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Chaisson v. Pellerin & Sons, Inc.

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

November 25, 2019




         Pending before the Court are two motions for summary judgment, to wit, the Motion for Summary [Rec. Doc. 21] filed by the plaintiff, David Chaisson, and the Motion for Summary Judgment [Rec. Doc. 19] filed by the defendant, Pellerin & Sons, Inc. (“PSI”). The motions are, in effect, cross motions for summary judgment, both parties seeking judgment on all claims in this case. Both motions are opposed [Docs. 29, 30], and PSI filed a reply brief in response to the plaintiff's opposition brief [Doc. 39]. For the following reasons, PSI's motion is GRANTED, the plaintiff's motion is DENIED.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         The instant matter was originally filed in the Fifteenth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Lafayette, Louisiana and asserts a claim for unpaid overtime, purportedly under both the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. 201, et seq. and the Louisiana Wage Payment Act, La. Rev. Stat. 23:631, et seq. (“LWPA”). The plaintiff was employed by PSI as a manual laborer for years until his employment ended on June 12, 2017. The plaintiff alleges that PSI failed to pay him overtime from the time he began work at PSI until the date he left employment. He also alleges PSI violated the record keeping provisions of the FLSA, contained in 29 C.F.R. 516, et seq., because it did not utilize time cards, a time clock, or another means of tracking an employee's actual hours worked.[1] The plaintiff alleges that under the LWPA, he is entitled to “wages due” and reasonable attorney's fees. Finally, the plaintiff seeks monetary relief under 29 U.S.C. §216(b).

         PSI removed the matter to this Court on June 22, 2018 on the grounds that the plaintiff expressly asserted a claim for overtime compensation under the FLSA. The parties filed cross motions for summary judgment on May 17, 2019 (PSI) and May 20, 2019 (plaintiff). The motions are now ripe for consideration.

         II. Contentions of the Parties

         In its motion, PSI focuses on the issue of preemption, arguing that the plaintiff's claim for unpaid wages under the LWPA is preempted by the FLSA, and that the plaintiff's state law claims must be dismissed as a matter of law. PSI goes on to argue that the plaintiff has no claim under the FLSA for unpaid overtime because the plaintiff fails to set forth any summary judgment evidence that he worked for more than forty hours in any workweek and that he was not paid for any alleged overtime work during the time period applicable to this lawsuit. In response to this motion, the plaintiff - despite having alleged claims under the FLSA -- argues that the FLSA does not, in fact, apply to his claims, leading to consternation on the part of the Court in attempting to identify the claims pled and the governing law.[2]

         In its reply brief to the plaintiff's opposition, PSI argues that the plaintiff appears to now be arguing he has a claim for unpaid regular pay under the LWPA, with associated LWPA penalties.[3] PSI points out, however, the plaintiff has not asserted any such claim in his Petition. The only facts pled in the plaintiff's Petition are those relating to the plaintiff's claim for overtime pay for hours allegedly worked in excess of 40 hours per week over the course of his employment. Specifically, the sole claim asserted by the plaintiff is one for $6, 240.00 in unpaid overtime pay per year and penalties for PSI's alleged failure to pay overtime. In short, the Petition does not include a claim for alleged unpaid regular pay.

         In response to this Court's Sua Sponte Briefing Order, PSI renews its arguments that the plaintiff, in fact, does not allege a claim for unpaid regular wages under the LWPA. PSI points to the fact that the amounts sought by the plaintiff in his original Petition are actually the same amounts he seeks as overtime wages under the FLSA. PSI reiterates that the plaintiff has not properly pled facts that support a claim under the FLSA. Finally, PSI argues that, to the extent the plaintiff has alleged a claim for unpaid overtime wages under state law, he fails to submit evidence to defeat summary judgment on this claim, because he cannot show that he is entitled to overtime wages under state law in the absence of a contractual agreement with his employer, which the plaintiff concedes he did not have.

         In his response to the briefing order, the plaintiff simply acknowledges that he “cannot assert facts about plaintiff's activities that trigger application of [the] FLSA.” The plaintiff then goes on to argue the FLSA nevertheless applies based on his belief that PSI is an FLSA “enterprise.” Plaintiff also cites to a provision from The Department of Labor's Field Operations Handbook to support an alternative argument regarding individual coverage.

         III. Summary Judgment Standard

         A motion for summary judgment shall be granted if the pleadings, depositions and affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069 (5th Cir.1994)(en banc). Initially, the party moving for summary judgment must demonstrate the absence of any genuine issues of material fact. When a party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if such evidence were uncontroverted at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). As to issues which the non-moving party has the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy this burden by demonstrating the absence of evidence supporting the non-moving party's claim. Id. If the moving party fails to carry this burden, his motion must be denied. If he succeeds, however, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to show that there is a genuine issue for trial.[4] Id. at 322-23.

         Once the burden shifts to the respondent, he must direct the attention of the court to evidence in the record and set forth specific facts sufficient to establish that there is a genuine issue of material fact requiring a trial. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324; Fed.R.Civ.Pro. 56(c). The responding party may not rest on mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleadings as a means of establishing a genuine issue worthy of trial, but must demonstrate by affidavit or other admissible evidence that there are genuine issues of material fact or law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144. 159 (1970); Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. There must be sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party to support a verdict for that party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249; Wood v. Houston Belt & Terminal Ry., 958 F.2d 95, 97 (5th Cir.1992). There is no genuine issue of material fact if, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, no reasonable trier of fact could find for the non-moving party. Lavespere v. Niagara Mach. & Tool Works, Inc., 910 F.2d 167, 178 (5th Cir.1990).

         If no issue of fact is presented and if the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the court is required to render the judgment prayed for. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. Before it can find that there are no genuine issues of material fact, however, the court must be ...

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