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Ulloa v. Housein

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

January 15, 2016

GUILLERMO ALEXANDER ULLOA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MOSES HOUSEIN, et al., Defendants.

          PROPOSED FINDINGS OF FACT AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          JOHN F. ANDERSON, Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the court on plaintiffs' motion for default judgment (Docket no. 12) against defendants Moses Housein ("Housein") and Moses Construction Company, LLC ("Moses Construction") (collectively the "defendants"). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), the undersigned magistrate judge is filing with the court his proposed findings of fact and recommendations, a copy of which will be provided to all interested parties.

         Procedural Background

         On February 5, 2015, plaintiffs Guillermo Alexander Ulloa ("Ulloa"), Carlos Palacios ("Palacios"), Ruben Alexis Rivera ("Rivera"), Enrique Alvarenga ("Alvarenga"), and Hill Antonio Castillo ("Castillo") (collectively the "plaintiffs") filed this complaint alleging that during their employment by defendants, defendants adhered to payroll practices that failed to compensate plaintiffs as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (Docket no. 1) ("Compl."). Specifically, plaintiffs allege that defendants failed to apply an adjusted rate to plaintiffs' overtime hours (Compl. ¶ 32) and failed to compensate plaintiffs for work performed during their last three weeks of employment (Compl. ¶ 33). The complaint seeks recovery of unpaid wages and overtime wages, liquidated damages in an amount equal to twice the amount of unpaid wages and overtime wages, pre- and post-judgment interest, and attorney's fees and costs. (Docket no. 1 at 7).

         On February 6, 2015, summonses were issued for service on Housein as the registered agent for defendant Moses Construction and on Housein in his personal capacity at 3101 South Manchester St., #707, Falls Church, Virginia 22044. (Docket no. 2). On February 27, 2015, Housein was personally served with a copy of the summons and complaint. (Docket no. 3). As discussed more fully below, service of process was proper as to both defendants. In accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(a), a responsive pleading was due from Housein and Moses Construction on March 20, 2015, twenty-one days after the effective date of service. Neither defendant has filed an answer or other responsive pleading and the time for doing so has expired.

         On August 12, 2015, plaintiffs requested an entry of default against Moses Construction and Housein (Docket no. 4) and again against Housein (Docket no. 6). On August 13, 2015, plaintiffs again requested an entry of default against Housein. (Docket no. 8). Also on August 13, 2015, plaintiffs filed an affidavit from Virginia Diamond in support of their request for entry of default. (Docket no. 9). The Clerk of the Court entered default against defendants on August 13, 2015. (Docket no. 10).

         On December 14, 2015, the District Judge entered an order directing plaintiffs to file a motion for default judgment and an accompanying memorandum and to set a hearing on the motion for default judgment for Friday, January 15, 2016. (Docket no. 11). A copy of that Order was also sent to defendants at their last known mailing address.

         On January 8, 2016, plaintiffs filed a motion for default judgment against defendants with an incorporated memorandum in support (Docket no. 12), a declaration from Ulloa (Docket no. 12-2 at 1-2) ("Ulloa Decl."), a declaration from Palacios (Docket no. 12-2 at 3-4) ("Palacios Decl."), a declaration from Rivera (Docket no. 12-2 at 5-6) ("Rivera Decl."), a declaration from Alvarenga (Docket no. 12-2 at 7-8) ("Alvarenga Decl."), a declaration from Castillo (Docket no. 12-2 at 9-10) ("Castillo Decl."), declarations from Virginia Diamond (Docket nos. 12-3, 12-4), an exhibit detailing the attorney's fees and costs in this matter (Docket no. 12-5), and a notice of hearing for January 15, 2016 (Docket no. 12-1). Defendants were served with copies of the motion for default judgment, declarations in support, exhibit, and notice of hearing by first-class mail on January 8, 2016. (Docket no. 12 at 11; Docket no. 12-1 at 2). On January 15, 2016 counsel for the plaintiffs appeared before the undersigned and no one appeared on behalf of defendants.

         Factual Background

         The following facts are established by the complaint filed on February 5, 2015 (Compl.) and the motion for default judgment and declarations in support filed on January 8, 2016. (Docket no. 12).

         Defendant Moses Construction is a Virginia limited-liability company with its principal place of business at 3101 S. Manchester St., #707, Falls Church, Virginia 22044. (Compl. ¶ 4). Defendant Housein is an adult resident of Virginia and an owner, agent, and/or principal of Moses Construction, and during all times relevant to this action, had the authority to set wage and hour practices for employees of Moses Construction. (Compl. ¶ 6). During the relevant time period, Moses Construction performed construction work on a multi-family residential property in Richmond, Virginia ("the Richmond project") and was an enterprise engaged in interstate commerce within the meaning of the FLSA. (Compl. ¶¶ 5, 9, 11).

         Plaintiffs are adult residents of Virginia. (Compl. ¶ 3). Plaintiffs worked for the defendants on the Richmond project from around June 9, 2014 through about September 9, 2014 and again from around September 21, 2014 until around October 31, 2014-a total of 19[1] weeks. (Compl. ¶ 9). While employed by defendants, plaintiffs' job duties primarily included framing, tool operation, and other construction-related tasks. (Compl. ¶ 10). At all times relevant to this action, defendants were plaintiffs' employers for purposes of the FLSA. (Compl. ¶¶ 12, 28-30).

         The plaintiffs all worked approximately 48 hours per week during each week they were employed by defendants. (Compl. ¶ 13). For the time period of June 9, 2014 through September 9, 2014 and September 21, 2014 through October 12, 2014, plaintiffs were paid a flat hourly wage for all hours worked, including those worked in excess of forty. (Compl. ¶¶ 13, 14). During this time period, Ulloa was paid a flat hourly wage of $25.00 an hour (Compl. ¶ 16; Ulloa Decl. ¶¶ 2, 4, 5); Palacios was paid a flat hourly wage of $20.00 an hour (Compl. ¶ 17; Palacios Decl. ¶¶ 2, 4, 5); Rivera was paid a flat hourly wage of $15.00 an hour (Compl. ¶ 18; Rivera Decl. ¶¶ 2, 4, 5); Alvarenga was paid a flat hourly wage of $10.00 an hour (Compl. ¶ 19; Alvarenga Decl. ¶¶ 2, 4, 5); and Castillo was paid a flat hourly wage of $20.00 an hour (Compl. ¶ 20; Castillo Decl. ¶¶ 2, 4, 5). From October 13, 2014 through October 31, 2014, plaintiffs were not paid by defendants for their work. (Compl. ¶ 15). Based on the hours plaintiffs worked and plaintiffs' flat rate of pay, defendants never paid the plaintiffs at the rate of one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for overtime hours worked in excess of forty. (Compl. ¶¶ 13, 32). Additionally, defendants never compensated the plaintiffs for their regular and overtime hours for the three-week time period of October 13, 2014 through October 31, 2014. (Compl. ¶ 15). Further, plaintiffs' work for defendants did not meet the definition of exempt work under the FLSA. (Compl. ¶ 29).

         Because these allegations are pled as being done willfully, plaintiffs are entitled to liquidated damages in an amount equal to those unpaid wages. (Compl. ¶¶ 34, 37).

         Proposed Findings and Recommendations

         Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the entry of a default judgment when "a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend." Based on defendants' failure to file a responsive pleading in a timely manner, the Clerk of Court has entered default against the defendants. (Docket no. 10).

         A defendant in default admits the factual allegations in the complaint. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(6) ("An allegation-other than one relating to the amount of damages-is admitted if a responsive pleading is required and the allegation is not denied."); see also GlobalSantaFe Corp. v. Globalsantafe.com, 250 F.Supp.2d 610, 612 n.3 (E.D. Va. 2003) ("Upon default, facts alleged in the complaint are deemed admitted and the appropriate inquiry is whether the facts as alleged state a claim."). Rule 55(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure also provides that a court may conduct a hearing to determine the amount of damages, establish the truth of any allegation by evidence, or investigate any other matter.

         Jurisdiction and Venue

         A court must have both subject matter and personal jurisdiction over a defaulting party before it can render a default judgment. 28 U.S.C. § 1331 provides that "district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." Similarly, 28 U.S.C. § 1337(a) provides that "district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action or proceeding arising under any Act of Congress regulating commerce or protecting trade and commerce against restraints and monopolies." The FLSA itself also states that any action to recover unpaid minimum or overtime wages may be maintained "in any Federal or State court of competent jurisdiction." 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Since this action arises from a law of the United States, the FLSA, and further arises from an Act of Congress regulating commerce, this court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1337.

         This court also has personal jurisdiction over the defendants. As stated in the complaint, defendant Moses Construction is a Virginia limited-liability company with its principal place of business in Falls Church, Virginia, and defendant Housein is an adult resident of Falls Church, Virginia. (Compl. ¶¶ 4, 6). Venue is also proper in this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) because a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to plaintiffs' claims occurred in this district. (Compl. ¶ 9).

         For these reasons, the undersigned magistrate judge recommends a finding that this court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action, that this court has personal jurisdiction ...


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