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Hartman v. Prospect Mortg., LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

January 7, 2014

LORA HARTMAN, Plaintiff,

Page 598

For Lora Hartman, Plaintiff: David Lawrence Scher, Nicholas Wyckoff Woodfield, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Robert Scott Oswald, The Employment Law Group PC (DC), Washington, DC.

For Prospect Mortgage, LLC, Defendant: Taron Kato Murakami, LEAD ATTORNEY, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Washington, DC.

Page 599



This matter is before the Court on Defendant Prospect Mortgage, LLC's (" Defendant" or " Prospect" ) Motion for Summary Judgment. [Dkt. 6.] For the following reasons, the Court will grant Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and dismiss this action with prejudice.

I. Background

Prospect is a California corporation that offers consumer lending products. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff Lora Hartman (" Plaintiff" ) worked as a mortgage loan officer at Prospect from October 19, 2009, until July 14, 2010. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 3; Joint Statement of Facts ¶ 3.)

In October 2010, several former mortgage loan officers filed a collective action against Prospect under the Fair Labor Standards Act (" FLSA" ). See Sliger v. Prospect Mortg., LLC., No. CIV. S-11-465 LKK/EFB, 2011 WL 3747947, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 24, 2011). Plaintiffs alleged that Prospect " misclassified them as exempt employees under the FLSA, and therefore improperly failed to pay them minimum wage and overtime." Id. at *2. Plaintiff opted-in to the Sliger matter on August 26, 2011. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 13.)

On January 23, 2013, the Sliger action decertified and Plaintiff was removed from the case. ( Id. ¶ 19.) Consequently, Plaintiff filed this case against Prospect alleging analogous violations of the FLSA. [1] Plaintiff avers that Defendant wrongfully classified her as an exempt employee, resulting in lost minimum wage and overtime compensation. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 23-33.)

Defendant has now moved for summary judgment. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. at 1.) Defendant first contends that Plaintiff is exempt from the FLSA's overtime and minimum wage requirements under the statute's " outside sales exemption," which provides that employers are relieved of these obligations for employees engaged " in the capacity of outside salesman." (Def.'s Mem. in Support at 6 (citing 29 U.S.C. § 213 (a)(1)).) In support of this position, Defendant points to Plaintiff's employment contract, which provides that her primary duty was to sell mortgages

Page 600

away from Prospect's office. ( Id. at 7.) Defendant has also produced testimony that Plaintiff regularly engaged in sales work away from the workplace. ( Id. at 8-9.) Thus, concludes Defendant, Plaintiff was properly classified as exempt under the FLSA. ( Id. )

Defendant separately argues that Plaintiff's FLSA claims are barred on account of her failure to disclose them in her 2011 bankruptcy proceeding. (Def.'s Mem. in Support at 12-17.) According to Defendant, " [c]ourts within the Fourth Circuit have explicitly held that a plaintiff's failure to list a claim on his or her bankruptcy schedule of assets, either initially or through an amendment, judicially estops the plaintiff from pursuing such undisclosed claims in a lawsuit." ( Id. at 4.)

On December 26, 2013, Plaintiff filed an opposition. (Pl.'s Opp'n at 1.) First, Plaintiff disputes her classification as an exempt employee. According to Plaintiff, the evidence shows that she performed the vast majority of her work inside of Defendant's office and " did not customarily and regularly make outside sales to borrowers." ( Id. at 17-18.) Thus, surmises Plaintiff, the outside sales exemption is inapplicable. ( Id. ) Second, Plaintiff claims that the doctrine of judicial estoppel is unsuitable because her bankruptcy case remains pending and she is in the process of disclosing her claims to the bankruptcy court. ( Id. at 21-23.)

Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is now before the Court.

II. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate only if the record 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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The moving party always bears the initial burden of " informing the district court of the basis for its motion," and identifying the matter " it believes demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. " A material fact is one 'that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.' A disputed fact presents a genuine issue 'if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.'" Spriggs v. Diamond Auto Glass, 242 F.3d 179, 183 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)).

Once the movant has met the initial burden, " the non-moving party 'may not rest upon mere allegation or denials of his pleading, but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Hughes v. Bedsole, 48 F.3d 1376, 1381 (4th Cir. 1995) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256). This is particularly important where the opposing party bears the burden of proof. Hughes, 48 F.3d at 1381. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50. The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence is insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the non-moving party. Id. at 252. The judge's inquiry, therefore, unavoidably asks whether reasonable jurors could find by a preponderance of the evidence that the opposing party is entitled to a verdict.

In reviewing the record on summary judgment, the Court " must draw any inferences in the light most favorable to the non-movant" and " determine whether the record taken as a whole could lead a reasonable trier of fact to find for the ...

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