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Miller v. Lenard Enterprises LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division

November 13, 2019

TREY L. MILLER
v.
LENARD ENTERPRISES, LLC

          KAY MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          JAMES D. CAIN, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the court is a Motion for Summary Judgment [doc. 25] filed by plaintiff Trey L. Miller. The motion relates to Miller's Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) suit for overtime compensation against his former employer, Lenard Enterprises, LLC (“Lenard”). The motion is regarded as unopposed.

         I.

         Background

         Lenard Enterprises, LLC, d/b/a Ready Decks of Lake Charles, operates as a franchisee of Ready Decks, Inc. and provides site-built decks and porches to customers in Louisiana and Texas. Doc. 25, att. 4, ¶ 2; doc. 25, att. 11. The company hired Miller as a carpenter/helper in March 2015, at a compensation rate of $500.00/week. Doc. 25, att. 4, ¶¶ 15-16. In that position Miller spent most of his time doing manual labor. Id. at ¶ 21. He received raises to $600.00 and then $700.00/week in May and June 2015, respectively. Id. at ¶¶ 23-24; see doc. 25, att. 10, pp. 9-10. After about one year of employment with Lenard he was promoted to lead carpenter/supervisor and received a raise to $750.00/week, though he maintains that his daily activities remained “nearly identical” and that most of his duties involved building and installation. Id. at ¶ 25; doc. 25, att. 3, pp. 10-11.

         Miller's records show that he regularly worked more than 40 hours per week for Lenard. See doc. 25, atts. 6, 10. Payroll records also reflect that Miller was compensated weekly, based on a 40-hour work week, throughout his employment with Lenard, with no overtime payments and with occasional and substantial deductions from his regular salary. Doc. 25, att. 10. He was terminated in May 2017, after complaining about his pay and his lack of overtime compensation. Doc. 25, att. 4, ¶ 42. At that time his rate of pay was $850.00/week. Id. Miller filed suit in this court on August 23, 2017, alleging that he was a non-exempt employee and was owed overtime compensation under the FLSA. Doc. 1. He also maintains that he is entitled to damages under the three-year statute of limitations applicable to willful FLSA violations. Id. He now moves for summary judgment on his claim. Doc. 25. Lenard is no longer represented in this matter and has not filed a response or request for extension within the allotted time. Accordingly, the motion is regarded as unopposed.

         II.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Under Rule 56(a), “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” The moving party is initially responsible for identifying portions of pleadings and discovery that show the lack of a genuine issue of material fact. Tubacex, Inc. v. M/V Risan, 45 F.3d 951, 954 (5th Cir. 1995). He may meet his burden by pointing out “the absence of evidence supporting the nonmoving party's case.” Malacara v. Garber, 353 F.3d 393, 404 (5th Cir. 2003). The non-moving party is then required to go beyond the pleadings and show that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). To this end he must submit “significant probative evidence” in support of his claim. State Farm Life Ins. Co. v. Gutterman, 896 F.2d 116, 118 (5th Cir. 1990). “If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249 (citations omitted).

         A court may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence in ruling on a motion for summary judgment. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). The court is also required to view all evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Clift v. Clift, 210 F.3d 268, 270 (5th Cir. 2000). Under this standard, a genuine issue of material fact exists if a reasonable trier of fact could render a verdict for the nonmoving party. Brumfield v. Hollins, 551 F.3d 322, 326 (5th Cir. 2008). When the motion is unopposed, the moving party retains its burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Hetzel v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 50 F.3d 360, 362 (5th Cir. 1995). Under the court's local rules, however, failure to file an opposition means that the moving party's statement of uncontested material facts is deemed admitted. Local Rule 56.2.

         III.

         Law & Application

Miller asserts that he is entitled to unpaid overtime compensation under the FLSA and that he does not fit within any exemption to that statute's overtime requirements. The court thus analyzes the record in order to determine, under the standards described above, whether (1) Miller can make out a prima facie case for unpaid overtime compensation and (2) whether any exemption might bar his claim. If Miller shows an entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on his claims, the court then looks to the amount and categories of damages requested.

         A. Prima Facie Case

         The FLSA was enacted in 1938 “as a means of regulating minimum wages, maximum working hours, and child labor in industries that affected interstate commerce.” Reich v. Tiller Helicopter Servs., Inc., 8 F.3d 1018, 1024 (5th Cir. 1993). Its central themes are minimum wage and overtime requirements. E.g., Hesseltine v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 391 F.Supp.2d 509, 515-16 (E.D. Tex. 2005). Under the latter, the FLSA “requires any employee working over 40 hours in a week to be paid overtime, premium compensation at the rate of one and one-half times their ‘regular rate' of pay.” York v. City of Wichita Falls, 48 F.3d 919, 921 (5th Cir. 1995); see 29 U.S.C. § 207.

         To set forth a prima facie case of a FLSA overtime wage violation, a plaintiff must show by a preponderance of the evidence: (1) that an employer-employee relationship existed during the unpaid overtime periods claimed; (2) that the employee engaged in activities within the coverage of the FLSA; (3) that the employer violated the FLSA's overtime wage requirements; and (4) the amount of overtime compensation due. Parrish v. Premier Directional Drilling, L.P., 917 F.3d 369, 379 (5th Cir. 2019). Once the plaintiff makes this showing, “the burden shifts to the employer come forward with evidence of the precise amount of work performed or with evidence to [negate] the reasonableness of the inference to be drawn from the employee's evidence.” Harvill v. Westward Comms., LLC, 433 F.3d 428, 441 (5th Cir. 2005) (quoting Anderson v. Mount Clemens Pottery Co., 328 U.S. 680, 687-88 (1946)). “If the employer fails to produce such evidence, the court may then award damages to the employee even though the result may only be approximate.” Id.

         1. Employment status

         Miller claims unpaid overtime wages for March 2015 until his termination in May 2017. He supports his claim of employment with payroll documents and his W-2, and Lenard has also admitted that he was an employee of the company during that time. See doc. 25, atts. 7, 9, 10. The first factor is therefore satisfied.

         2. FLSA ...


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