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Archon v. Taylor & Tyler, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

October 16, 2018

TYLER ARCHON, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED
v.
TAYLOR & TYLER INC., AND ERIC GUILLORY

         SECTION "B"(5)

          ORDER AND REASONS

         Before the Court is a motion filed by defendants Taylor & Tyler, Inc. and Eric Guillory to stay proceedings pending resolution of the Department of Labor's (“DOL”) preexisting investigation. Rec. Doc. 19. Plaintiff filed an opposition. Rec. Doc. 25. Defendants then sought and were granted leave to file a reply memorandum. Rec. Doc. 26. For the reasons discussed below, IT IS ORDERED that defendants' Motion to Stay (Rec. Doc. 19) is DENIED, but without prejudice to reurge if the DOL's investigation leads to a more active and burdensome stage upon movant, plaintiff, or for other detailed cause.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff Tyler Archon filed a complaint on July 19, 2018 against Defendants Taylor & Tyler, Inc et al. for allegedly violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by failing to pay Archon and other putative class members overtime wages. Rec. Doc. 1. Defendant Eric Guillory is the sole owner of Taylor & Tyler, Inc., a company specializing in residential heating, ventilation, and air conditioning installation. See Id. at 2-3. Plaintiff Tyler Archon worked for Taylor & Tyler, Inc. from July 2017 until June 2018 as an air conditioning repair personnel. Id. at ¶ 12, 31. Plaintiff claims that he represents a class of other employees of Taylor & Tyler, Inc. performing air conditioning repair work who were paid a salary and who worked over 40 hours in any workweek at any point in the past three years. Id. at ¶ 56. Defendants filed their answer on September 5, 2018 claiming that plaintiff was subject to a variable workweek contract as authorized by Section 7(f) of the Fair Labor Standards Act and properly paid all amounts he was owed. Rec. Doc. 18. Defendant Eric Guillory further argues that he did not personally employ defendant Tyler Archon and is therefore not responsible for personally paying his wages. See id. at 1.

         Defendants filed the instant motion on September 5, 2018 to stay proceedings pending resolution of a preexisting investigation by the DOL. Rec. Doc. 19. Defendants assert that the U.S. DOL's Wage & Hour Division notified Taylor & Tyler, Inc. of a pending investigation into its wage-payment practices in December 2017, approximately seven months before plaintiff Tyler Archon filed his complaint. See Id. at 2. Defendant Guillory states, in a sworn declaration, that the scope of the investigation includes wages paid to Plaintiff Tyler Archon and other employees who performed air conditioning repair work. Rec. Doc. 19-2. Mr. Guillory asserts that he has cooperated in the investigation and during his last meeting with the DOL on May 18, 2018, the investigator Adams Goin of the Wage & Hour Division represented he anticipated the investigation would be resolved in the relatively near future. See Id. at 2. Further, Defendant Guillory asserts that there are currently no outstanding information requests from the DOL. See Id. Defendants state that Taylor & Tyler, Inc. is a small employer that operates out of a single facility and employs approximately 10-15 individuals at any given time. See Rec. Doc. 19-1 at 3.

         On June 29, 2018, Defendants executed a tolling agreement with the DOL to toll the statute of limitations with respect to any action under the Fair Labor Standards Act against the Defendants for unpaid minimum wages, unpaid overtime compensation or liquidated damages, and any other applicable statute of limitations, beginning January 3, 2016. Rec. Doc. 19-2. The agreement states that statutes of limitations shall remain tolled until 90 days after notice of termination of the tolling agreement. See id.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         A district court has inherent authority to “control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.” Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254. This includes the power of a district court to stay proceedings “in the control of its docket and in the interests of justice.” See In re Beebe, 56 F.3d 1384 (5th Cir. 1995). The movant for a stay must make out a clear case of hardship or inequity in moving forward if there is even a fair possibility that the stay will harm the other party. See Landis, 299 U.S. at 255. When determining whether to stay proceedings, the Court considers: 1) hardship to the moving party if the action proceeds; 2) prejudice to the non-moving party if the stay is granted; and 3)the interests of judicial economy. See Magana v. Shore Constr., LLC, No. 17-1896, 2017 WL 2911353, at *3 (E.D. La. July 6, 2017); E. Cornell Malone Corp. v. Cont'l Cas. Co., No. 13-6807, 2015 WL 222334, at *2 (E.D. La. Jan. 14, 2015); Marine Power Holding, LLC v. Malibu Boats, LLC, No. 14-2065, 2014 WL 7139643, at *1 (E.D. La. Dec. 15, 2014). The Court will analyze each factor below to determine whether the facts weigh in favor of granting a stay.

         The primary jurisdiction doctrine is a doctrine of judicial abstention in which a court with jurisdiction over a matter nevertheless “defers to an administrative agency for an initial decision on questions . . . within the peculiar competence of the agency.” Occidental Chem. Corp. v. La. Pub. Serv. Com'n, 810 F.3d 299, 309 (5th Cir. 2016). Although each application of the primary jurisdiction doctrine requires a fact-specific inquiry, the Fifth Circuit has identified three factors to consider: 1) whether the Court has original jurisdiction over the claim before it; 2) whether adjudication of the claim requires the resolution of predicate issues or the making of preliminary findings; and 3) whether the legislature has established a regulatory scheme whereby it has committed the resolution of those issues or the making of those findings to an administrative body. See Northwinds Abatement, Inc. v. Employers Ins. of Wausau, 69 F.3d 1304, 1311 (5th Cir. 1995). The Court will consider these factors below to determine whether this case properly fits within the unique competency of the DOL.

         A. The three-factor balancing test weighs against granting a stay

         Considering the three factors mentioned above: 1) hardship to the moving party, 2) prejudice to the non-moving party, and 3) judicial economy, it is in the public interest to deny the requested stay. Defendants have not made out a clear case of hardship in moving forward in light of the likelihood of prejudice to plaintiff, and judicial economy will not be promoted.

         1) The hardship to the moving party if the action proceeds does not weigh in favor of granting a stay

         Defendants' asserted harm in continuing litigation does not rise to the level warranting a stay. Defendants argue that if a stay is not granted, they will be forced to waste time, money, and resources litigating issues likely to be rendered moot by the DOL's investigation. However, as discussed in further detail below, a resolution of the DOL's investigation does not necessarily mean plaintiff's claims will be moot. Defendants argue that they should not be required to fight this issue “simultaneously on two fronts.” See Rec. Doc. 19-1 at 2. However, Defendants stated that Mr. Guillory's last in-person with the DOL was on May 18, 2018 and he last submitted documentation on August 26, 2018. See Rec. Doc. 19-2 at 2. Defendants noted that “there currently are no outstanding information requests from the DOL.” Id. This indicates that defendants are not currently expending time or resources on the DOL's investigation, and have not been for at least a few months. Even if Defendants were still providing information to the DOL, a substantial overlap with the present litigation would presumably make engaging in discovery simpler, not more difficult. While the Court recognizes the duties Mr. Guillory has as the sole proprietor of Taylor & Tyler, Inc., defendants have not made a “clear case of hardship or inequity in being required to go forward” in light of the possibility of prejudice to plaintiffs discussed below. See Landis, 299 U.S. at 255

         2) Prejudice to the non-moving party if the stay is granted ...


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