law. They urge their federal claims by filing a collective action under the FLSA and their state claims by a class action under Federal Rule 23.

         Defendant timely answered the complaint and admitted that certain employees including Plaintiffs had been underpaid and were currently receiving restitution. R. Doc. 8 at 2. Furthermore, Defendant avers that Plaintiffs' claims are time barred, fail to state a cause of action, and fail to meet the necessary requirements for class certification. R. Doc. 8 at 4-5. Defendant raises the Port-to-Portal Act, 29 U.S.C. § 260, as a defense barring Plaintiff's claims because the acts or omissions were done in good faith and in reasonable belief that they were not a violation of the FLSA. R. Doc. 8 at 6. Finally, Defendant denies being responsible for portions of the payments Plaintiff demands. R. Doc. 8 at 7.

         Plaintiffs filed a Motion to certify a class to proceed as a collective action under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) in November 2016. R. Doc. 11. The Court denied the Motion, as Plaintiffs had not submitted sufficient evidence to demonstrate the existence of a class. However, Plaintiffs were given leave to submit additional information. On April 27, 2017, the Court granted the Motion for conditional class certification, and ordered that Defendants produce “a complete list of all persons employed by AJAR as DSW personnel who worked at AJAR between April 22, 2012 and present, including their legal name, job title, address, telephone number, dates of employment, location of employment, date of birth, and Social DSW number.” R. Doc. 21. Plaintiffs did not file a motion for certification of a class under Rule 23 for the Louisiana state law claims until January 11, 2018. R. Doc. 53.

         II. PRESENT MOTIONS

         a. Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment (R. Doc. 31)

         Plaintiffs move for summary judgment on both their FLSA and LWPA claims for back pay, unpaid overtime, liquidated damages, and attorneys' fees and costs. R. Doc. 31. Plaintiffs argue that there are no genuine issues as to any material fact because Defendant has admitted culpability. R. Doc. 31-1 at 2. Plaintiffs allege that in its 30(b)(6) deposition, Defendant admitted that it is a FLSA covered employer, all Plaintiffs are FLSA covered employees, Defendant has never paid overtime to the Plaintiffs, Defendant did not attempt to figure out how much overtime should have been paid or attempt to pay overtime. R. Doc. 31-1 at 2. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant also admitted it did not pay Plaintiffs during a period in 2014. R. Doc. 31-1 at 2. Furthermore, Plaintiff avers that Defendant has admitted that it knew it was required to pay overtime and failed to do so. R. Doc. 31-1 at 5.

         Plaintiff alleges that the amended FLSA rule, applicable here, is retroactive to January 1, 2015 and that Plaintiffs are entitled to overtime pay and liquidated damages from that date. R. Doc. 31-1 at 8-9. Therefore, Plaintiffs have included detailed exhibits providing information for each plaintiff's unpaid wages and unpaid overtime. Plaintiffs ask the Court to grant summary judgment as to these claims and to award Plaintiffs their unpaid wages, liquidated damages, and attorneys' fees and costs. R. Doc. 31-1 at 12.

         Defendant responds in opposition arguing that there are issues of genuine material fact. R. Doc. 43. Defendant argues that the Department of Labor did not tell Defendant that its workers would be entitled to overtime pay starting January 1, 2015. R. Doc. 43 at 2. Defendant argues that it was not making an effort to deprive Plaintiffs of wages but rather Defendant did not earn enough to pay overtime. R. Doc. 43 at 2. Finally, Defendant argues that Plaintiffs are not entitled to receive wages that have prescribed under either the LWPA or the FLSA. R. Doc. 43 at 3.

         b. Defendant's 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss (R. Doc. 35)

         Defendant moves to dismiss the Louisiana Wage Payment Act (“LWPA”) claims of several plaintiffs on the basis of prescription. R. Doc. 35. Defendant alleges that the prescriptive period for recovery of unpaid wages is three (3) years. R. Doc. 35-1 at 2. Defendant alleges that the following plaintiffs opted into this action after this prescriptive period had passed: Carolyn Cloud, Gieselle Davis, Diane Effron, Sheryl Green, Corey King, Angela Morgan, LeShanta Ratliff, and Reney Rumley Alexander. R. Doc. 35-1 at 2. Therefore, Defendant asks the Court to dismiss these claims. R. Doc. 35-1 at 3.

         Plaintiff responds in opposition arguing that because these claims were alleged as a class action, Rule 23 tolls the statute of limitations for all potential class members. R. Doc. 46.

         c. Defendant's Motion in Limine (R. Doc. 36)

         Defendant moves to exclude 1) overtime wages outside the statute of limitations and 2) alleged hearsay portions of Jacquelyn Hughes' affidavit. R. Doc. 36. First, Defendant argues that, because Defendant's alleged failure to pay overtime was not willful or reckless, the two (2) year FLSA statute of limitations applies. R. Doc. 36-2 at 3. Therefore, Defendant argues that overtime wages accrued more than two years before each plaintiff's opt-in date should be excluded from evidence. R. Doc. 36-2 at 3.

         Second, Defendant alleges that Jacquelyn Hughes, Defendant's former contractor, testified “that a representative from the Department of Labor Wage & Hour Division informed [Defendant] AJAR that direct service workers would be subject to the FLSA overtime provisions beginning January 1, 2015.” R. Doc. 36-2 at 4. Defendant wishes to exclude this portion of Hughes' affidavit on the grounds that it is hearsay, not ...


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