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Schmidt v. Bartech Grp., Inc.

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

November 5, 2014

ROBERT SCHMIDT, Plaintiff,
v.
BARTECH GROUP, INC., et al., Defendants

Decided November 6, 2014.

Page 375

For Robert Schmidt, Plaintiff: John C. Cook, LEAD ATTORNEY, Lee Brinson Warren, Cook Craig & Francuzenko PLLC, Fairfax, VA.

For Bartech Group, Inc., Defendant: Warren David Harless, LEAD ATTORNEY, David Brendan Lacy, Roman Lifson, Christian & Barton LLP, Richmond, VA.

For Verizon Corporate Services Group Inc., Defendant: Betty S.W. Graumlich, LEAD ATTORNEY, Reed Smith LLP, Richmond, VA; Helenanne Connolly, Reed Smith LLP (Falls Church), Falls Church, VA.

Page 376

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Gerald Bruce Lee, United States District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants' Joint Motion for Summary Judgment. This case arises from Plaintiff's allegations that Defendants failed to pay him for overtime hours worked. Plaintiff Robert Schmidt brings this civil

Page 377

action against Defendants Bartech Group, Inc. (" Bartech" ) and Verizon Communications Inc. (" Verizon" ) for failure to pay overtime (Count I) and retaliatory discharge (Count II) under the Fair Labor Standards Act (" FLSA" ). Plaintiff Schmidt also brings a breach of contract claim (Count III) against Defendant Bartech, and a Bowman wrongful discharge claim (Count IV) against both Defendants.

The issues before the Court are whether a genuine issue of material fact exists as to: (1) whether Plaintiff Schmidt's position was exempt from the FLSA's overtime requirements; (2) whether Plaintiff Schmidt breached a material term of his employment contract thereby precluding him from bringing forth a breach of contract claim against Bartech; and (3) whether Plaintiff Schmidt voluntarily resigned thereby precluding his Bowman wrongful discharge claim.

The Court grants Defendants' Joint Motion for Summary Judgment for three reasons. First, Plaintiff Schmidt's position as Senior Database Analyst is exempt under 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(17) and thus precludes his FLSA failure to pay overtime (Count I) and retaliatory discharge (Count II) claims. Second, Plaintiff Schmidt's breach of contract claim against Defendant Bartech (Count III) is precluded by the First Breach Doctrine. Finally, Plaintiff's Bowman wrongful discharge claim fails because his resignation email does not constitute protected activity as a matter of law.

I. BACKGROUND

Bartech provides contract workers to perform services for Verizon subject to a Supplier Master Service Agreement. Defs.' Br. ¶ 3; Defs.' Ex. 2 (Golding Dep.) at 55:12-17. In or around May or June 2012, Verizon requested a Senior Database Analyst from Bartech to " try to offload" work during Verizon's process of migrating certain computer systems. Defs.' Br. ¶ 4; Defs.' Ex. 3 (Rockwell Dep.) at 89:13-15; See Defs.' Ex. 11 (Hajdo Dep.) at 25:9-16. Verizon selected Plaintiff Schmidt to fulfill this role on a contractual basis for a period from June 20, 2012 through February 22, 2013. Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 11 ; Def. Bartech's Answer ¶ 11 ; Def. Verizon's Answer ¶ 11. On September 17, 2012, Bartech informed Plaintiff Schmidt that Verizon had extended his workorder through March 30, 2013, and could continue to do so for up to 2.5 years. Pl.'s Ex. 1; See Defs.' Br. ¶ 6; Defs.' Ex. 3 (Rockwell Dep.) at 71:3-7.

On June 8, 2012, Plaintiff Schmidt acknowledged receiving and reviewing Bartech's Code of Business Conduct (" Code" ), Bartech's Contract Employee Handbook (" Handbook" ), and Verizon's Guidelines for Contract Worker Assigned to Work at Verizon (" Guidelines" ). Defs.' Br. ¶ 10, 14, 16; See Defs.' Ex. 6, 7, 9. These manuals instruct employees to accurately report their hours and prohibits employees from working any unscheduled hours without obtaining prior authorization. Defs.' Br. ¶ 12, 13, 17; Defs.' Ex. 7 at 32; Defs.' Ex. 9 at 56. Plaintiff Schmidt also electronically signed Bartech's " Work Assignment Information" sheet, in which he agreed that he was accepting an " IT exempt" position. Defs.' Br. ¶ 8, 18; Defs.' Ex. 4, 10.

Plaintiff Schmidt was paid an hourly wage of $47.50 for work performed at Verizon's Ashburn, Virginia facility. Defs.' Br. ¶ 7. Schmidt set his own schedule at Verizon and generally worked at the worksite between " seven a.m. and three or four p.m." [1] Defs.' Br. ¶ 17; Defs.' Ex. 1

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(Schmidt Dep.) at 47:6-12. Verizon expected that Plaintiff Schmidt would have internet access at home in case IT issues arose because " work is to be done at different points in a day within 24 hours." Defs.' Br. ¶ 25; Defs.' Ex. 12 (Vemulapalli Dep.) at 33:22-34:19. Plaintiff Schmidt did not have high-speed internet access at home, however, and refused to have it installed unless Verizon agreed to pay for it. Defs.' Br. ¶ 23; Defs.' Ex. 11 (Hajdo Dep.) at 21:2-10.

Plaintiff Schmidt received his assignments at Verizon from Lisa Hajdo. Defs.' Br. ¶ 27; Defs.' Ex. 3 (Rockwell Dep.) at 15:11-18. Following Verizon's January 2013 reorganization, Chandra Vemulapalli became the Director of the Database Team, which encompassed the work that Plaintiff Schmidt was doing. Defs.' Br. ¶ 28; Defs.' Ex. 3 (Rockwell Dep.) at 33:5-17. On November 3, 2012, Vemulapalli emailed Bradley Rockwell, his Associate Director, inquiring about what workers were doing and " what time they [were] charging on their timesheet." Defs.' Br. ¶ 30; Defs.' Ex. 13. Specifically, Vemulapalli asked how long Plaintiff Schmidt had been with the team and " how much does he really do to help Lisa Hajdo?" Defs.' Br. ¶ 30; Defs.' Ex. 13. Hajdo expressed frustration trying to get results from Plaintiff Schmidt because he was overly analytical and did not like to attend meetings or collaborate with others. Defs.' Br. ¶ 31; Defs.' Ex. 11 (Hajdo Dep.) at 35:18-37:1.

Bartech paid Schmidt based on time records Verizon submitted electronically to Bartech. Defs.' Br. ¶ 32. Verizon required Schmidt to submit a weekly timesheet in Verizon's Pace system reflecting the hours he worked in the prior workweek. Defs.' Br. ¶ 33; Defs.' Ex. 2 (Golding Dep.) at 43:8-14. After Schmidt submitted his timesheet, Verizon would review and approve the timesheet before sending it to Bartech Managed Service Provider (" MSP" ), which managed Verizon's billing process for contract workers. Defs.' Br. ¶ 34; Defs.' Ex. 2 (Golding Dep.) at 43:8-14. Bartech MSP would generate invoices for Verizon from Bartech; Verizon would then pay Bartech MSP, which would then pay Bartech, which would then pay Schmidt based on the timesheets he submitted through the Pace system. Defs.' Br. ¶ 34; Defs.' Ex. 2 (Golding Dep.) at 43:8-14. Schmidt was also required to submit screenshots of his timesheets to Bartech's email address at verizontt@bartechgroup.com; these screenshots, however, were only reviewed if there was a malfunction with the reporting system. Defs.' Br. ¶ 35; Defs.' Ex. 14 (Blankenship Dep.) at 64:13-65:7.

On February 1, 2013, Verizon's Team Lead, Lisa Hajdo, emailed Schmidt requesting that he load software on to the IT system after hours. Defs.' Br. ¶ 53; Defs.' Ex. 19 at 4. Schmidt replied that he was " planning to leave" at 3:15pm but could do it " first thing" Monday morning. Defs.' Ex. 19 at 3. Hajdo responded:

I'll do it tonight. Been meaning to talk to you about that.... if you want to stay (and think hard about that one!!!)... you're really going to need connectivity at home. If production job goes down or there's a priority ticket or you're on call this weekend, you have to be able to get online right away, it won't necessarily wait for you to drive in to the office... and a lot of the loads like this need to be done at night or on weekends. It's just not practical to not be able to log ...

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