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Prejean v. Satellite Country Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

October 2, 2019

CHRISTOPHER PREJEAN, on behalf of Himself and Other Persons Similarly Situated
v.
SATELLITE COUNTRY, INC., LYNN JENKINS & PAMELA MCCUE

          WHITEHURST, MAG. JUDGE.

          RULING

          TERRY A. DOUGHTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss Claims of 1099 Opt-Ins Based Upon Prescription of the Statute of Limitations [Doc. No. 121] filed by Defendants. Plaintiffs filed a Memorandum in Opposition to the motion [Doc. No. 131]. Defendants filed a reply. [Doc. No. 142].

         For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. RELEVANT FACTS

         On September 14, 2017, Christopher Prejean, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, filed a Collective Action Complaint against the Defendants, Satellite Country, Inc., Pamela McCue, and Lynn Jenkins, alleging violations of provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (hereinafter “FLSA”) for alleged failure to pay overtime wages. On April 17, 2018, this Court conditionally certified this matter as a Collective Action, and approximately fifty-five (55) Plaintiffs have joined the litigation.

         II. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         Although Defendants style their motion as “to dismiss, ” it is actually a motion for summary judgment which requires the Court to consider documents outside the pleadings. See Fed. R. Civ. p. 12(d).

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the evidence before a court shows “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is “material” if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the lawsuit under applicable law in the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable fact finder could render a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

         “[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 pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247). “The moving party may meet its burden to demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact by pointing out that the record contains no support for the non-moving party's claim.” Stahl v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., 283 F.3d 254, 263 (5th Cir. 2002). Thereafter, if the non-movant is unable to identify anything in the record to support its claim, summary judgment is appropriate. Id. “The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).

         In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, courts “may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence” and “must resolve all ambiguities and draw all permissible inferences in favor of the non-moving party.” Total E & P USA Inc. v. Kerr- McGee Oil and Gas Corp., 719 F.3d 424, 434 (5th Cir. 2013) (citations omitted). While courts will “resolve factual controversies in favor of the nonmoving party, ” an actual controversy exists only “when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.” Little v. Liquid Air. Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). To rebut a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the opposing party must show, with “significant probative evidence, ” that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Hamilton v. Segue Software, Inc., 232 F.3d 473, 477 (5th Cir. 2000) (emphasis added). “‘If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative,' summary judgment is appropriate.” Cutting Underwater Tech. USA, Inc. v. Eni U.S. Operating Co., 671 F.3d 512, 517 (5th Cir. 2012) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).

         Relatedly, there can be no genuine dispute as to a material fact when a party fails “to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23. This is true “since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. at 323.

         B. FLSA

         Plaintiffs seek damages for unpaid compensation under the FLSA. Defendants move the Court to determine as a matter of law to address two issues: (1) that the claims of five purported Plaintiffs who performed work more than three years ago are time-barred and (2) that claims of seventeen other Plaintiffs who performed work more than two years ago are also time-barred unless Plaintiffs prove at trial that Defendants' violations of the FLSA were willful.

         The FLSA mandates that “no 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). A two-year statute of limitations applies to claims under the statute unless Defendants' violations are determined to be willful, in which case a three-year statute of limitations applies. 29 U.S.C. § 255(a). The Supreme Court has explained the “standard of willfulness” necessary for the three-year statute of limitations to apply. See McLaughlin v. Richland Shoe Co., 486 U.S. 128, 133-35 (1988). A plaintiff bears the burden of proving a willful violation of the statute. Id. at 135. Plaintiffs must establish that “the employer either knew or showed reckless disregard for the matter of whether its conduct was prohibited by the statute.” Id. at 133; see also Singer v. City of Waco, 324 F.3d 813, 821 (5th Cir. 2003) (same). Whether the two-year or three-year statute of limitations is applicable, the claim does not “commence” for an opt-in plaintiff in a collective action until the individual files with the court a written consent to join the collective action. 29 U.S.C. § 256(b); see also Atkins v. General Motors Corp., 701 F.2d 1124, 1130 n. 5(5th Cir. 1983) (Section 256 requires collective action plaintiffs “to opt in, and limitations runs from the opt-in date. We cannot alter the express terms of the statute.”).

         1. Plaintiffs Outside the Three-Year ...


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